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Poll of Polls: election battle remains tight

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 28 April 2010

Just eight days before voters head to the polls, and the latest surveys continue to show a close race with support for all three parties still statistically within the margin of error of each other. Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, of Nottingham Business School's Political Forecasting Unit, explains.

There are three polls out today, and taken together they show all three parties within a margin of error of 31 per cent.

The Conservatives are ahead in all three, with Labour second in one of the polls, the Liberal Democrats second in another, and the Lib Dems and Labour tied in the third.

Taking a raw average of these polls puts the Conservatives on 34 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats and Labour both on 28 per cent. Our polling tracker, which weights the polls, gives the Conservatives 33 per cent, the Liberal Democrats 29 per cent and Labour 28 per cent.

Polling Commentary
There are three new polls out, and two of them show little change since yesterday, i.e. the Conservatives in the low 30s with Labour and the Liberal Democrats on or about 30 or the high 20s.

However Populus, for the Times puts the Conservatives on 36 per cent, the Lib Dems on 28 and Labour on 27. This is the pollster that put Labour 14 points ahead of the Tories shortly before voters went to the actual polls in 2005. In the event, Labour won by three per cent.

Still, today's poll is margin of error stuff, and I'm happy to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

They are included in today's Poll of Polls, however, so treat the headline numbers with caution.

Today's polls
ComRes/ITV/Independent: Con 33, Lab 29, Lib Dem29
Populus/Times: Con 36, Lib Dem 28, Lab 27
YouGov/Sun: Con 33, Lab 29, Lib Dem 28

Today's poll of polls, based on these surveys, puts the Conservatives on 34 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 28 per cent and Labour on 28 per cent.

Polling 'tracker'
The Political Forecasting Unit 'polling tracker' has the Conservatives on 33 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 29 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 276 seats in the House of Commons, the Conservatives would win 247 seats, and the Liberal Democrats 96 seats. This would leave Labour 50 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: 260 seats
Labour: 254 seats
Liberal Democrat: 101 seats
Others: 35 seats

Today's Polling Tracker figures continue to show how the standings of the three main parties remain very close.

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, the Liberal Democrats on 29 per cent, with Labour on 28 per cent.

This means a hung parliament remains a strong possibility.

On these figures, the Political Forecasting Unit's ANS (adjusted national swing) methodology projects the following seats distribution: Con: 260 seats, Lab 254 seats, Lib Dem 101 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: 34 per cent
Labour: 28 per cent
Liberal Democrat: 28 per cent

PFU polling tracker (recent polls, weighted)
Conservative: 33 per cent
Liberal Democrat: 29 per cent
Labour: 28 per cent

Outcome, based on polling tracker, assuming national swing (adjusted) reproduced in every constituency.
Conservatives: 260 seats
Labour: 254 seats
Liberal Democrat: 101 seats
Other: 35 seats
Conservatives short of an overall majority by 66

Where the money is (analysis based on money wagered on the election in political betting markets)
Conservative: 304 seats
Labour: 221 seats
Liberal Democrat: 91 seats
Other: 34 seats
Conservatives short of an overall majority by 22 seats

Percentage chances of a majority
Chance of Conservative overall majority: 33.2 per cent
Chance of Labour overall majority: 3.1 per cent
Chance of Liberal Democrat overall majority: 0.9 per cent
Chance of No overall majority: 62.8 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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