UK election minus three days

The lower-educated appear likely to sink Labour in Thursday’s UK election. Also featured: a guide to how the results will come in on Friday (our time).

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at The University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

Seven UK national polls were released last week, with the Conservatives leading by eight to 11 points in five and by 14% to 15% in Survation and Opinium. There was little change since last week in most polls, but the Conservative lead was up five points in Survation.

Donald Trump was in the UK from December 2-4, and there was a head-to-head debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on December 6. Polls listed above were taken after the Trump visit, and Johnson won the leaders’ debate by 52-48 in a YouGov “insta poll”.

In the latest YouGov poll, the Conservatives hold leads of 39-34 with the ABC1 social grade (upper to middle class), but by 48-31 with C2DE (working class). Sky’s Lewis Goodall has qualitative research into Labour’s problems with lower-educated voters. Facebook ads have damaged Corbyn’s popularity with these voters. The Conservative message that Labour has blocked Brexit is cutting through.

While Corbyn has a problem with the lower educated, he’s far from unique. Centre-left parties had unexpectedly dismal results in the UK (2015), US (2016) and Australia (2019), owing to swings towards conservative parties among the lower educated.

There are probably two ways for the global left to start winning elections consistently again. One is via a deep economic recession. The other way is via demographic change. Since 1940, educational attainment among those aged 25-29 in the US has surged. As the population becomes better-educated, the left is likely to do better – but not for a long time.

A hope for UK Labour is that Johnson’s ratings in an Ipsos poll slumped 22 net points to -20 since November, while Corbyn was up 16 to -44. Something could go wrong for the Conservatives with Johnson that unpopular. In YouGov, Johnson’s net approval was down nine points since last fortnight to -13, Corbyn down five to -47 and the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson down 18 to -36.

As I wrote previously, there are three ways Labour could defy the polls. A fourth can be added: late deciders. While the Conservatives lead by 43-33 in YouGov, they only lead by 33-26 including “won’t vote” (8%), “don’t know” (13%) and “refused” (3%). If late deciders break to Labour, it will be closer than current polls suggest.

At the UK’s May European elections, pollsters tended to overstate support for the Brexit party, Conservatives and Labour, and understate support for the Lib Dems and Greens. The Brexit party was the clear choice for Leavers at that election. In general, the performance of UK pollsters has been poor.

A guide to election results day (Friday)

UK polls are open from 7am to 10pm Thursday local time. Unlike Australia, where small booths report quickly, the UK has no counting by booth. Instead, votes from all booths within a seat are transported to a central counting centre, and counted there. Postal votes must arrive by election day. Barring a recount, seats are declared once the vote count finishes. It takes far longer to get a good idea of the result than in Australia.

To follow their elections, the British need to pull an all-nighter. In Australia it’s easier, with polls closing at 9am Friday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT). Here is my guide to the events in Australia; all times are Friday AEDT.

9am: Polls close and The Exit Poll is released (intentional capitalisation). In the last three elections, The Exit Poll has given seat results which greatly disagreed with pre-election polls and expectations. In all three cases, The Exit Poll was far closer to the mark than pre-election polls. Only seat counts are given, not vote shares.

11am: According to this article about the 2017 election, only three of 650 declarations are expected by this time.

1pm-3pm: These two hours should be the heaviest for declarations.  Initial results will be biased to Labour as the Conservative heartland regional seats take longer to gather their votes. The key is to watch the changes in vote share, and whether seats are being gained or lost.

6pm: Only a few seats will not be declared by this time. Very close seats can take longer to declare owing to recounts. If there’s snow on the roads, results will be delayed.

From the editor

Below is an update of the poll tracker I published on Friday, with nine new polls added. It maintains a trend of steady improvement for Labour at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, while the Conservatives hold steady. The latest trend result is Conservatives 42.7% (up 0.3% on 2017), Labour 33.7% (down 6.3%), Liberal Democrats 12.3% (up 4.9%) and Brexit Party 3.4%.

