Absurdly early 2015 predictions!

Absurdly early 2015 predictions!

This was a rerun of an exercise from before the 2010 election where most of those responding predicted a Conservative majority despite what polls were suggesting at the time.

The results of this year’s predictions, including ours, are here but we’ve expanded a bit on our prediction below before it was (quite understandably) cut for length:

Our first election poll for 2015 shows Labour on 33%, Conservatives on 32%, Lib Dems 8%, UKIP 17%, SNP 4% and Green 4%.

It’s important to firstly remember that our weekly results and those from other pollsters are snapshots four months out from an election, not predictions. It would be extremely unwise for a pollster to make a firm prediction with four months to go before polling day.

Nevertheless, in terms of an Opinium forecast on the day; since the Scottish referendum we’ve seen the SNP shoot up and the Greens climb to parity with the Lib Dems which means things have become very complex. Based on polls at the moment, our estimate on polling day would be the Conservatives slightly ahead on vote share but Labour slightly ahead on seats. The SNP would be vying with the Lib Dems for third place on seats with UKIP and the Greens bringing up the rear with two or three each despite coming, respectively, comfortably ahead and just ahead of the Lib Dems.

It’s important to remember that seat projections tend to assume a uniform national swing (UNS) when in fact we have hundreds of unique local contests and stark differences between regions. UNS would actually give UKIP no seats at all because it doesn’t take into account seats like Clacton or Rochester and Strood where we know UKIP’s vote share will be dramatically higher than a uniform swing would suggest. Therefore the numbers below are based on UNS with some tweaks to the Green and UKIP numbers based on local information.

Labour 320
Conservatives 271
Lib Dems 20
SNP 16
Plaid Cymru 3
Greens 2
UKIP 4
Others 14

The net effect is a hung parliament with Labour potentially closer to a majority-forming coalition than the Conservatives.

Just to expand on this a little, the seat projections mentioned above are based on uniform national swing with a few tweaks because straight UNS (i.e. if Labour are 3 percentage points higher than in 2010 then add 3 points to every Labour candidate) actually gives UKIP no seats at all when we know that they will probably hold at least Clacton and probably gain one or two other seats elsewhere.

Similarly, a proportional projection (e.g. if the Conservatives move from 30% to 33% nationally, all Tory candidates’ votes are multiplied by 1.1) gives the Lib Dems no seats and UKIP 12, another extreme and unlikely scenario given how incumbent Lib Dems are expected to dig-in even as their candidates are wiped out elsewhere.

To add another variable to the mix, Labour’s post-referendum collapse in Scotland is not accounted for here either. Labour are doing comparatively worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK but this isn’t taken into account because the SNP are treated as being a tiny UK-wide party rather than the dominant party in one part of it.

What all this tells us is that this year’s election will probably see a looser relationship between vote share and number of seats won than any election for decades. Typically the party with the most votes would also win the most seats and, provided they had enough of a margin over the second party, this would be enough for a majority. Three elections in the 20th century saw the party that came second on votes win the most seats (1929, 1951 and February 1974 if you’re curious) and 2015 looks like it could well be added to this list but we may also see an unprecedented number of parties winning seats that defy their national vote share.

Opinion polls which measure national share of the vote, and predictions based on uniform swing, therefore need to be seen in this context.

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