In seven of the last nine general elections they have been right—so don't count on an upset this weekby Nicholas Earl / June 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
Labour has been gaining ground in the polls. The degree of its success, however, and whether or not the term “momentum” can be applied to anything other than its grassroots organisation, is still up for debate. That said, clearly Jeremy Corbyn’s party has improved on its position on 18th April, when Theresa May called a general election hoping for a landslide.
According to YouGov, Labour has cut a gap of 24 points to 3, with the prime minister projected to be short of a majority. Other polls such as Opinium maintain that the Tories have a firm lead, though that is still down from 20 points to 11. Although the numbers vary, they have all swung from a massive Conservative lead in the direction of a minor-moderate Conservative advantage. Irrespective of their methodology, and whether they are predicting regional swings or an influx of young voters, Corbyn has jumped over a very low bar.
Of course, the polls can get it wrong, including exit polls (such as in the 1992 election), in which people say who they have voted for rather than merely who they intend to vote for. Polling is not an exact science. Yet the overall record of predicting the performance of the two biggest UK parties, Conservatives and Labour, has been historically solid.
The 1979 election, which saw Margaret Thatcher secure a 43-seat majority at the expense of James Callaghan’s ailing Labour party, was in keeping with the polls. A rogue Daily Mail/NOP poll placed Labour neck-and-neck with the Tories two days before the election, but otherwise the polls had predicted a Conservative victory since January of that year. In the month before the election, the number-crunchers had pegged Thatcher’s lead at seven points; she duly won 44 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 37 per cent.
A similar story can be found in the 1983 election, where the polls were unanimously predicting a double-digit lead for the Conservatives as early as June 1982. The caveat here would be that Thatcher’s second term was chiefly secured after…