How well did the polls do in projecting the 2019 election result?

14 December, 2019| GE2019

How well did the polls do in projecting the 2019 election result?


After somewhat poor showings in 2015 and 2017, pollsters in 2019 performed admirably, with all final polls close to the actual result.


Thursday 12th December saw close to thirty-two millions votes cast, resulting in a sizeable majority for the Conservatives, and the worst defeat for Labour since 1935.

The 2019 election campaign bore witness to pressure groups utilising forecast models for tactical voting gain, as well as political parties exploiting polling so as to squeeze the voters of third place candidates into backing them as opposed to their first choice. Undoubtedly election campaigns are a profitable scene for pollsters, but when it came to projecting how voters would vote, how well did they do? And, more importantly, how well did the Britain Elects Poll Tracker do?

The answer to both? Quite well, actually.

After criticism for somewhat poor showings in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, pollsters, particularly Opinium, Ipsos Mori and Survation, can walk away from the 2019 election with their heads held high. None of the ten final election polls were wildly off the mark of the actual result.

On the detail, only one pollster overstated Conservative support in their final election poll, whereas eight overstated Labour, with two of those eight overstating support by more than 3pts.

The Britain Elects Poll Tracker also performed well, projecting a Conservative lead of over 9pts, when in reality the Tories secured a lead of Labour of over 11pts.


Polling Day: Britain Elects poll tracker gives the Tories a 9pt lead

12 December, 2019| GE2019

Polling Day: Britain Elects poll tracker gives the Tories a 9pt lead


Our poll tracker finishes the election campaign with a 9pt lead for the Conservatives, enough for a comfortable majority, but an error margin from a hung parliament.


Good morning! Polling day is upon us in what has been an interesting election campaign, and the Britain Elects poll tracker now has its final figures.

The poll tracker gives the Conservatives a lead of 9pts over Labour. The Tories are virtually unchanged from the 2017 election, with 43.1%, and Labour have seen its vote share fall 6pts to 33.9%. the Liberal Democrats, initially at 18% once the snap election was called, are now languishing at 11.9%, albeit 4pts above their 2017 score.

In Scotland, the Scottish Nationalists are expected to reign supreme, polling, according to the tracker, at 40.3%, up 3.4pts with a clear 10pt lead over the Tories. In Wales, Plaid Cymru are projected to take 10.8%, up 0.4pts on 2017.

At the end of the 2017 campaign our poll tracker had the Conservatives ahead of Labour by 6.5pts, when in reality, after all the votes had been counted, the actual lead was 2.5pts. We can probably pinpoint this error down to the tracker, when calculating its final figures, taking into account too many ‘older’ polls – surveys taken the week of polling day, and muting the late surge found in surveys taken on the Tuesday and Wednesday before polling day.

In the case of 2019, such a mistake does not seem with much chance of being repeated. No late Labour surge has been detected to the degree of 2017, so it would be wise to assume that the 9pt gap with the blues ahead is accurate, or, at the least, for the final result to fall within the margin of error of a 9pt Conservative lead.

For the latest results, rumours and analysis, be sure to follow Britain Elects on Twitter and keep an eye on our detailed hex map, updated live as the results come in.


The Brexit Party’s pullout demonstrates a problem for pollsters

27 November, 2019| Analysis, GE2019|Ben Walker Ben Walker

The Brexit Party’s pullout demonstrates a problem for pollsters


The Brexit Party’s decision to stand down may have boosted the Conservatives in the polls, but it’s difficult to predict how many of those votes will actually materialise on polling day.


Photo: Getty Images

The announcement earlier this month that the Brexit Party will not stand in any of the 317 constituencies won by the Conservatives in 2017 was welcomed by Tory activists, who saw it as improving their chances of taking a number of marginal seats from Labour. Since then, national polling has seen a boost in Tory fortunes to the detriment of the Brexit Party. But it remains to be seen if this will materialise on the ground. Will Brexit Party voters will turn out as enthusiastically for Boris Johnson as they did for Nigel Farage in the European elections in May? How many of those voters will vote differently in a general election – and how many, in this election, will turn out at all?

