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Poll of polls: election race tightens

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 27 April 2010

The opinion polls continue to tighten as the Conservatives slip and Labour remains third. Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, of Nottingham Business School's Political Forecasting Unit, examines the latest trends.

There are four polls out today, and taken together they show the election race tightening. All show Labour in third place but the gap between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is down to as little as one point in one poll, ComRes for ITV News and the Independent.

Taking an average of the latest fieldwork, the Conservatives are on 33 per cent, down one from yesterday, with the Liberal Democrats on 30 per cent and Labour on 27 per cent.

Polling Commentary
There are four new polls out, and with one exception they tell pretty much an identical story, of a three-horse race with just five per cent covering the field.

The Conservatives, on 32 or 33 per cent, are a nose ahead of the Liberal Democrats on about 30 per cent, with Labour on 28 per cent.

The exception is Opinium for the Daily Express, which has the Conservatives a point or two above the consensus and Labour three points below the share recorded by all three other polls. The number for 'Others' in this poll is, however, significantly higher than in most polls, and I am somewhat unconvinced by the methodology employed by Opinium.

I would, therefore, advise caution in accepting the results at face value. It is included in the Poll of Polls reported today, the effect of which is to depress the Labour vote share one point below the consensus of all three other polling organisations. Usual health warnings apply.

There is also a wealth of information inside the headline statistics, and it is worth highlighting the answers given to an interesting question posed by ComRes.

They asked their sample of voters whom they would vote for if they could cast a second preference as well.

Labour voters went heavily for the Lib Dems, who picked up 64 per cent of the second choices, while the Tories collected just 9 per cent. Conservative voters also preferred the Liberal Democrats, by 34 per cent to 7 per cent.

Lib Dem voters were more equally divided, splitting 34 per cent to 26 per cent in favour of Labour. Where the numbers in each case don’t add up to 100 per cent, it is because the respondents went for other parties or were unsure.

All of which adds up to very good news for the Liberal Democrats, even under Labour's preferred AV version of voting reform. In this system, second preferences come into play when no candidate in a constituency achieves an outright majority of the vote.

Today's polls
ComRes/ITV News/Independent: Con 32, Lib Dem 31, Lab 28
ICM/Guardian: Con 33, Lib Dem 30, Lab 28
Opinium/Daily Express: Con 34, Lib Dem 28, Lab 25
YouGov/Sun: Con 33, Lib Dem 29, Lab 28

Today's poll of polls, based on these surveys, puts the Conservatives on 33 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 30 per cent and Labour on 27 per cent.

Polling 'tracker'
The Political Forecasting Unit 'polling tracker' has the Conservatives on 33 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 30 per cent and Labour on 28 per cent.

The polling tracker is based on recent surveys by different polling organisations, and is adjusted so that the more recent the survey the more weight is attached to the vote shares.

There is also some statistical smoothing which has the effect that outliers or vote shares that diverge most from the general consensus are allocated less weight.

Assuming a uniform national swing, Labour would win 275 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives would win 245 seats, and the Liberal Democrats 99 seats. This would leave Labour 51 short of an overall majority.

The markets agree that no one party is likely to win a majority in the House of Commons.

Applying a more sophisticated seats projection methodology, which we term ANS (Adjusted National Swing), which allows for the differential impact of swing on different seats, the Political Forecasting Unit projects the following scenario if the election were held today:
Conservatives: 258 seats
Labour: 253 seats
Liberal Democrat: 104 seats
Others: 35 seats

Over the duration of the election campaign, the Polling Tracker has also recorded how support for the three main parties has narrowed significantly.

Election barometer
The Political Forecasting Unit's 'election barometer', designed to capture the changing state of the race as it unfolds through the campaign, shows the Conservatives on 33 per cent, three points ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 30 per cent, with Labour on 28 per cent.

This is deeply 'hung parliament' territory. On these figures, the Political Forecasting Unit's ANS (adjusted national swing) methodology projects the following seats distribution: Con: 258 seats, Lab 253 seats, Lib Dem 104 seats.

An analysis of the money placed in political betting markets also suggests that no party will secure a majority of the seats in the House of Commons.

Daily poll of polls
Conservative: 33 per cent
Labour: 30 per cent
Liberal Democrat: 27 per cent

PFU polling tracker (recent polls, weighted)
Conservative: 33 per cent
Liberal Democrat: 30 per cent
Labour: 28 per cent

Outcome Based on polling tracker, assuming national swing (adjusted) reproduced in every constituency.
Conservatives: 258 seats
Labour: 253 seats
Liberal Democrat: 104 seats
Other: 35 seats
Conservatives short of an overall majority by 68

Where the money is (analysis based on money wagered on the election in political betting markets)
Conservative: 305 seats
Labour: 220 seats
Liberal Democrat: 90 seats
Other: 35 seats
Conservatives short of an overall majority by 21 seats

Percentage chances of a majority
Chance of Conservative overall majority: 32.9 per cent
Chance of Labour overall majority: 3.2 per cent
Chance of Liberal Democrat overall majority: 1.1 per cent
Chance of No overall majority: 62.6 per cent
(Chances based on odds from betting exchanges)

Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams is Director of the Political Forecasting Unit at Nottingham Business School.

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