State of the UK Polls on Election Eve

State of the UK Polls on Election Eve

In all likelihood, by this time tomorrow the UK will have a new Prime Minister and a new party in power. That’s according to the polls, which are all quite unanimous that Labour is heading for a landslide victory on a similar scale to Tony Blair’s 1997 victory.

The Conversative Party, which has been in power since 2010, is on course for potentially the worst result in modern times.


Poll Predictions

Let’s start with poll trackers, which aggregate the many polls conducted around the country by different organisations.

The BBC’s eve of the election poll tracker has Labour winning 39% of the vote while the Conservatives will narrowly remain the second largest party, and the opposition, with 21%.

Of the other parties, Nigel Farage’s Reform Party appears to have dramatically eaten into the Conservative vote during the six weeks of the campaign and is now polling at 17%. The Liberal Democrats, on 11%, are still failing to regain the heights of 2010 when they polled 23% and shared power with the Conservatives in a hung parliament.

The Economist’s poll tracker roughly aligns with these findings, indicating a 20-point lead for Labour. The Economist has a deep dive into the polls here, which shows that Labour is polling an astonishing 47% to 50% among the under-45s.

Labour leads in every region of the UK, including the normally Conservative-leading South, although by a smaller margin (33% to 23%) than anywhere else in England and Wales. In Scotland Labour has solidified its 6-point lead over the Scottish National Party during the course of the campaign.

Among those who voted for Brexit in 2016, the Conservatives still hold a slender lead of just 2% over Labour, who are neck and neck on 29% with the Reform Party among this cohort. Those who voted Remain in 2016 overwhelmingly support Labour, by 53% to 16%. These numbers show the UK is still a nation starkly divided by Brexit.


Share of Vote vs Seats

Of course, with the UK’s first past the post system, the national average vote counts for very little. How the vote is spread by constituency determines which Party has more seats in Parliament and thus forms a government.

YouGov’s final Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification (MRP) model projects Labour to win 431 seats, and the Conservatives just 102, which will see them lose 263 seats. If this is right, Labour would have a majority of 212.

While other polling organisations such as IPSOS, Survation, Savanta, and Verian, adopt different models and sampling methodologies, all are in broad agreement. This wouldn’t just be Labour’s largest majority – Tony Blair won a 179-seat majority in 1997 – it would be the biggest any party has had since 1832.

While a relatively minor difference in vote percentage can have a dramatic swing in the number of seats won per party, all the polls are clear that it is not a question of if Labour will win, but rather by how much.

The Financial Times has a handy tool here which shows how national vote share could translate into seats, both overall and constituency by constituency. Due to the vagaries of the FPTP system where it really matters where each vote is cast, the Conservative Party’s projected 21% share of the vote gives them 105 seats in the Telegraph’s model, whereas the Reform Party’s 17% share may give them only 1 or 2 seats. The Liberal Democrats on only 11% of the vote would still have 61 seats.


Election Campaign Highlights

While the polling suggests the main parties will end the six week campaign in much the same state as they began, it has still been a lively and sometimes feisty contest.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s unexpected call for a snap election on July 4 caught many off guard. While it may have been a strategic gamble to capitalise on a temporary dip in inflation, it hasn’t helped the Conservative Party whose projected share of the vote has dropped about 3% during the campaign. Labour’s polling figures have also gone down, from around 44% at the start of the campaign to 39% today, however they had such a commanding lead they would need to lost a lot more to change the outcome.

The economy and cost of living have mostly dominated campaign discussions. The Conservative campaign has also been marred by several scandals, including the suspension of top aides over alleged betting on the date of the election, and Sunak’s controversial decision to skip a D-Day commemoration.

In a surprise move, the extremely influential Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper endorsed the Labour Party for the first time since Tony Blair. It is thought this could influence undecided voters, particularly Brexit-leaning ones, as The Sun was a major backer of the Leave campaign.

The Conservatives have also been hurt by the rise of Nigel Farage’s Reform Party, which has focused on immigration and looks likely to take votes from both major parties. Farage’s campaign has drawn attention and support from disaffected Conservative voters and Brexit supporting former Labour voters. The Reform Party’s increase in projected vote share during the campaign, from 11% to 17%, is the biggest rise of any party.


Key Battlegrounds and Potential Surprises

So, are there any surprises at all to look out for? While it is doubtful that the overall result will change, the exact make up of parliament will be determined by several battlegrounds that could yet prove crucial in determining the final outcome.

Labour is hoping to regain many of the traditionally Labour-voting “Red Wall” seats in the North of England and the Midlands that they lost to the Conservatives in 2019. Polls suggest a significant swing back to Labour in these areas, but the extent of this swing could be pivotal.

The SNP’s dominance in Scotland has been a major factor in recent elections, reducing Labour’s seat count at recent elections. However, both Labour and the Conservatives are targeting gains in Scotland, which could also impact the final result.

The Liberal Democrats are focusing on Conservative-held seats in the South of England, particularly in areas that voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum. Their performance in these seats could affect both major parties.

Finally, Nigel Farage’s Reform Party is polling strongly in some areas, potentially eating into the Conservative vote. The extent of their impact, especially in key marginals, could be a wildcard factor.


Unknown Factors

Despite the consistency in national polling, there are several factors as yet unknown which could lead to last-minute shifts in voter behaviour. These include:

The prevalence of tactical voting, particularly among Remain-leaning voters, could amplify Labour’s gains beyond what current polls suggest.

Historically, there has sometimes been a “shy Tory” effect where Conservative support is underestimated in polls. While this effect seems less pronounced in recent elections, it remains a possibility.

Different levels of turnout among various demographic groups could significantly impact the result. Young voter turnout, in particular, has been difficult to predict and could swing results in key seats.

Finally, any significant events or revelations in the final hours of the campaign could yet sway undecided voters.

While it certainly looks like Labour leader Keir Starmer will be the UK’s Prime Minister some time tomorrow, it’s still going to be interesting to see how the results play out in each constituency, and how different demographic groups vote.

Next week we will take a look at how accurate the polls were in predicting the UK general election 2024 result.



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