To answer some of these questions, it is worth knowing how polling companies tackled the issue of the Brexit Party standing in less than half of the country.

Here’s how it works: when there isn’t an election campaign happening, pollsters typically include all of the popular parties active in the country among the options available in the voting intention questions. So, before it is known which constituencies the Green Party will stand in, the Greens are offered as an option to all respondents. Since the Brexit Party was formed in January, pollsters included the party in their initial list.

Once an election has been called and the candidates are known, pollsters then change their methodology: the voting intention question broadly goes from “if there was a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?” to “there is a general election happening on [X date], which of these candidates, who are standing in your constituency, would you vote for?”

YouGov, the most prolific of all pollsters, offers only the candidates standing in the constituency where the respondent lives. Survation and ICM have adopted the same method, and ComRes and BMG have indicated they will be doing similar in future polling.

This shift in methodology affects how smaller parties are seen in the polls, as their share of national voting intention is reduced by the reduction in the number of seats in which they’re standing.

The Brexit Party is an especially interesting example of this. By halving the number of its candidates, it went from being a national party to a small party overnight, and the share of its voting intention in the polls has plunged. But this does not tell the whole story. While the Brexit Party now polls at less than 5 per cent nationally, its share in the seats where it is standing may be two or three times higher. The same is true of the Greens.

Other pollsters, including Ipsos MORI, Kantar, and Panelbase, address this to a certain extent by asking respondents for their second preferences. Those who select the Brexit Party as their initial voting intention, but live in a seat where the party is not standing, have their second preference used instead.

However, there is no guarantee that voters who are unaware that their first choice isn’t standing will commit to their second preference. It may be more likely, when they discover their chosen party isn’t standing, that they decide not to turn out. The Brexit Party’s pull-out may have given the Conservatives a boost in the polls, but predicting how many of those votes materialise on polling day is a harder problem.


Conservatives may experience a 10pt swing their way in the North West

31 October, 2019| Polling, GE2019

Conservatives may experience a 10pt swing their way in the North West


New YouGov polling of the English regions suggests Tory encroachment on Labour's Leave-voting heartlands, outperforming what national polls are showing.


Photo Credit: Pool, Getty Images

During the 2017 election campaign YouGov published a series of high-sample polling of the English regions that proved a reliable indicator of voter variation throughout England.

The polling showed a surprising firming up of Labour support in the south, hinting at the potential for gains in seats such as Plymouth and Brighton. That polling was vindicated a few weeks later, and this year, YouGov have done it again.

What we can see is, like before, a good deal of regional variation.

Both the Conservatives and Labour are down on their 2017 scores, reflecting the national polling picture, but the fall for the Tories is of a smaller scale than the fall for Labour in regions that have been traditionally loyal to the Labour cause. Because of this, it would be best visualising the changes by looking at the projected swings, were this polling to be borne true, to the Conservatives from Labour.

Voting intentions for the North West prove most stark, with a swing of 10.85pts from Labour to the Conservatives. The North East is of a similar strain, with a projected swing, if the polling bears out, of 7.55pts.

The swing in the North West is notable, particularly for its size. Very rarely have parties nationally scored swings in their favour of more than 10pts, and for the Conservatives to do in what is a typically solid Labour region is important.

Multiple explanations can be attributed to Labour’s collapse in the polls, but when it comes to the North West, I believe one sticks out. The rather lukewarm growth in the number certain to vote Labour from Labour’s 2017 supporters, as opposed to the more committed 2017 Conservative supporters, exacerbates the gap between red and blue, and either does so accurately, or with a very large health warning.

There is a general assumption in campaigns that the supporters a party loses throughout a parliament typically come home come election time. In the case of 2019, however, such ‘coming home’ so far, albeit with more than a month to go, appears notably lacklustre for Labour. This could be attributed, in part, to the higher than average proportion of Labour voters in the North West (as with the North East) previously voting Leave, but so far, such an attribution would be hard to say with certainty.

What can be said with certainty is that Labour’s performance in regions where it’s typically had stronger showings than on average, with the exception London, is, so far, dire.


Nigel Farage could move three in ten Labour Leave voters over to the Tories

21 September, 2019| Polling, Analysis, GE2019

Nigel Farage could move three in ten Labour Leave voters over to the Tories


New research suggests electors will be voting tactically in the coming election, with Leave voters open to persuasion from Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage.


