Saturday, 6 May 2017

IMPORTANT: disastrous poll, but the general election will be worse

Take no joy in the utter failure of Corbyn as a leader, as the vast majority of political commentators have always predicted. The only crumb of comfort that Labour can really take from yesterday was winning two metro mayor posts and coming within a whisker of a third.

But the local election results are truly disastrous in two ways. 

One, as the New Statesman's George Eaton pointed out, because if the general election had the same voteshare of 27%, it would be the lowest for Labour since the end of the First World War.

Two, because of the following maths.

The poll lead of the Tories in the election is currently 11%. In the last pre-election poll (May 4th, YouGov), it was 19%. Why the huge difference?

Because in the locals, there is generally turnout of, say, 25-30%. In the general, it is usually, say, 55-70%. Of the order of double the turnout. 

If there is asymmetry between the likelihood of one party's voters staying at home and another's, this accounts for inaccuracies in the ability of the local elections poll to truly reflect national voteshare (as measured by that last YouGov poll). After all, it's just half of the voters who will vote in June, so it's hardly representative. Not to mention, of course, the fact that not all parts of the country have local elections, again, not fully representative.

But the chilling thought for Labour is, the June poll is likely to be a much more accurate reflection of the national opinion polls (assuming that they are broadly accurate). That is, the Tories' poll lead is likely to be much closer to 19% than to 11%.

Labour has actually got off extremely lightly in these local elections, compared to what opinion polls said should have happened.

It seems unlikely that this luck will hold in the general election. A 19% poll lead there could perhaps even push it below the 1918 result of 21%.

In short: this is bad, but we ain't seen nothin' yet.

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