Election Post #6: THAT YouGov Poll

May 26, 2017

Lots of people are getting very excited about a YouGov poll conducted for The Times between 24th and 25th May. The poll showed Labour on 38 percent, the highest share registered for the party in a poll since 2nd October 2014. If Labour were to poll as high as 38 percent on 8th June, it would be the highest share of the vote for the party since 2001 and would eclipse the shares achieved at Labour election victories under Tony Blair (2005) and Harold Wilson (Feb 1974). Whilst this poll provides some genuine hope for Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, who were languishing in the low 20s just a few weeks ago, it must be approached with extreme caution and several caveats.


CON 43 (-1) LAB (+3) LD 10 (+1) UKIP 4 (+1)  OTH 6 (-2) 


The first reason that Labour supporters should not get excited just yet is that these figures would still deliver the Conservatives an overall majority. Yes, it would be an ultra-slim majority of just 2 seats but it would put Mrs May back into Downing Street. Under no circumstances would this be a good result for the Labour Party. Labour need to be roughly 12 points ahead in the popular vote to have a chance at an overall majority of their own. Even a small lead in the popular vote for Labour would still not beenough to be the largest single party. Being 5 points behind the Conservatives is still not good enough for Labour and won't put Mr Corbyn in number 10. With Scotland out of play and Labour's poor 2015 performance in the marginal seats, gone are the days of 2005 where Labour can win with a tiny popular vote lead. Infact, it is entirely conceivable that Labour could match and improve on its 2015 vote-share and still lose 40-50 seats. 

Secondly, and more seriously for Labour, there has been some suggestion that the Conservatives were in a lower position after their manifesto launch and at the beginning of this week. The tragic events in Manchester on Monday night led to a temporary suspension of polling and campaigning out of respect for those involved. It is entirely possible that Labour got closer to the Conservatives in the days after their manifesto and the rise in Mrs May's personal rating towards the end of this week could well imply that the Conservatives are actually climbing again. Labour topped Mrs May, the Conservatives and Mr Corbyn in terms of net favourability at the beginning of the week but Mrs May's favourability has once again overtaken Labour. Taking this into account, it is possible that Labour could indeed begin to slip back to a position in the low 30s/high 20s and this is especially possible as the opinion polls generally over-estimate support for Labour. 

Thirdly, this is a single poll and might be an outlier as a result of sampling error. Labour remain about 10 percentage points behind the Conservatives in the average of the polls, pointing to a comfortable Conservative victory. At the local council elections, the Conservatives registered an 11-point lead over Labour in the projected national share and Labour's defeat at the Copeland by-election back in February also suggest that the Conservatives will be victorious. Mrs May also leads Mr. Corbyn by around 17 points when voters are asked who would make the best future Prime Minister and only once since World War 2 has the leader best rated as future Prime Minister gone on to lose the election (Thatcher vs. Callaghan 1979). On issues such as the economy and Brexit, the Conservatives comfortably lead Labour although Labour have a comfortable lead on the National Health Service.

Fourthly and finally, Labour's increased support is 'soft' and relies on people that didn't vote last time around but say they will this time. Many of these are young people, who historically do not turn up to vote on polling day. Whilst there is nothing to say that these people won't vote, there is still a chance that come polling day- they won't bother. With the polls narrowing, it is possible that this will lead to a high turnout amongst Conservative voters and this could be enough to deliver Mrs May a fairly sizeable overall majority. The Conservatives have also registered several regional leads which could make it difficult for Labour to make significant gains even on YouGov's figures. 

As a bottom line, this poll shows a clear improvement for Labour and recent polling suggests that there is a definite trend in the party's direction from the nadir a couple of weeks ago. Every mainstream pollster now has Labour well clear of their 2015 share of the vote. There are several polls due over the weekend and they will shift the average sufficiently to see whether or not the result picked up by YouGov is typical or an outlier. There are a lot of factors that will also influence the polls over the next few days and it will be interesting to see whether Labour manage to maintain their position or even overtake the Conservatives. At the moment, it all seems a little bit closer than it did when Mrs May called the election and if the Conservatives don't manage to secure a large overall majority, it is possible that the electorate's will perceive the election as a waste of time. 

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