Category Archives: Press Releases

Shedding Light on the UK General Election

A London School of Economics/British Polling Council event

5th June 2024, Wolfson Theatre, LSE (Cheng Kin Ku Building: CKK location here)

DOWNLOAD THE PRESENTATIONS HERE

AGENDA
Event Chair: Patrick Sturgis, LSE

2.00: INTRODUCTION

Welcome from the Chair: Patrick Sturgis,
LSE Setting the Scene: Jane Green, BPC President

2.20: PART ONE: WHERE ARE WE NOW?

Chaired by Sara Hobolt, LSE
Can we Trust the Polls? Will Jennings, Southampton/Sky
Can we use random sampling methods for polling? Joel Wiliams, Verian
Scotland:
 John Curtice, University of Strathclyde
What do past trends tell us about the present? Holly Day, Ipsos

3.10: Questions to the Panel

3.30: Break

4.00: PART TWO: ROUNTABLE ON MRP

Chaired by Jane Green, BPC President
Projecting Seats – an MRP Roundtable: Damian Lyons-Lowe, Survation; Martin Baxter, Electoral Calculus; Callum Hunter, JL Partners; Patrick English, YouGov

4.45: PART THREE: WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Chaired by Patrick Sturgis, LSE
What about the Don’t Knows? Paula Surridge, University of Bristol
Tactical Voting: Stephen Fisher, University of Oxford
What Might Change? Luke Tryl, More in Common
Election Night and The Exit Poll: Jouni Kuha, LSE

5.30: Questions to Panel & closing comments by Patrick Sturgis and Jane Green

From 6.00: Reception

New President For The British Polling Council

The British Polling Council is very pleased to announce that Professor Jane Green has agreed to become the new President of the organisation.

Jane takes over the role from Professor Sir John Curtice, who has served as BPC President since 2008. The members of the British Polling Council would like to thank John for his stewardship of the BPC over a 16-year period which has witnessed four general elections, the Scotland and Brexit referendums and many local, regional and national campaigns.

Jane Green is Professor of Political Science and British Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, and a Professorial Fellow of Nuffield College, where she is the Director of the Nuffield Politics Research Centre. She has been a Co-Director of the British Election Study since 2013 and is a regular commentator across national media on the topics of British public opinion and elections, as well as serving as an Election Analyst for ITV News election programming since 2015. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, and was a member of the Polling Inquiry into the conduct of the 2015 opinion polls, established by the British Polling Council in collaboration with the Market Research Society.

As she takes over the role of President, Jane notes:

I am very honoured to follow in the footsteps of the inimitable John Curtice. I, like all British Polling Council members, am very grateful to John for all his hard work and dedication. The British Polling Council performs an important role in promoting transparency in UK polling, and high standards of disclosure. As polls and polling come under increased scrutiny in this, the election year, it is a particular honour to support the British Polling Council’s work as the new President.”

Note to Editors:

The British Polling Council (BPC) is an association of polling organisations that publish polls and are committed to promoting transparency in polling.

The principal objective of the Council is to uphold standards of disclosure that ensure that consumers of survey results entering the public domain have an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results. By promoting high standards of disclosure, the Council aims to encourage the highest professional standards in public opinion polling and to advance the understanding and interpretation of poll results among politicians, the media and the general public. The BPC also provides interested parties with advice on best practice in reporting of polls, for example via our resources page on our website.

Full details of our remit and activities can be found at www.britishpollingcouncil.org

For more information, please contact: Nick Moon, BPC Secretary: nickmoon500@gmail.com

YouGov MRP poll for Conservative Britain Alliance

There has been some controversy about the identity of the organisation that commissioned a recent YouGov MRP poll, the first results from which were published in The Daily Telegraph on 15 January. The organisation in question is the Conservative Britain Alliance.

Inter alia, the British Polling Council rules on disclosure state that:

All data and research findings made on the basis of social or political polls conducted in the United Kingdom by member organisations that enter the public domain, must include reference to the following:

  • Client commissioning the survey;

This information, together with a range of other requirements about how a poll has been conducted and the details of the results are required to be posted on a member company’s website within two working days of initial publication.

In the case of this poll, extensive information was published on YouGov’s website on 15 January, and further information, as relevant, has been posted as further results from the poll have been published subsequently.

