UK Election Statisitics Brain-Candy
April 8, 2010 2:10 AM   Subscribe

Hurtling as we are towards an election that will be the most closely contested for a generation, where can we in the UK get a hit of statistical brain-candy? Well, no-one's going to do it quite as well as FiveThirtyEight did it for our transatlantic chums (though they will be posting on the UK), but try Electoral Calculus or UK Polling Report. For information about voting, try About My Vote.
posted by hydatius (37 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Guardian has a three-way swingometer factoring in the Lib Dems, which is pretty nifty if you're an appalling politics nerd.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:21 AM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was wondering about UK equivalents of FiveThirtyEight, so thanks for posting this.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:27 AM on April 8, 2010


re: election monitoring, I believe that 38 Degrees is going to try and do something similar to FactCheck.

Disclosure: I offered to volunteer for them. They haven't contacted me back.
posted by djgh at 3:01 AM on April 8, 2010


Jesus, I can't spell 'Statistics'.
posted by hydatius at 3:10 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


three-way swingometer

Giggity!


Sorry.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:29 AM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


For what it's worth, this post was prompted by The Electoral Reform Society's press release suggesting that 382 of the 650 seats are safe and will provide no discernible contest. Comments on The Guardian's Datablog pointed out several (relatively minor) errors of fact in the ERS's spreadsheets, so I wanted to root around get some wider context. The ERS report is definitely worth a look, though it paints a somewhat depressing picture.
posted by hydatius at 3:36 AM on April 8, 2010


The Guardian has a three-way swingometer factoring in the Lib Dems, which is pretty nifty

I was marveling at the fact that electorates in the UK are all perfectly square, on a grid. Until I found the "geographical view" button.
posted by Jimbob at 3:52 AM on April 8, 2010


Can someone summarize (for a total outsider) what's probably going to happen, given current polling results? Who is likely to be running the country after this election? Will America be forced to liberate the UK and put a proper government in charge? Just how hard would it be to topple the statue of Gordon Brown that stands astride the mouth of the Thames?
posted by pracowity at 4:29 AM on April 8, 2010


pracowity: Either a narrow Conservative (right wing) government majority or a 'hung parliament'. The latter merely refers to a coalition government.

The election is of rather more import than US Congressional elections in terms of power; since the PM is the leader of the largest party it's rather like the opportunity for Nancy Pelosi to win the presidency at the same time.

Happily enough, even the right wing leader is more left wing on the issues than Nancy Pelosi. Unhappily, this election takes place in the face of large deficits, and whichever party comes in will cut public sector costs (and presumably services) to protect our AAA rating on the bond market. Look forward to weeks of everyone not admitting what they want to cut, and slightly disingenuous statements that somehow it will just magically come out of cutting waste.

Inspired yet?
posted by jaduncan at 4:43 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm.
posted by pracowity at 4:57 AM on April 8, 2010


pracowity: Either a narrow Conservative party* win, or a hung parliament. In the case of a hung parliament the Liberal Democrats will most likely side with the Conservatives to form a coalition government.

The real problem in my opinion will be likely gains for the British National Party (BNP), which is similar to Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front party.

* The standard joke: "There are two parties in the US, one of them is like the Conservative party, and the other is like the Conservative party."
posted by alby at 4:58 AM on April 8, 2010


pracowity: Who will be running the country?

Well, when you compare the latest poll results to the results in the last general election, you get:

Lab: 32%(-3%), Con 37%(+5%), Lib Dem 19%(-3%) Others: 12%(+1%)

If you feed these poll results into the Electoral Calculus' prediction engine to see how many actual seats in parliament each party gets, you see some of the 'unfairness' in the british electoral system: with 4% more of the vote than labour, the conservatives only get 0.4% more of the seats. (and the libdems are even worse off)

Lab 282 seats (43.4%), Con 285 seats(43.8%), Lib Dem 51 seats (7.8%) Others: 14 seats (2.2%)


So, who will actually be running the country... Simply Either Gordon Brown (Labour) will stay in power supported by the lib dems, or 'Dave' Cameron (Conservative) will gain power, again supported by the lib dems.