Photo: Jessica Taylor, Official House of Commons Photographer

New data from ComRes, commissioned by Britain Elects, has suggested tactical voting may play a decisive part come the next general election, with a significant proportion of Leave voters indicating they’d be willing to change their vote depending on which Brexit-supporting candidate is endorsed by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Among these figures, a sizeable proportion of Labour Leave voters have indicated they’d be more likely to vote for a Brexit-supporting Conservative candidate if in the event of an endorsement from Farage.

28% of Labour Leave voters told ComRes they’d be more likely to vote Conservative in their constituency if Nigel Farage recommended they do so “in order to deliver a Brexit supporting MP”. 56% of Leave voters in Wales and the East Midlands are also of this opinion.

ComRes also asked Tory and Brexit Party supporters whether they’d support a pact between the two parties, and the results point to majorities on both sides being in favour: approaching two thirds of those intending to vote Conservative (63%) and four in five intending to vote Brexit Party (79%) agreed with the view that a pact should exist between the two parties.

Ben Walker, Founder of Britain Elects, says:
“The data we have commissioned offers further evidence to the fact British politics is experiencing a realignment where a number of Labour Leave voters are considering voting Conservative in order to see a Brexit supporting candidate win.

“What the data also shows is that Nigel Farage, once the stepping stone for sending former Labour voters gone UKIP over to the Conservatives, has sizeable influence in pushing Leave voters in a certain direction. This, and the willingness for a pact from both current Conservative and Brexit Party voters is significant insofar as it suggests the Leave vote could be less likely to fragment between the two parties in a constituency than we previously thought.”

Question 1: The best chance Brexit has of happening is for the Conservative Party and The Brexit Party to form a pact where each respective party will stand aside (on a constituency by constituency basis) in favour of the party that has the best chance of winning that seat (Asked of all voters)

Total (%)
NET: Agree 37%
NET: Disagree 18%
Strongly agree 14%
Somewhat agree 24%
Neither agree nor disagree 20%
Somewhat disagree 7%
Strongly disagree 10%
Don’t know 24%

Approaching two thirds of those intending to vote Conservative (63%) and four in five intending to vote Brexit Party (79%) agree the best chance Brexit has of happening is for the Conservative Party and The Brexit Party to form a pact where each respective party will stand aside (on a constituency by constituency basis) in favour of the party that has the best chance of winning that seat.

Approaching three in five 2016 Leave voters agree the best chance Brexit has of happening is for the Conservative Party and The Brexit Party to form a pact where each respective party will stand aside (on a constituency by constituency basis) in favour of the party that has the best chance of winning that seat (57%).

Question 2: Imagine a situation where the party you normally voted for did not have a realistic chance of winning in your local area. Would you still vote for that party, or would you instead vote for a different Brexit-supporting party with a better chance of winning? (Asked of leave voters)

Total (%)
I would vote for the party in favour of Brexit that had the best chance of winning 60%
I would vote for the party that I would normally vote for, irrespective of their chance of winning 27%
Don’t know 13%

Question 3: If Nigel Farage endorsed a Brexit supporting Conservative Party candidate in your constituency in order to deliver a Brexit supporting MP, would that make you more or less likely to vote Conservative? (Asked to leave voters)

Total (%)
NET: More likely 43%
NET: Less likely 11%
Much more likely 24%
Somewhat more likely 19%
No more or less likely 39%
Somewhat less likely 2%
Much less likely 8%
Don’t know 7%

Nigel Farage has the best chance to make people “more likely” to vote Conservative with a personal endorsement of a Brexit supporting Conservative MP in Wales (56%) and the East Midlands (56%).

28% of Labour leave voters say they would be “more likely” to vote Conservative in their constituency if Nigel Farage endorsed the Brexit supporting Conservative candidate.

Methodology Note: ComRes surveyed 2,050 British adults on 18th – 19th September 2019. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. All questions were also weighted by 2017 past vote recall and EU Referendum past vote. Voting Intention is also weighted by likelihood to vote. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comresglobal.com