Why the polls got it so wrong in the British election

imageIf the opinion polls had proved accurate, we would have been woken up on the morning of May 8 to a House of Commons in which the Labour Party had a chance to form government. By the end of the day, the country would have had a new prime minister called Ed Miliband, writes Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams.

This didn’t happen. Instead the Conservative Party was returned with almost 100 more seats than Labour and a narrow majority. So what went wrong? Why were the polls so far off? And why has the British Polling Council announced an inquiry?

We have been here before. The polls were woefully inaccurate in the 1992 election, predicting a Labour victory, only for John Major’s Conservatives to win by a clear seven percentage points. While the polls had performed a bit better since, history repeated itself this year. Continue reading

Polling Day UK Election Forecast – 7 May 2015

On polling day, Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of the Political Forecasting Unit (PFU) at Nottingham Business School, gives the PFU’s official forecast of the election result. The prediction is based on a weighted combination of a range of variables, including adjusted polling analysis and a number of market-based predictors.

He says: “This is the Election Day forecast of the seats to be obtained by each of the parties. It is our best estimate given our methodology and the available data, but it must be borne in mind that there are large confidence intervals around these numbers, especially given the very late swings picked up in the most recent polls, and the volatility detected in some of the markets. Treat the prediction accordingly. With great caution.”

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Would the UK be better off leaving the EU?

Euro notes and coins

Euro notes and coins

We would be substantially better off not being in the EU because the opportunity cost of us not being able to make our own trade deals with the emerging economies of the world is holding back British business. In terms of trade, the EU is now a millstone around our neck. Nigel Farage, UKIP leader, on the BBC Radio 4’s World at One on May 4.

Nigel Farage’s statement about UK trade repeats arguments regularly made by UKIP. As an EU member, the UK does not negotiate trade deals independently. Rather, the European Commission negotiates to a mandate set by the member states. His reference to “emerging economies” is because several of these countries are growing faster than, for example, most EU countries, offering growing export opportunities. Beyond this, the statement involves points presented as fact, but which are opinion – and questionable opinion at that, writes Professor Robert Ackrill. Continue reading

Transport costs – what the Politicians don’t say

uk trainsMany pledges have been made on the campaign trail, but one big question remains unanswered regarding transport, who pays? writes Dr John Disney from Nottingham Business School.

Pledges to freeze rail fares or limit fare rises to the Retail Price Index (note, not the lower Consumer Price Index) are likely to lead to claims for increased subsidy from train operators who have taken on franchises under different arrangements. Such changes in fares policy can only be implemented when a thorough review has taken place of rail franchising and that will take several years to complete. Continue reading

Why Satirical Dismissiveness Dominates Political Imagery

Credit: Byzantine_K

Credit: Byzantine_K

While politicians are often regarded as verbose – especially in their attempts to answer the question they would prefer to have been asked rather than the one actually posed to them – the media that surrounds us is increasingly visual, writes Dr Kevin J. Hunt.

Within the final week of campaigning it is interesting to consider the type of imagery, both official and unofficial, that seems to have dominated the 2015 election. Continue reading

A ‘jobs-led recovery’? Assessing the facts behind the Conservatives and Labour manifestos

WalletIn the run-up to the General Election, the two largest parties have attempted to paint different pictures of the economy, particularly what this means for people’s jobs, in order to justify their Manifesto commitments and – by extension – why they should lead the next Government, writes research fellow Chris Lawton.

The Conservative manifesto emphasises the strength of recovery in terms of the quantity of jobs created since the start of the Parliament in May 2010: “Thanks to the success of our long-term economic plan, Britain is creating more jobs than the 27 other countries of the European Union put together… Over the past five years, 1.9 million new jobs have been created; 1,000 jobs for every single day that we have been in government.” Continue reading

Labour’s rent control plans may have unintended consequences

HousingEd Miliband has pledged that Labour would introduce three-year tenancy agreements for private renters under which their rent increases would be capped at the rate of inflation, writes Professor Michael White.

The Conservatives quickly rounded on the idea of re-introducing rent controls, with London mayor Boris Johnson writing in The Daily Telegraph that it was “an idiotic way to tackle the problem of high rents”.

The history of rent control in the UK has been problematic. Designed to maintain affordability, limits to rent rises introduced in the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act 1915. This was designed to be short term but was kept in force after World War I in some form until 1989. It reduced the investment attractiveness of the private rented sector leading not only to its decline but also creating a significant drop in the quality of private rented accommodation. Continue reading

Political Forecasting Unit – UK Election Forecast – 20 April 2015

vote on boardAt the start of a new week, Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, director of the Political Forecasting Unit (PFU) at Nottingham Business School, gives the PFU’s official forecast of the election result. The prediction is based on a weighted combination of a range of variables, including adjusted polling analysis and a number of market-based predictors.
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NHS future looks grim – yet politicians still make election promises they can’t keep

fingers crossedIn every UK election in recent years, the financial situation of the NHS has come pretty near the top of the list of concerns among voters. In 2015, the campaign is taking place against a backdrop of five years of financial austerity that has been seriously affecting public services, writes Professor Malcolm Prowle.

Although the NHS was deemed to be “protected” from the pressures of financial austerity, it was left with a tiny amount of growth in resources each year and was also given a target of making £22 billion of efficiency savings over a four-year period. This contrasts sharply with the first 62 years of the life of the NHS when it received substantial increases in funding each year (even if the voters weren’t always aware of this). Not surprisingly, the service is really feeling the strain. Continue reading