So how accurate are the polls?
Let’s be practical and have a look at the polls in the week before the 2017 general election and the actual result. Out of the 16 polls, the averages were as follows
Con Polls = 42.9% Actual Result = 43.5% Diff = -0.6%
Lab Polls = 36.6% Actual Result = 41.0% Diff = -4.4%
Lib Dem Polls = 7.7% Actual Result = 7.6% Diff = -0.1%
UKIP Polls = 4.4% Actual Result = 1.9% Diff = +2.5%
SNP Polls = 4.1% Actual Result = 3.1% Diff = +1.0%
Green Polls = 2.1% Actual Result = 1.7% Diff = +0.4%
Others Polls = 1.9% Actual Result 1.2% Diff = +0.9%
So with a margin of error of about 3% then the polls were fairly accurate. The stand out data was that Labour support was underestimated, and the SNP, UKIP and “Others” support was over estimated. All other parties were almost spot on by the pollsters.
So why the anomalies, well Scotland does have some of the answers. Last election there was a very big tactical voting campaign by unionists to get rid of the SNP. Little heard of in the rest of the UK, but huge on social media north of the border. The SNP were predicting they were going to win every seat, and a lot of SNP supporters didn’t bother turning out. Unionists of all allegiances were voting for the person who had the best chance of chucking out the SNP. Tories were voting labour and vice versa. The SNP lost 19 of their 56 seats and held onto about 4 more by only a few hundred votes. This would have boosted the overall UK wide labour and tory vote by a few percentage points.
The UKIP vote collapsed as people thought that Brexit was won and went back to their normal parties. Leaving only a few percent of extreme right wingers with UKIP.
So what are we to make of the current polls, are they so out of touch with reality. I say no.
Let’s look at the state of parties with Brexit. 52% of the population voted for Brexit. It’s still about 50-50 in the UK for and against, give or take a percentage point either way.
With the Tories and the Brexit Party being the only parties who want to complete Brexit, the chances of their combined support going over 50% is low, but it also isn’t going to drop much either. Tory remainers will still vote tory, or at a push Lib Dems, they will never vote for the far left policies of Corbyn’s labour
Labour in 2017 got 41% in the GE, now they are polling about 10% less. So why is that? Labour’s Brexit policy is a mess, they are neither for, nor against, they want another referendum and campaign against the deal they will secure from the EU. Your average man in the street can’t get his head around that conundrum. When you realise that 30% of labour voters voted leave, then you can see why these labour leave voters are voting, (for probably one election only), for the Brexit party (where the party is standing) or holding their nose and voting Tory. They want Brexit done. They want all this to be finished, not carried on indefinitely. This accounts for the current low polling of the Labour party.
Now the only fly in the ointment is tactical voting, which as I said worked extremely well in Scotland in 2017. Now I know a lot of Labour supporters here are keeping their fingers crossed that this helps labour, relying on the youth university vote. But there is a dilemma here. Due to the majority of students coming from more affluent areas, (not urban areas) they may not be able to make much of an impact. Unless of course they break the law and vote in two places. If they vote tactically at home, where there is probably a Tory MP, their numbers may not be enough, (especially with the Brexit party dropping out), and by not voting in their Uni town, it may allow the Tories to return (see Canterbury). It’s not straight forward. But you also have to remember that tactical voting is happening on the Brexit side, (there are social media campaigns appearing in leavers inboxes on a daily basis), and we are also seeing in places like Grimsby where this is helpful to the Tories. So I do think that the tactical voting will sort of cancel itself out between the parties.
Going back to the polls, the Tory vote, which is predominately Brexit inspired will not fall much if at all, no matter what Boris does or says. In their minds it’s Brexit at all costs. They don’t believe project doom. So where are Labour going to pick up votes from? Maybe one percent from Scotland, where tactical voting does make a difference, (every other party against the SNP - Tactical voting is more complicated in the rest of the UK, because there are more than one party on each side to vote for.) But that won’t win an election. No, the only place Labour can pick up votes from is the Lib Dems, and they need to be whittling down their support, but that is going to be dangerous. Go in too hard, and you end up with a male dominated Labour party attacking a female Lib Dem Leader. Which with the attacks on Ruth Smeeth, would not look good, and would be turned to a Lib Dem and Tory advantage. But Labour also needs Lib Dem support to take seats off Tories, and if the Lib Dems drop too much, they will fail in this endeavour. So Labour is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
So do I think the polls are accurate, yeah they are not far off.
Will the Tories get a majority, yeah they probably will.
Will the sky fall in when Brexit is done. Probably not, life will go on. If Brexit is a success, everyone will breathe a sigh of relief, and enjoy the boom times. If it’s a disaster, then in 5 years time, (or maybe less), there will be another election and Labour will get a chance to prove they can improve an economy instead of crashing it as a Labour government often, but not always, does.
Whatever happens it’ll be interesting.