106 comments on “UK election minus three days”

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  1. ICM has been one of Labour’s better polls, so there’s hope here with Labour up to 36% and a six point deficit

    Westminster voting intention:

    CON: 42% (-)
    LAB: 36% (+1)
    LDEM: 12% (-1)
    BREX: 3% (-)

    via @ICMResearch, 06 – 09 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 02 Dec

  2. Wales not so good for Labour, lots of working class voters there.

    UK (Wales), YouGov poll:

    LAB-S&D: 40% (+2)
    CON-ECR: 37% (+5)
    PC-G/EFA: 10% (-1)
    LDEM-RE: 6% (-3)
    BREXIT-NI: 5% (-3)
    GREENS-G/EFA: 1%

    +/- vs. 22-25 November

    Fieldwork: 6-9 December 2019
    Sample: N/A

  3. It seems there are now two ComRes series, with one giving Labour 36%.

    UK (GB), Savanta ComRes poll:

    CON-ECR: 43% (+1)
    LAB-S&D: 36%
    LDEM-RE: 12% (+1)
    BREXIT-NI: 3% (-1)
    GREENS-G/EFA: 2%

    +/- vs. 2-5 Dec

    Fieldwork: 6-8 December 2019
    Sample size: N/A

  4. My guess on probability of outcome

    Tory significant majority – 30%
    Tory slim majority – 30%
    Tory + DUP majority – 20%
    Tory minority govt – 15%
    Lab minority govt – 5%
    Lab majority govt – 0%

    All but the first two (and bottom irrelevant one) i personally would be delighted and the first 2 at cumulative 60% probability is being lowside generous… its arguably nearer to 80%. I would liken a non-Tory-majority to less likely than Trump winning in 2016. Can happen but extremely unlikely… I will be wfh friday and following closely!

    I have given up following Aus politics in any detail since the election, dare say will do same in UK after friday, and will prob completely abandon any habitual politics following if/when Trump wins nxt Nov for prob min 2 yrs. The darkest and saddest of times… more fulfilment in being an Arsenal or Bangladesh cricket supporter 🙁

  5. I wonder if last night’s howler by Johnson hiding the reporter’s phone so he didn’t have to see the kid in the hospital aisle – will have much of an impact to those critical undecideds?

    For what its worth, the Guardian’s conclusion was:
    1. not as bad as Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman” gaffe in 2010
    2. Even Gordon’s gaffe didn’t have any impact on polling day (not sure how they worked that out)

    My thoughts:
    1. probably not as many critical undecideds in 2010 as there is now.
    2. If what yougov and Lewis Goodall are saying about the catastrophic fall in labour support amongst working class is correct – its probably not influencing the people labour needs to influence.

  6. Oh, and one more difference with Gordon Brown – he did the whole mea culpa thing and went and visisted the ‘bigoted woman’ and apologised and grovelled to her.

    I’m guessing Johnson won’t show any contrition whatsoever with this.

  7. A term I only heard yesterday is Pasokification
    Basically Social Democratic parties in OECD countries are dying with their support being split between more extreme populist parties on both the Left and Right
    Once powerful left parties are now down to single figure popularity in France, Israel, Greece, Eire and some German states.
    Will this be a turning point for British Labour?
    Perhaps equally sobering is the ALP’s record low primary votes in recent federal elections

  8. And what’s going to be the biggest news from the UK on Friday? The election result, or the death toll from Storm Atiyah? Brilliant choice of date, Boris!

  9. The British Labour Party has staved off pasofikation by turning to the far left. However that turns off other types of voters and offers few solutions and at least as many risks as the nationalist right . Macron and Trudeau show there is still room for the centre. But it’s tricky.

  10. NI will be interesting this time with up to 9 seats in play.
    The confusion of Brexit and Boris’ Irish Sea border may open the gate for moderate parties; SDLP, UUP and particularly Alliance re-enter Westminster.
    Belfast North is one to watch with Nigel Dodds, the DUP’S leader, under challenge from SF and the SDLP not contesting

  11. Looking at regional polling (from wikipedia)

    Wales is only region where Conservative vote has increased notably since 2017, others are flat or negative. However Labour is down everywhere.

    Lib Dems gaining votes but not enough to win seats, which can only help the Conservatives. Democracy is a sham without preferential voting.

    With such sustained drama and polarization, its hard to imagine anything changing peoples mind at the last minute. Perhaps voter turnout could change things, but last election was relatively high as well.

