Weekly polling review: All eyes on undecided voters as polls refuse to budge

Written by David Bowers on 23 April 2015 in Opinion
Labour is very slightly down from last week but it's still all to play for and any changes may be down to statistical chance

With just two weeks to go until we can check their accuracy, eight organisations have released national polls this week: YouGov, Lord Ashcroft, Populus, ICM, TNS, Opinium, Panelbase and Survation.

The average of this week’s numbers gives the following for each party (change from last week’s figures given in brackets):

- Con: 33.7 (-0.1)

- Lab: 32.9 (-1.2)

- LD: 8.6 (+0.7)

- UKIP: 14.1 (+1.4)

- Green: 4.4 (-1.1)

There are only so many ways you can write about how close the race is until repeating yourself becomes unavoidable and I think that by now we’re well past that stage. Of the voters who have said they are likely or certain to vote there seems to be very little to separate the two main parties.

The changes we’ve seen over the last couple of months have been within the margin of error, meaning that changes can be explained away by statistical chance rather than true shifts in sentiment.

The key point in the above is that we’ve been focusing on those voters who are pretty certain they’ll cast their ballot in May. All the major pollsters quote figures that give more weight to this group than to others - with the results that we’re actually only looking at a proportion of the electorate.

Taking the latest Populus poll (fieldwork conducted 17th-19th April) as an example – and as I say, this is by no means limited to Populus, everyone does it – of the 2,048 respondents only 61 per cent said that they were absolutely certain to vote.

Stripping out the 148 people who said they wouldn’t vote at all, that leaves 1,900 possible electors. Of these 283 said they didn’t know who they’d vote for with a further 23 refusing to divulge their preference. These 306 voters represent 16 per cent of the remaining 1,900 – a far larger number than the tiny gap between the two main parties.

Many of the 306 won’t vote on 7th May – turnout at the last election was just over 65 per cent and the previous two were lower again.

That said, with the polls as close as they currently are it’s worth remembering that undecided voters who finally make up their minds could have a major impact on the outcome. On the other hand, a recent ComRes poll of undecided voters suggests that the split is fairly even between the Conservatives and Labour, so maybe not.

As there’s only been a small change on the last week there’s been little alteration to the predicted outcome either: our projected share of seats in the new parliament is as follows:

Projected seats

- Conservatives: 283 (39 short of majority)

- Labour: 278 (44 short of majority)

- LD: 15

- SNP: 48

- Other: 23

As we’ve said previously, this above outcome would be extremely unstable, leaving the SNP in the position of kingmaker but giving the Conservatives the most seats. If such an outcome is realised then the chances of a second election this year increase dramatically, but whether or not a second vote will change the situation remains to be seen.

Perhaps the era of strong governments – as represented so recently by New Labour’s 100+ majorities – is at an end.

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