What was behind the party’s late recovery?
Itâ€™s worth looking back at the dynamic of what happened on May 5th so that we are better able to call future elections and one element that has not really been discussed was the recovery of UKIP within the final week or so.
For just seven weeks before election day the pollster that was to prove to be the most accurate, NOP, produced a survey showing that just one single person in a sample of 1,000 had indicated that she was going to vote for UKIP on May 5th.
At the time we were talking of the Tories having “consolidated their right flank” and wondered whether the bubble had burst on the party that had secured more than 16% of the vote in last yearâ€™s Euro Elections. Although this was a somewhat extreme example of the decline of Robert Kilroy-Silk’s former party it was by no means untypical. Several other polls at that time were finding very few UKIP supporters and they were hardly registering.
Yet on May 5th the party chalked up a creditable 2.3% of the overall UK national vote and which probably resulted in a number of seats not changing hands.
Where did this upsurge come from? Could it have been that a number of Conservative supporters concluded that those polls in the final few days showing Labour leads of nearly five times what actually happened meant there was no point sticking with Michael Howard’s party so an anti-EU statement was the most effective way of using their ballot?
These surveys simply underlined that the Tories were getting nowhere so why not make a statement on the EU and vote for the party that wants the UK out? Given the Populus finding, discussed last week, that many declared Labour supports did not vote because the polls showed that the party was winning easily could the Conservatives also have been the victim of the pollstersâ€™ exaggerated Labour figures?
We think that thereâ€™s something in this. How and whether people use their vote can often be determined by what they think is going to happen and it is here that the pollsters can set the agenda.
So if polling did get better will the two main parties be the main beneficiaries?
Parts of this article were featured in my presentation at the recent Adam Smith Institute seminar on polling and the General Election.