    Election looks like the US, they are trying to workout who is the least dangerous.

  12. Something that we are overlooking here in Australia that could help the parties offering the only way to Remain is that it’s the middle of winter there in the UK. It’s freezing. Voting isn’t mandatory. Remainers have more motivation to get out and actually vote – this is their last chance. Leavers may see the big lead in the polls for the Tories and think “stuff it, they don’t need me, I’m disillusioned with politics anyway, I’m not going to bother”. In that respect, it’s great for Labour to be the underdog. Even if those polls are correct, all those people still have to actually get off their backsides and vote for the Tories for them to achieve the results that the polls are predicting.

  13. Interesting thought Firefox.

    Also, I know in the US and Australia working-class voters (poorer, less educated?) are less likely to turn out to vote. Is this also true in the UK?

  14. British Labour are a mainstream democratic socialist party. there is nothing extreme about any of their policies. The only people who think this are right wingers.

  15. D&M,

    I don’t have any source for this, but my understanding is that poorer, less educated voters are generally less likely to turn out to vote in the UK as well. I also understand that Labour has lost a significant chunk of those very voters to the Leave camp. So who knows what the overall effect might be.

  16. I’m not sure D&M as there are conflicting theories about that. I would have thought bad weather lowers labour voters because of the old stereotype that they are mostly working class and underprivileged (and have less means, less will, less opportunity to go and confront the elements) – but then a lot of labour supporters are praying for snow, thinking that if that happened the old farts (ie tory voters) won’t bother going out in the cold.

    Also as Adrian has pointed out a few times, labour voters these days tend to be better educated and may be more motivated to vote.

    One big concern for me is uni students travelling home for the break and/or too busy with christmas parties.

  17. Bucephalus – Jeremy Corbyn is aged 70. If he loses the general election and Johnson gains a working majority, what would be the point of Corbyn retaining the leadership? He would be no more popular by the time of the next general election. I strongly suspect that, in such circumstances, Corbyn and his allies would be most motivated by how to elect a new, younger left wing leader (probably female and so obscure that the right wing press has not yet demonised them). I may be wrong but I suspect the likes of Rebecca Long-Bailey and Laura Pidcock are being groomed as the new Corbyn. The Labour left will want to block, at all costs, better known and somewhat less left members of the shadow cabinet like Sir Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry.

  18. The photo of the kid on the hospital floor could have a big impact. The crisis in the NHS is all over the UK’s news at the moment.

  19. Big A Adrian,

    One big concern for me is uni students travelling home for the break and/or too busy with christmas parties.

    Apparently Labour and the Lib Dems wanted the election on 9th December for this reason, but the Tories got their way – not sure why.

    If anyone has knowledge of this – are University Residential Halls a factor in this? Do they kick the kids out from around Sun 8th December for 4 weeks or so, so that they can rent out the Hall rooms to tourists?

    Not being high season it seems unlikely. Maybe the students just want to get home and will not wait more than a day or so – shows a pretty poor commitment to democracy / the future if that is so.

  20. The video of Johnson trying not to look at the photo and pocketing the phone has been viewed over 9 million times already…

    …and yet, it would take a miracle for it to cost him more than a handful of votes, if that. Abbott won after lasciviously demanding “a bit of body contact” with a team of underage netballers. Trump won after mocking a disabled reporter and bragging about his hobby of committing sexual assault with impunity. And so it continues. After all, common decency has a well-known left-wing bias. 🙁

  21. This latest Jonathon Ashworth tape will be far more likely to influence last minute votes than hospital boy. Labour shadow cabinet member caught on tape literally saying Corbyn is a threat to security.

    If I was labour Id be praying none of these stunts affect anything, as the Tory dirt machine will always out-perform labour’s. Hospital boy is already forgotton and drowned out by the multi-pronged counter attacks that were swiftly launched by tori propaganda in response.