Or something else, depending on what happens in the next 4 weeks...


However, history has seen that it is never a good idea to predict election results from poll results, especially when polls taken in the same day can differ by several % points, and especially when they are this close!


The good thing about a 'hung parliament' (where no single party has an overall majority, and will need to seek alliances) is that the lib dems have always been in favour of electoral reform and may make it a condition of forming a coalition... Also, if it works, it may remove some of the negative stigma of the idea of a coalition government in the UK...
posted by nielm at 5:25 AM on April 8, 2010


I would like a hung parliament as an outcome. Making the buggers talk to each other and work together would be useful, I think.

I fear the Shy Tory Factor though.
posted by vbfg at 6:01 AM on April 8, 2010


Shy Tory Factor = people are embarrassed to admit being conservative?
posted by pracowity at 6:22 AM on April 8, 2010


Will America be forced to liberate the UK and put a proper government in charge?

Does your memory of US governments not go back further than early 2009?
posted by idiomatika at 6:27 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


pracowity - yes, exactly that.

nielm - the interesting thing is that given the importance of relatively few marginal seats, the national polling numbers are not as relevant as the local ones.

There's an interesting point about the Lib Dem vote in a comment at the Bond Vigilantes blog:

"... Professor Curtice, who wrote our election guide, also points out that whilst a wide range of Conservative leads in the polls (0% to about 11% on a uniform swing) would produce a hung parliament, the subset of results that would allow the LibDems to creat a majority by adding their seats to EITHER conservatives of labour is much smaller (between about 4% and 7%) . Any Tory lead over 7% would mean the Libdems could only choose whether to allow the Tories to govern or not, which is no choice at all. They would not be able to form a majority with Labour in these circumstances... "
posted by patricio at 6:27 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to inject myself into UK politics here, but if David Cameron keeps company like this, it seems to me you might be better off with a hung parliament:
Whoever it is, there's no doubt they know how to roll, GOP-style. Before an RNC official indicated this week that the group's activities would be scaled back in light of the bondage-related fiasco, the Young Eagles had planned a Texas bird hunt, a trip to the Indy 500, a bull-riding event, and a jaunt to London to hobnob with Tory party leader David Cameron.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:33 AM on April 8, 2010


The real problem in my opinion will be likely gains for the British National Party (BNP), which is similar to Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front party.

I'm less worried by this - back when ExpensesGate was constantly hitting the news, no doubt this was very true. But the electorate has a short memory, and a large proportion of the shown-to-be-guilty (see what I did there?) MPs are standing down anyway.

Add to that the idea that this election might actually be close for once, and the fact that both Labour and the Conservatives are on the face of things electable. So these will probably manifest themselves as less of a bump for "Other" than would have been expected.
posted by djgh at 6:36 AM on April 8, 2010


Have a look at this for trends:
Guardian: UK Voting Intentions

"Other" highpoint was summer 2009, and there appears to have been declining support since then.

I also like the way that the Guardian surmise that "increased exposure" is helping the Lib Dems. Makes me wonder what would happen if they got equal column inches and airtime as the other two main parties.

Also, re: shy Tory - this isn't quite what I was hoping to find, but I have seen an article that suggests that Tory chances in marginal seats are better than what is being predicted in the polls due to Ashcroft's funding. This is somewhat closer, but older - and obviously fails to reflect the frankly improbable Labour fightback plus Lib Dem gains.
posted by djgh at 6:44 AM on April 8, 2010


saulgoodman, this and this might be of interest to you.
posted by djgh at 6:47 AM on April 8, 2010


Saulgoodman: Well, there's that, although faux-lesbian bondage is pretty tame compared to what you might experience at the average Piers Gaveston society dinner.