The BPC are aware that the Conservative Britain Alliance has not hitherto had any public profile, does not have a website, and is not known to be registered with, for example, Companies House, the Electoral Commission, or the Charities Commission.

However, the BPC have been advised that this is the organisation that was responsible for commissioning the poll, and that therefore there is no reason at present to believe that YouGov have not met their obligations under its rules. It is of course possible for any group of citizens to create a club, society or organisation whose activities do not require it to be registered with any body and which decides not to have a presence on the web.

The BPC would, of course, have no objection if further information about the commissioning organisation were to be made public, but this lies beyond its remit. Meanwhile, as is continually the case, the Council will be alive to identifying any lessons for its work that may be thought to arise from this incident.

British Polling Council Statement on Reporting of Polls and Surveys

The British Polling Council was set up in 2004 to uphold standards of disclosure that ensure that consumers of survey results entering the public domain have an adequate basis for judging the reliability and validity of the results.

By promoting high standards of disclosure, the BPC aims to encourage the highest professional standards in public opinion polling and to advance the understanding and interpretation of poll results among politicians, the media and the general public.

This role will, of course, be particularly important in the run-up to the general election, due to take place later this year.

However, it should be made clear that the BPC is neither an arbiter nor a guarantee of quality of polling. Our remit is solely to ensure transparency.

It is made very clear to BPC members that they are not allowed to suggest that their membership is any way a badge of quality.

Similarly, it is entirely inappropriate for anyone involved in the reporting of the results of polls and surveys to stipulate that they will only report the results and surveys conducted by organisations that are members of the BPC.

In particular, it should be noted that only organisations conducting social or political surveys are eligible for BPC membership, and, consequently, the vast majority of organisations conducting commercial market research surveys are not eligible for BPC membership.

Accuracy of Polls in the 2021 Devolved and London Mayoral Elections

This May’s major elections were accompanied by a considerable amount of polling. This included a number of polls conducted close to polling day. Here we assess the accuracy of these final polls in Scotland, Wales and London.

We define as a “final poll” one that conducted at least some of its fieldwork on or after the Monday before the election.

Scottish Parliament

Voters were given two ballot papers – one for their local constituency MSP, the other for a party list. Five final polls were conducted and their estimates of both the constituency and list vote are shown below. The tables also compare the average of the polls with the eventual outcome.

Constituency Vote

 SNPConLabLib DemOtherMethodSample sizeFieldwork
YouGov52201963Online11442-4.5
Savanta ComRes42252283Online100130.4-4.5
Survation49212182Online100830.4-4.5
Ipsos MORI50202263Telephone150230.4-3.5
Opinium51231971Online101528.4-3.5
Average48.821.820.67.02.4   
Result47.721.921.66.91.9   
Difference+1.1-0.1-1.0+0.1+0.5   

The average estimate of the five polls is within a point of the final outcome for all of the parties, making it a very creditable overall performance.

List Vote

 SNPConLabLib DemGreenOther
YouGov3822165136
Savanta ComRes342319698
Survation3621197106
Ipsos MORI3923184124
Opinium412317685
Average37.622.417.85.610.45.8
Result40.323.518.05.18.15.0
Difference-2.7-1.1-0.2+0.5+2.3+0.8

The estimates of the list vote were slightly less accurate, with most polls underestimating SNP support and overestimating that of the Greens, but otherwise the average estimate was again no more than a point adrift of the final outcome.

The figures for two other polling companies whose last poll was completed before the Monday before polling day are shown below.

Constituency Vote

 SNPConLabLib DemOtherMethodSample sizeFieldwork
Panelbase48212074Online109628-30.4
BMG49192193Online102327-30.4

List Vote

 SNPConLabLib DemGreenOther
Panelbase392216788
BMG372217899

Welsh Senedd

Voters were again presented with both a constituency and a list ballot paper. Two final polls of voting intentions were conducted.

