Thoughts on The 2017 UK General Election YouGov Model

I was recently asked to comment on the YouGov model that showed that the Conservative Party may fall short of an overall majority in the upcoming election. As my reply grew longer than I had intended, I decided to post it here too, for information.

So here’s my thoughts on the issue, in no particular order…

1. I don’t have enough evidence to process the news from YouGov properly. Despite how the media brand this, it’s not a poll, it’s a model, and that’s a different thing altogether. The model also comes with a “health warning” from YouGov, saying the margin of error is high. Now, a high margin of error is amplified by the first past the post system here. In other words, YouGov are saying, here’s what we think the election will look like but it could look very different. The same model was used to correctly predict the the result of the Brexit referendum, but that was a binary choice (vote in or out), elections are choices made along a political spectrum from left to right; this should make the model less accurate for elections, however, there have been far more elections than referendums, so the opportunity to apply corrective data is greater, so that will tend to make the model more accurate. See what I mean? There’s just not enough evidence to process this properly, all we can say for certain is that the model is 1 for 1 right now.

2. You must also bear in mind, that in modern elections, you can pretty much ignore the polls. No I’m serious. Polls in the modern era are finished until they work out a way to deal with how elections are conducted now. Let me explain by firstly demonstrating how campaigns are run now. Right now, is like a “phony war” the campaigns are segregating their voter files along two axis the first is vote for us / vote for the opposition and the second is likelihood of voting. Next, they are A/B testing persuasion messages for each group in those quadrants, you don’t see this unless you are targeted by the ads on social media (this is a whole other issue currently being looked at by the Information Commissioners). After A/B testing is complete, in the last 72 hours of the campaign, that’s when they’ll blast out these tested messages on social media and other platforms, literally spending millions, that will make a massive difference to the end result, and guess what, no poll in the world will catch that, because they can’t collect, process and analyse the data fast enough.

3. Whoever wins the election it isn’t going to make that much difference to (what we know about) Brexit. Labour are committed to Brexit, in fact I can’t see how you can be a democrat and not be; like it or not, the country voted out, so out we must go. There’s only one party (the LibDems) wavering on that, and they are nowhere in the polls. Now maybe Labour has a different view of what “out” looks like, but since the Tories haven’t told us anything about Brexit and neither has Labour, we don’t really know how it will be different, if at all.

4. Then there’s the “Scottish Question” which further complicates matters. It has become clear that the “once in a generation” promise made during the 2014 referendum campaign was more of a “get the vote out” tactic than an actual promise, and in fact the SNP are wedded to a neveredum strategy, as here we are just two years down the line facing indyref2. This is deeply destabilizing for the Scottish economy as illustrated by slower job growth and declining inward investment figures. Scotland holds ~10% of the UK parliamentary seats and the two major parties have said no to indyref2… until a couple of days ago. As the polls narrow, Corbyn sees an opportunity for a “progressive alliance” between Labour and the SNP with enough votes to form a coalition government and he’s begun giving interviews hinting at this. Now that leaves the majority of Scottish voters, who voted “No” in the referendum, with only only one party to vote for in order to save Scotland from this neverendum, and that’s the Tories. Many of us, me included, will hold our noses and put country first, and vote Tory on June 8th, This will not be enough to defeat the SNP, but we hope it will give them pause for thought and make them realise that we don’t want another referendum, we want them to get on with governing the country. If we can take 4-5 seats off the SNP then we hope that will be enough, but as a side effect, it also helps the Tories in Westminster.

In summary then, I’d say everything you’ve seen, and will see, up to the last 72 hours is fairly meaningless and the polls will not help you. If you want to know who’ll win the election, ignore the polls and jump on social media trackers like during the last 3-4 days. đŸ™‚

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