More concerning might be the alliances that the Conservative party in Europe has made, having left the broadly centre-right European People's Party caucus and formed its own group of, effectively, anti-European Parliament European Parliamentarians who don't mind having European Parliament expense accounts. This group includes sweethearts like the Lithuanian Polish party Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, with some rather strong views on the gays, and of course Latvia's For Fatherland and Freedom party, which is pretty much as you'd expect from the name, and among other things supports the right of Latvians to march in support of their contribution to the war effort as members of the Waffen-SS - that is, Nazi client soldiers. This does not, they are keen to explain, make them Nazis.
posted by DNye at 7:00 AM on April 8, 2010


saulgoodman, this and this might be of interest to you

wow. there's actually a conservative training academy, eh? i guess when your preferred political views diverge so radically from factual reality, you have to indoctrinate young people into adopting them, since they likely wouldn't reach the same conclusions using common sense.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:23 AM on April 8, 2010


The good thing about a 'hung parliament' (where no single party has an overall majority, and will need to seek alliances) is that the lib dems have always been in favour of electoral reform and may make it a condition of forming a coalition... Also, if it works, it may remove some of the negative stigma of the idea of a coalition government in the UK...

Unless both Labour and the Tories decide that that's a bridge too far and, instead, decide to form a government of national unity with each other, freezing the Lib Dems out and preserving their first-past-the-post privileges. (You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.)
posted by acb at 7:28 AM on April 8, 2010


* The standard joke: "There are two parties in the US, one of them is like the Conservative party, and the other is like the Conservative party."

Ah, much like the UK then. (The difference between the two neo-Thatcherite parties has traditionally been one of PR skills and marketing.)
posted by acb at 7:31 AM on April 8, 2010


Happily enough, even the right wing leader is more left wing on the issues than Nancy Pelosi.

Well, I'd rather say that he perhaps pretends to be more liberal on some issues than Nancy Pelosi, but I have my doubts about his sincerity. And I don't think I'm alone in this.

Moreover, a large and noisy portion of his party is somewhat to the right of Glenn Beck, which makes for a difficult coexistence with their (purportedly) "touchy-feely" leader, for instance when right-wing MEP Dan Hannan went last year on a US tour rubbishing Britain's National Health Service. Since the NHS is pretty much sacred to the average British voter, Tory strategists must still wake up at night screaming about that unfortunate episode.

And, to make things even more interesting for Cameron, that same right wing is threatened by UKIP, which is sort of Britain's Tea Party, and the BNP, which is a bunch of Nazi thugs.
posted by Skeptic at 7:35 AM on April 8, 2010


I don't share the widespread enthusiasm for the idea of a hung Parliament. It would mean they'd all got an excuse for not doing any of the things in their manifestos; difficult and unpopular issues wouldn't be addressed, while minority parties and interest groups would be bought off with things we can't afford and nobody voted for. People assume the result would be sensible, consensual politics, but in fact it could mean the Ulster Unionists dictating national policy, or the Olympics being moved to Glasgow to get a few nationalist votes, or who knows what.
posted by Phanx at 8:04 AM on April 8, 2010


As a London resident, I'd be in favour of the Olympics being moved to Glasgow. Sorry, Glaswegians, it's your turn to put up with public transport shutdowns, rent rises and the eventual curbs on civil liberties.
posted by acb at 8:10 AM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


idiomatika Will America be forced to liberate the UK and put a proper government in charge?

Does your memory of US governments not go back further than early 2009?


I think you might have stumbled unto brand new American technology, tentatively called "joke".
posted by spaltavian at 9:11 AM on April 8, 2010


Doh. Silly me.
posted by idiomatika at 9:25 AM on April 8, 2010


...that same right wing is threatened by UKIP, which is sort of Britain's Tea Party...

They're not quite as bad as that, but still aren't likely to get my vote any time soon. To see why, you need only look at what this charming man has to say in response to his party being labelled as racist.
posted by ZsigE at 10:06 AM on April 8, 2010


vbfg: I fear the Shy Tory Factor though.

Interestingly, a bloke from the Ipsos MORI polling group was interviewed on PM this evening and said that their preliminary data for this year suggested more of a "shy Labour" effect in play – people who voted Labour in 2005, but when pressed on their intentions for this year, refused to give an answer. I guess shyness in polling can apply to any deeply unpopular party. Which, at the moment, is pretty much all of them.

