9 October 2014

2015 General Election - Who's Going To Win - And How Many Votes Will They Need?

Election 2015 is nearly upon us, which will mean hectic campaigning, and by 7 May, for me, shattered legs and knees from walking up hills and steps in Harrow West. But when the voting stops, the counting begins, and the results are declared, who's going to win?


According to the Electoral Calculus, the Conservatives' unpopularity can't get them to win. Yes, governments tend to become more popular as the election nears, but the predictions are firmly in the "red zone" of a Labour majority in 2013. With only the economy to boast about, the Electoral Calculus argues a lack of policy. Thinking about it in terms of data, between the last two years before the election (for example, 1981-1983, 2008-2010, 2013-2015), the government tends to rise by an average of 2.2% since 1981-3, whereas the opposition falls by a whopping 6.3% since 1981-3. The Liberal Democrats/Alliance have an average rise of 2.3%. Applying this to the 2013 values on the Electoral Calculus and you get the Conservatives on 32.5%, Labour on 31.9%, and the Liberal Democrats on 12.5%. Uniform swings produce the following: Labour short by 14 on the Electoral Calculus; Labour short by 18 on UK Polling Report; Labour short by 24 on the swingometer. With the Conservatives 0.6% ahead in the votes, this result would open up questions about the voting system.

EC: LAB 312, CON 280, LD 30, OTH 28 - Labour short by 14
UKPR: LAB 308, CON 281, LD 31, OTH 29 - Labour short by 18
SWINGO: LAB 302, CON 261, LD 57, OTH 30 - Labour short by 24

Using a poll released on the day I am writing this, which has Labour on 34%, the Conservatives on 33%, UKIP on 14%, and the Liberal Democrats on 7%, applying this uniformly gives the following: Labour majority of 6 on the Electoral Calculus; Labour short by 1 on UK Polling Report; Labour short by 20 on the swingometer. Adjusting the swingometer for the Liberal Democrat losses that the Electoral Calculus predicts, the swingometer argues that Labour would be short by 2. 

EC: LAB 328, CON 280, OTH 27, LD 15, UKIP 0 - Labour Majority of 6
UKPR: LAB 325, CON 281, OTH 27, LD 16 - Labour short by 1
SWINGO: LAB 306, CON 257, LD 57, OTH 30 - Labour short by 20
ADJUSTED SWINGO: LAB 324, CON 284, LD 15, OTH 30 - Labour short by 2

From this we can determine that Labour need about 35% (just to be sure) with a two point lead over the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats on about 7-9% to win the election. 


Can the Conservatives win? According to Peter Kellner, President of YouGov, they can. All they need to do is to attract the Liberal Democrat voters, whose vote share is 8% in one poll at the moment. If that were to happen at the election in May, then 16% of the vote needs to be redistributed. An 8%/8% increase for Labour and the Conservatives will give the Conservatives will end up with an overall majority assuming that the Conservative, Labour, and UKIP voters vote the same way they did in 2010. The Electoral Calculus predicts a Conservative majority of 38; UK Polling Report predict a majority of 36; the basic swingometer that I composed predicts a hung Parliament, with the Conservatives short by 20. A swingometer only accounts for a two-party system, mind you, so this can be discounted. The reason is that both Labour and the Conservatives will pick up the seats they're fighting against with the Liberal Democrats, and the Conservatives have more potential in this area, winning the South West of England and picking up four extra seats in Scotland whilst holding the one they already have.

EC: CON 344, LAB 277, OTH 25, LD 4, UKIP 0 - Conservative Majority of 38
UKPR: CON 343, LAB 277, OTH 25, LD 4 - Conservative Majority of 36
SWINGO: CON 306, LAB 258, LD 57, OTH 30 - Conservatives short by 20

We therefore know that a seven point lead would win the Conservatives the election if they attract Liberal voters. We'll try looking at the height of the Conservatives' polling within the last month, which was a two-point lead with them on 36%. This has the Conservatives on 36%, Labour on 34%, UKIP on 13%, and the Liberal Democrats on 7%. Would a two-point lead be enough to win them the election? No. They wouldn't even be the largest party in a hung Parliament, according to both the Electoral Calculus and UK Polling Report: Labour short by 13 and 16 respectively. The swingometer paints a slightly better picture for the Conservatives with Labour short by 31 - which is one of the most equal states possible.

EC: LAB 313, CON 299, OTH 27, LD 11, UKIP 0 - Labour short by 13
UKPR: LAB 310, CON 302, OTH 27, LD 10 - Labour short by 16
SWINGO: LAB 285, CON 278, LD 57, OTH 30 - Labour short by 31

The problem with the predicted average change in the polls is that the 2013 averages are unfairly skewed by a huge double-figure lead Labour possessed throughout the first few months of 2013 (with voters still feeling the effects of Osborne's so-called "omnishambles" budget in 2012). The Conservatives' best poll in Q4 of 2013, therefore, had the Conservatives and Labour tied on 35%, with UKIP on 10% and the Lib Dems on 9%. UKIP are not included in the averages, so apply the averages to this (to no decimal places) and you end up with the Conservatives on 37%, Labour on 29%, and the Liberal Democrats on 11%. This would be enough for the Conservatives to win: Conservative majority of 22 on the Electoral Calculus, Conservative majority of 16 on UK Polling Report. The swingometer gives the Conservatives short by 17, but accounting for Liberal losses according to the Electoral Calculus gives an extra 11 seats to Labour and 25 extra seats to the Conservatives, more than enough, ending up with a majority of 18.

EC: CON 336, LAB 266, OTH 29, LD 19 - Conservative Majority of 22
UKPR: CON 333, LAB 263, OTH 28, LD 25 - Conservative Majority of 16
SWINGO: CON 309, LAB 254, LD 57, OTH 30 - Conservatives short by 17
ADJUSTED SWINGO: CON 334, LAB 265, OTH 30, LD 21 - Conservative Majority of 18.

The Conservatives therefore still would rely on the Lib Dem collapse more than anything else, as their lead of 7% at the last election is difficult to expand, otherwise we'd be getting into, as Jeremy Paxman once put it, "Michael Foot territory" - and this is where the swingometer comes in handy. If the Liberal Democrats do not collapse, we predict at Benjamin's Blog the Conservatives will need an 11% lead over Labour - a 2% swing. With the Conservatives on 39% and Labour on 28%, there's a clear winner, but what happens if both parties start dropping and the Liberal Democrats stay the same? Using UKPR, which is better for this sort of thing when looking at the Lib Dems, the Lib Dems would only need to garner 1% extra in order to force a hung Parliament if the Conservatives win by 11% (CON 38%, LAB 27%, LD 25%, OTH 11%).

Therefore, the very minimum the Conservatives need to win the election will depend on how well or badly the Liberal Democrats do. If the Lib Dem vote doesn't collapse, the Conservatives would need to get 39% to win with Labour on 28%. We estimate that if the Lib Dem vote does collapse to 7% then the Conservatives would only need a 5-6% lead over Labour with the Conservatives on around what they got last time - and could even afford to undercut it - 35% or thereabouts. As a graph, we can think about lead over Labour vs. Lib Dem rating. If the Lib Dems end up somewhere in the middle, say, on 14%, the Conservatives would need an 8% lead.


In table form:

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