Constituency Vote

 Plaid CymruConLabLib DemOtherMethodSample sizeFieldwork
YouGov202936311Online11442-4.5
Savanta ComRes182836612Online100229.4-4.5
Average19.028.5364.511.5   
Result20.328.139.94.96.8   
Difference-1.3+0.4-3.9-0.4+4.7   

List Vote

 Plaid CymruConLabLib DemGreenAbolishOther
YouGov2125314576
Savanta ComRes1925325569
Average20.025.031.54.55.06.57.5
Result20.725.136.24.34.43.75.6
Difference-0.7+0.1-3.9-0.4+0.6+2.8+1.9

While very close for Plaid Cymru, the Conservatives and the Greens, both polls underestimated the level of Labour and Liberal Democrat support, and overestimated that for Others on the constituency ballot and the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party in particular on the list.

London Mayor

Four final polls of the contest to be Mayor of London were conducted. The table shows their estimate of the first preference vote.

 ConLabLib DemGreenOtherMethodSample sizeFieldwork
Panelbase29408614Online10024-5.5
YouGov314351011Online11442-4.5
Savanta ComRes29418517Online100129.4-4.5
Opinium2948878Online100528.4-3.5
Average29.543.07.37.012.3   
Result35.340.04.47.812.5   
Difference-5.8+4.3.0+2.9-0.8-0.2   

These polls were less accurate than those in Scotland and Wales. Although the average figure for the Greens was almost spot on, as was the estimate for combined tally of minor parties and independents, the polls overestimated the Labour and Liberal Democrat vote, and heavily underestimated the Conservatives.

House of Lords Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media

Update: 12 January 2021

The latest report of the House of Lords Liaison Committee: “The Politics of Polling: an update” was published on 21 December 2020, and can be accessed here: https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/4106/documents/40691/default/

On 28th October, British Polling Council President Professor Sir John Curtice gave oral evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media.  You can watch proceedings of the Liaison Committee here on at the “Parliament Live” TV channel.

More details on the work on the Committee can be found at The politics of polling – Summary.

The British Polling Council’s response to the Committee’s 2018 report can be found at British Polling Council Welcomes Lords Committee Report on Polling.

A Guide for Journalists to the Reporting of Opinion Polls?

The British Polling Council is today publishing A Quick Guide for Journalists to the Use and Reporting of Opinion Polls.

This publication has been designed to provide practical guidance for anyone unfamiliar with polls who finds themselves charged with interpreting and writing up an opinion poll in today’s media environment.

It forms part of the British Polling Council’s response to the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on Political Polling and Digital Media.

The document has been developed as a “guided tour” of the key points to bear in mind when working with opinion poll data. Its contents include:

  • An overview on how polls are conducted, including what to look out for when judging whether the sample is representative.
  • Advice on how to evaluate the questions covered in an opinion poll. For example: are they written in everyday language? Do the questions lead the respondent?
  • Guidance on how to interpret the results of polls, including key dos and don’ts when it comes to looking at sub-samples (such as differences by age) or describing changes over time.

The resource has been developed to complement the existing materials available to practitioners and users of opinion polls, including this detailed guide developed by the press regulator IMPRESS and the Market Research Society.

The Quick Guide for Journalists is available on the BPC website (Opinion Polls: Guidance for Journalists), alongside a video briefing with the President of the British Polling Council, Professor Sir John Curtice.

Commenting on the launch of the Guide, Professor Curtice says: “In its report, the House of Lords committee expressed a number of concerns about how the media report polls. Our guide is intended to help address some of these concerns by providing a quick five-minute accessible introduction to polls. It describes both the strengths and the limits of polls, outlines five key questions that should be asked of any poll, and identifies the major potential pitfalls to avoid in writing a poll story. We hope that it will help journalists in newsdesks up and down the country report polls in a way that their audience finds both interesting and informative.”

The Performance of the Polls in the 2019 General Election

After being widely criticised for their performance in the 2015 and 2017 general elections, the polls have proven more accurate in the 2019 election than in any contest since 2005.

As the table shows, on average the final polls underestimated the Conservative vote by just 1.4 points and overestimated Labour’s by only 0.5 points.

These patterns are consistent with the long-term trend for the polls to over-state Labour and under-state Tory support, but the size of the errors were so small that this did not prevent the polls correctly predicting the overall outcome of the election.

For all the other parties, the average error across the pollsters was under one point. Indeed for the LibDems, Greens, and Others the average error was a remarkably small 0.1 of a point.

