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Vote 2010: the election barometer

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 April 2010

Liberal Democrats surge at the expense of both Labour and the Conservatives. Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams of Nottingham Business School's Political Forecasting Unit, assesses the latest trends.

The big news story is that the only poll of public opinion published since the first election debate has Labour trailing in third place behind both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.

Translated into a projection of seats, however, this would leave Labour the largest party in the House of Commons, though well short of an overall majority.

Polling Commentary
There is one current national poll out today, conducted after the debate.

YouGov/Sun: Con 33, Lab 28, Lib Dem 30

As things stand, there seem to be two distinct election timelines, one of which can be termed "before the debate" and the other "after the debate".

According to this interpretation, any polling conducted during the first timeline can pretty much be consigned to the history folder. It is true that a trend towards to the Liberal Democrats was picked up in pre-debate polling, but the post-debate surge is of another order of magnitude, and then some.

Even so, ComRes have published a poll which seeks to stick both timelines into one folder. They do this by effectively assuming that those who watched the debate across the nation would react in the same way as their panel of 4,032 debate-watchers, but that all those who didn't watch the debate would be totally unmoved by what happened.

Their national sample was interviewed before the debate took place. On this basis, they put the Conservatives on 35 per cent, Labour on 28 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats on 24 per cent. Of those who watched the debate, the voting intentions were 36 per cent for the Conservatives, 35 per cent for the Liberal Democrats and 24 per cent for Labour.

I have my doubts about the merits of this methodology, and will wait to see the results of the first proper post-debate survey by ComRes.

Meanwhile, YouGov have already published a survey of voting intentions conducted entirely after the debate took place. This puts the Conservatives on 33 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 30 per cent and Labour on 28 per cent. Until we have more published polling, this is all we really have to go on.

Reproduced as a uniform swing across the country, this would make Labour the largest party, with 275 seats, 30 ahead of the Conservatives on 245, and the Liberal Democrats on 99. This would leave Labour 51 seats short of an overall majority.

For the first time since the campaign began, the markets also now point to no party securing an outright majority.

Political Forecasting Unit's (PFU) poll tracker is weighted to reflect the importance of the most recent survey evidence and shows a similar picture. Put simply, the tracker is based on the most 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.

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 Labour as the largest party, 29 seats ahead of the Conservatives but still 50 seats short of an overall majority.

This assumes a uniform national swing. But an analysis of the money bet in political betting markets currently translates into a House of Commons where no party has overall control.

This is the first time since the election was called that the markets have not pointed to a Conservative overall majority.

Daily poll of polls
Conservative: 33 per cent
Labour: 28 per cent
Liberal Democrat: 30 per cent

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

Outcome (Based on polling tracker, assuming national swing reproduced in every constituency)
Conservatives: 247 seats
Labour: 276 seats
Liberal Democrat: 96 seats
Other: 31 seats
Labour short of an overall majority by 50.

Where the money is (Analysis based on money wagered on the election in political betting markets)
Conservative: 318 seats
Labour: 222 seats
Liberal Democrat: 75 seats
Conservatives short of an overall majority by 8 seats.

% chance of Conservative overall majority: 47.3 per cent;

% chance of Labour overall majority: 5.2 per cent;
% chance of Liberal Democrat overall majority: 1.1 per cent
% chance of No overall majority: 46.4 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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