James Forsyth

Trying to make sense of the polls

Trying to make sense of the polls
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Never before has there been an election campaign in Britain with quite so many polls. The differences in the polls, which are quite considerable at the moment, also make it difficult to get a clear picture of what is going on. To further complicate things, the view from the ground seems slightly different from the sense that one gets from most of the polling. For instance, Tory candidates I talk to in bellwether constituencies tell me that things aren’t as good as they were before Christmas but they still expect to win. I also hear that the Tory target seats operation is still confident of an overall majority and say that judging by the canvas returns and polling they see, the party has only ‘lost’ about ten seats since the beginning of the year.

What there does seem to be almost universal agreement on is that the Tories are outperforming the national swing in the marginals. Indeed, a lead of about three points in the polls should make the Tories the largest party in a hung parliament. Labour think that if the Tories are six points ahead they will win an overall majority, while CCHQ believes it needs a seven point national advantage to guarantee a majority.

One thing it would be good to see more polling on, is the Tory Lib Dem marginals. There are 24 Lib Dem seats in the top 120 Tory targets. My understanding is that the Tories are only confident of winning about half of these. But then, oddly enough, a stronger Labour performance should help the Tories in some of these seats. 

PS UK Polling Report is absolutely invaluable when it comes to trying to understand the poll, what is a significant shift and what is not.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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