 CONLABLDBrexitGREENOTHERMETHODSAMPLE SIZEFIELDWORK
Qriously433012348Online2222Dec 5-8
ICM423612324Online2011Dec 6-9
YouGov433412335Online105,612Dec 4-10
Savanta ComRes413612326Online1732Dec 9-10
BMG413214345Online1660Dec 6-11
Ipsos MORI443312236Telephone2213Dec 9-11
Kantar 443213335Online2815Dec 9-11
Deltapoll453510334Online1818Dec 9-11
Survation45349336Telephone2395Dec 10-11
Panelbase433411435Online3174Dec 10-11
Opinium453312226Online3005Dec 10-11
Average43.333.511.72.92.95.5   
Result44.733.011.82.12.85.6   
Difference-1.40.5-0.10.80.1-0.1   

There was also a Survation poll in Scotland conducted online from Dec 10-11 with 1,004 respondents.

  Poll Result
SNP 43 45.0
Con 28 25.1
Lab 20 18.6
Lib Dem 7 9.5
Other 2 1.7

Principal Changes in the Conduct and Reporting of Polls in the 2019 General Election

This document briefly summarises the main differences between the way in which member companies are conducting their polls in the latter stages of the 2019 election and the way they did so in 2017. Details of the changes that companies made in 2017 are available at How Have The Polls Changed Since 2015?. For further details and analysis of the methodology of the polls see BPC Inquiry Report.

John Curtice

BMG

The company only published one Britain-wide poll in 2017; otherwise it conducted private polls for the Labour Party.

That one published poll was a mixed-mode online and telephone poll. The company’s polls in this campaign are likely to be conducted exclusively using an online methodology.

As in 2017 data are weighted in accordance with the known levels of electoral registration among key demographic groups. However, in contrast to 2017 the data are no longer weighted by reported probability of voting or whether or not the respondent voted at the last election.

Respondents are being invited to state a vote intention from only among the parties standing in their constituency.

Deltapoll

This is the first general election to be covered by the company. Details of its methodology can be found at Deltapoll Methodology.

ICM

Data are no longer weighted according to a pre-determined level of turnout by demographic group

A 0-10 turnout scale is now used to weight the data rather than a 1-10 scale.

The voting preference of those who say they do not know how they would vote or who refuse to say how they would do so are no longer imputed on the basis of their past vote.

Data are weighted by 2016 EU referendum vote as well as 2017 general election vote.

Respondents are being invited to state a vote intention from only among the parties standing in their constituency.

Ipsos MORI

Data are no longer being weighted to match the ratios of turnout by age and tenure as recorded by the 2015 British Election Study.

Child in household is no longer used as a weight as it was in 2017, while ethnicity has been added as a weight.

Respondents who say they will vote for the Brexit Party, Liberal Democrats, Greens or Plaid Cymru are invited to state for which party they would vote if their preferred party is not standing in their constituency – and are allocated to that party if their preferred party is not standing locally.

Kantar

Weighting of the data by probability of voting is based on the respondent’s stated likelihood of voting, their age, and whether they voted in 2017, modelled using data collected by the company after the 2017 election (rather than 2015).

Weighting of the data by past vote takes into account of estimates of differential recall error by party and, in particular, a higher tendency for those who vote Labour in 2017 to fail to report that they have done so.

In similar vein to what was done in respect of those saying they were voting UKIP or Green in 2017, respondents are invited to state for which party they would vote if their preferred party is not standing in their constituency – and are allocated to that party if their preferred party is not standing locally.

Opinium

Respondents are being invited to state a vote intention from only among the parties standing in their constituency.

ORB

The company has so far only conducted one poll of vote intentions, at the very beginning of the campaign.

Panelbase

Respondents are invited to state for which party they would vote if their preferred party is not standing in their constituency – and are allocated to that party if their preferred party is not standing locally.

Savanta ComRes

Data are no longer being weighted by the voter turnout model that was used in 2017

Future polls will invite respondents to choose from among the parties standing in their constituency.

Survation

Polls are now only being conducted by phone, using the same approach as in 2017.

Data are weighted, inter alia, by 2019 European Parliament election vote.

As in 2017, respondents are being invited to state a vote intention from only among the named candidates standing in their constituency.

YouGov

There has been a slight reduction in the downweight that is applied to those who did not vote at the last election.

Respondents are being invited to state a vote intention from only among the candidates standing in their constituency.