  22. Apart from the damage the Ashworth tapes do to Corbyn’s chances, the confessions provide a sobering insider view of how trully dire labour’s campaign is going. One extract…

    “Outside of the city seats, if you are in small town midlands and north, it’s abysmal out there. They don’t like [Boris] Johnson, but they can’t stand [Jeremy] Corbyn and they think Labour’s blocked Brexit. I don’t think their long-term gains for the Tory party. But I can well see them going Tory [at] this election and if Labour ever got its act together they presumably would fall back …

    I think [amongst] middle-class graduates, remainy people, Labour is probably doing well, and the Lib Dems are probably doing well, but not in big enough numbers to deny the Tories a majority.”

  23. MRP/Yougov with another narrowing – labour up to 34%, gap of 9% but still not enough to prevent a Tori majority – which is projected to be a 26 seat majority (down 20 seats since Nov 27)

    Two other interesting polls:

    1. yougov on tactical voting, with 1 in 5 LD voters saying they will vote for their second choice “for tactical reasons” – which presumably means, in the LD case, keeping the tories out.

    One in five voters (19%) say they will use their ballot paper tactically rather than opting for their first choice. Those who would otherwise vote Lib Dem are the most likely to use their ballot for this purpose (36%)— YouGov (@YouGov) December 10, 2019

    2. Former Tori leader Ian Duncan Smith is now just 2 points ahead of the labour candidate, and will definitely be defeated if enough lib-dems vote tactically in that constituency:

    YouGov poll shows Iain Duncan Smith just two points ahead of Labour’s Faiza Shaheen (47-45).— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) December 10, 2019

  24. oops, not one in 5 LDs – but 36%. 1 in 5 is across all parties.

    I would imagine that 36% of LDs voting tactically in those marginal tory seats where labour are running second – would be more than enough for labour to win most of those seats (on current polling). Whether it will be enough to offset the expected ‘red wall’ losses in the midlands and north of the country remains to be seen.

  25. YouGov seat model vote share and seats. The seat counts make sense given the votes, but will the Tories perform worse or better than polls expect?

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    UK #GE2019 MRP vote share:

    CON: 43% (-)
    LAB: 34% (+2)
    LDEM: 12% (-2)
    BREX: 3% (-)
    GRN: 3% (-)
    SNP: 3% (-)

    via @YouGov, 4-10 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 26 Nov

    UK #GE2019 MRP seat projection:

    CON: 339 (-20)
    LAB: 231 (+20)
    SNP: 41 (-2)
    LDEM: 15 (+2)
    PC: 4 (-)
    GRN: 1 (-)
    BREX: 0 (-)

    via @YouGov, 4-10 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 26 Nov

  26. Three London Tory seats have been repolled recently, and the Tories are at least 10 pts ahead of their nearest rival in all three. This shows that many Lib Dem votes came from the Tories.

    Kensington, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 39% (+3)
    LAB: 29% (+2)
    LDEM: 27% (-6)
    GRN: 2% (-)
    BREX: 2% (+2)

    via @DeltaPollUK, 04 – 08 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 12 Nov

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    10 Dec
    Finchley & Golders Green, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 46% (-)
    LDEM: 34% (+2)
    LAB: 19% (-)

    , 03 – 06 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 12 Nov

    Britain Elects @britainelects
    10 Dec
    Cities of London & Westminster, constituency voting intention:

    CON: 44% (+5)
    LDEM: 28% (-5)
    LAB: 26% (-)
    GRN: 1% (-)

    via @DeltaPollUK, 03 – 08 Dec
    Chgs. w/ 21 Nov

  27. An Ipsos poll last weekend gives Corbyn an eight-point gain in net favourability in a week, with everyone else stable.

    UK, Ipsos MORI poll:

    Party leader favourability

    Johnson (CON-ECR): 33%
    Corbyn (LAB-S&D): 26% (+4)
    Farage (BREXIT-NI): 21% (-1)
    Swinson (LDEM-RE): 18%

    +/- 29 Nov-2 Dec 2019

    Fieldwork: 6-9 December 2019
    Sample size: 1,134

    Party leader unfavourability

    Corbyn (LAB-S&D): 56% (-4)
    Farage (BREXIT-NI): 55%
    Swinson (LDEM-RE): 49%
    Johnson (CON-ECR): 47%

  28. In Northern Ireland, both the DUP and Sinn Fein are down since the last election, with the pro-Remain Alliance Party gaining.