Follow this through to its logical conclusion and we'll get exit polls showing a Green landslide followed swiftly by a Lab-Con-BNP coalition government.
posted by him at 10:45 AM on April 8, 2010


Unless both Labour and the Tories decide that that's a bridge too far and, instead, decide to form a government of national unity with each other, freezing the Lib Dems out and preserving their first-past-the-post privileges.

A more likely proposition, in particular if the only possible coalition is Con-Lib, and neither the Conservatives nor the LibDems give ground on electoral reform, would be a new election. And then all odds would be off (it could easily result in a solid Labour or Tory majority under renewed leadership).

I reckon that if the opinion polls don't start improving for the Tories in the next weeks, Cameron will start getting a torrid time from his right wing. The noises BoJo has been making lately are particularly unauspicious for him: if the right wing smells an opening for a leadership challenge, and if its success depends on the election result, which in turn will greatly depend on the right wing keeping its mouth shut and not airing its heartfelt views on matters like immigration, the environment, or gay rights too loudly, you can bet on them doing their worst to sabotage Cameron's run.
posted by Skeptic at 11:35 AM on April 8, 2010


Since the NHS is pretty much sacred to the average British voter, Tory strategists must still wake up at night screaming about that unfortunate episode.
Skeptic

It's a problem, certainly. Although the upper echelons of the Conservative party can differ hugely between the metropolitans and the shire-bound landowners, they can pretty much agree that they can't stand the NHS or the BBC. The party line is that the NHS is great, but that too much of the resources allocated to it are wasted on civil service bureaucrats and admin, and the BBC is both ridden with bureaucrats and also a hive of Trotskyism which pushes a partisan line using public money. Both of these are probably fair to a limited extent, barring the Trotskyism, but the more credible reason is that both demonstrate that state-run public services can run better than private services, or at least deliver a very good and competitive service. The Murdoch press has aligned with the Tories to bring its guns onto the BBC, for obvious reasons, and a progressive loss of nerve has culminated in proposals to axe two services - the Asian Network and the alternative digital station BBC 6 Music - in the hope that this act of self-mutilation will protect them from the ire of the Tories once elected.
posted by DNye at 11:46 AM on April 8, 2010


I think you might have stumbled unto brand new American technology, tentatively called "joke".

I knew you Americans would eventually start to show evidence of advanced culture, others may take time to adjust to the new reality.
posted by robertc at 1:53 PM on April 8, 2010


The party line is that the NHS is great, but that too much of the resources allocated to it are wasted on civil service bureaucrats and admin

Which is funny, because until the Tories came along in the eighties with their Trusts and their targets and their "running it like the private sector" there was a very low ratio of civil service/admin types to actual healthcare professionals in the NHS (compared to what there is now).
posted by robertc at 1:57 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


until the Tories came along in the eighties with their Trusts and their targets and their "running it like the private sector" there was a very low ratio of civil service/admin types to actual healthcare professionals in the NHS (compared to what there is now).

If your Tories are anything like our Republicans, this is probably part of the game plan. Ours have made a science out of taking over once-effective public institutions, deliberately mismanaging them until there's a public backlash, and then calling for them to be dismantled in the name of eliminating government waste. They're currently fast-tracking efforts to shut down the entire state of Florida to eliminate the government waste and excess created over the course of nearly two decades of Republican rule.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:48 AM on April 9, 2010


If your Tories are anything like our Republicans, this is probably part of the game plan. Ours have made a science out of taking over once-effective public institutions, deliberately mismanaging them until there's a public backlash, and then calling for them to be dismantled in the name of eliminating government waste.

That's not entirely an American strategy; Thatcher ran down British Rail, underfunding and constraining it, before Major dismembered it and scattered the pieces to the four winds privatised it in a way to make renationalisation effectively impossible.
posted by acb at 7:41 AM on April 10, 2010


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