The Morning After…

Just time for a few comments on the General Election result.

Contrary to the picture painted by nearly all the opinion polls, which indicated an extremely close vote leading to a hung Parliament, it is clear that there will actually be a majority in the House of Commons for the Conservative Party. This isn’t the result I had hoped for, but at least it’s a clear outcome.

One question on my mind is how the opinion polls managed to get it so consistently wrong. They were so wrong, in fact, that most pundits didn’t believe the BBC’s exit poll showing a far stronger Tory voite. TAs it turns out, even the exit poll was an understimate of the Conservative vote. The actual share of the vote is about 37% Conservative to 31% Labour whereas the opinion polls suggested rough parity at 34% each.

It seems to me that there are three distinct (but not exlusive) possible explanations of this, although before discussing them I should point out that a 3% error is within the margin of most opinion polls. Fluctuations of this size were seen during the course of the campaign, but the long term average was pretty consistent, and offset from the actual result.

One explanation is that the turnout was fractionally higher among those who had expressed a preference for the Conservatives than those who had indicated that they would vote Labour. A few percent difference in this would have made a huge difference in key marginal seats. Perhaps the Conservatives just mobilized their voters more effectively. The other explanation is the reappearance of the “shy Tory”. This was generally accepted to be the reason why the opinion polls got it so wrong in the 1992 General Election. People might tell a pollster what they think he/she wants to hear, but actually vote differently when they get to the polling station. The last option is that some people may well change their mind when they see the ballot paper. Opinion polls generally only ask about the party, not the specific candidate. Perhaps seeing the name on the ballot paper makes a small difference?

Whatever the explanation the fact of the matter is that we have a Conservative majority government and whatever we think about that we just have to make the best of it, though I am worried about many things. The future of the National Health Service now hangs in the balance. And the fact that the SNP  won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland makes me wonder how the United Kingdom can possibly survive much longer. I wouldn’t bet against Scotland being an independent country within a few years at the most. It seems we will also have a referendum on whether to remain inside the EU…

As expected Caroline Lucas held onto her seat in Brighton Pavilion (winning by a very large margin). Labout took Hove by a narrow margin, but Nancy Platts fell just short of ousting Simon Kirby in my own constituency, Brighton Kemptown. Only 600 votes in it. Close, but no cigar for Nancy.

4 Responses to “The Morning After…”

  1. Themos Tsikas Says:

    Conservative-minded people are less likely to be interested in change and see little point in telling other people how they are going to vote or which policy they prefer. That’s why they picked up the “Silent” tag. People that are motivated by the prospect of change, on the other hand, want to make as much noise as possible. Which of these two types of person is more likely to answer a pollster’s phone call?

  2. Did you know you’ve been quoted in Nature?

  3. I’d like to add to your 3 reasons why the polls got it so wrong: This is a version of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, i.e. the act of measurement alters the thing which is being measured. So many Conservatives saw from the polls that there was a strong possibility that there would be a Labour/SNP government that they changed their minds on election day.

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