    UK (Northern Ireland), LucidTalk NI poll:

    DUP-NI: 32% (-4)
    SF-GUE/NGL: 26% (-3)
    APNI-RE: 17% (+9)
    SDLP-S&D: 14% (+2)
    UUP-ECR: 12% (+2)

    +/- w/ 2017 General Election

    Fieldwork: 27-30 Nov 2019
    Sample size: 2318

  29. This Lord Ashcroft poll suggests Labour wouldn’t do well under preferential voting, losing 54-46. The main reason is that far more Labour 2017 Leavers are voting Tory than Tory 2017 Remainers voting Labour. There’s been a nine-point gain for Labour with Labour Leavers, but 2017 Lib Dems are only weakly preferring Labour.

  30. Re Jon Ashworth’s leaked tape, the main media take appears to be him saying it’s dire for Labour. I don’t think that hurts Labour; it’s just the usual doom and gloom. There was plenty of that in 2017 too.

    I think the hospital boy could hurt the Tories as the NHS is important to Brits. We should get final polls by tomorrow morning.

  31. Preferential 2pp results don’t mean much if enough seats are won by ‘other’ parties.

    A 54/46 result would be a landslide in Ausralia, but with seats going to LibDem, SNP, Plaid and so on, it might not be enough for a conservative majority.

    Not that we’ll ever know for sure, of course.

  32. That doesn’t really seem like a good proxy for a TPP if you were in a preferential system – wouldn’t it make more sense to just ask the people being polled to rank the options and then do an actual vote distribution?

  33. Just seen polling that has Boris comfortably holding his seat.
    I’m expecting Conservatives to get about 380 seats but won’t be disappointed with 350.

  34. For anyone who thinks media stunts can be labour’s salvation, the sad reality is that the tories and their sycophantic backers can and will lash out viciously and ruthlessly in response, for maximum impact. And it will mostly work for them. My advice to labour, just don’t go there in the first place. You simply can’t win…

  35. If fake news is being directly contradicted by MSM, it likely won’t affect votes, and may be a negative because of all the stories about fake news. The BBC is far more trusted in Britain than these fake news accounts.

    In Australia, the Facebook “death taxes” scare against Labor worked because it wasn’t being contradicted. The US 2016 election was far more impacted by the FBI reopening its investigation into Hillary’s emails than by fake news.

  36. If tabloids such as The Sun and The Telegraph are regarded as MSM – then fake news absolutely is being peddled by the MSM:

    And as media studies 101 will tell you – redacting or correcting fake news after its already been widely dessiminated has far less impact than the original story. In fact its a well known tactic- splash the front pages with known fake news – follow up the next day with a page 7 redaction. You don’t have to be Einstein to know which will have more influence.

  37. It’s good to finally see a poll from Northern Ireland. It is worth noting though that Lucid Talk badly underestimated the DUP vote at the 2017 General Election by around 7 percent.

  38. Lucidtalk has done NI seat polling which has been headlined in the Irish Media but I can’t find the numbers outside a paywall
    In short they predict DUP to retain Belfast North agains SF but to lose Belfast South to SDLP

  39. Matt31 – while I am no fan of Sinn Fein – the more seats they win the better as they don’t vote so they make the Conservative majority bigger.

  40. “Adrian – the “Death Taxes” wasn’t fake because the ACTU and the Greens both openly want them. ACTU = Unions = ALP.”


    That is incorrect. The Greens used to have an unfinished inheritance tax policy however it was dumped and we completely ruled out taking it to the 2019 election.

    Greens leader Richard Di Natale told AAP FactCheck the prime minister was “desperate” and “lying” by claiming the Greens were pro death taxes. “An inheritance tax is not part of our fully-costed election platform in 2019,” the senator told AAP FactCheck.

  41. So they all want death taxes but aren’t putting it as formal policy so it’ll never happen- like “there will be no ‘carbon tax’ under the government I lead”.

  42. No. Not like the Carbon Price at all. The Greens took the ETS to the 2010 election. The ETS was and still is part of our policy platform. A death tax is not.

  43. I wonder if you guys could fuck off to the pig sty of the Australian thread and leave this one for people interested in the psephology of the UK election

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