Election 2024: Polling Challenges & Predictions

Highlighting the many Reasons for Uncertainty at the Polls

The Election on July 4, 2024, presents an unusual challenge for pollsters. While  Starmer’s Labour Party is widely expected to win, there’s significant disagreement on the potential size of this victory.

 Disparity in Polling Data

Current polling suggests Labour with 43% support, a 21-point lead over the Conservatives. However, this headline figure masks a wide variation among pollsters. Since the campaign began on May 22, Labour’s lead has ranged from 12 to 27 percentage points.

Variations in Support for Smaller Parties

  • Nigel Farage’s Reform UK: Support ranges from 8 to 19 points.
  • Liberal Democrats: Support varies between 6 and 15 points.

Seat Projections and Polling Methodologies

Multilevel Regression and Post-Stratification (MRP) Polls

In the four MRP polls released, the Tories are projected to win between 66 and 180 seats. MRP polls, which use larger samples to model voter behavior, show a discrepancy that could mean anything from a near-wipe out for the Tories to a defeat similar to 1997.

Comparison with 2019 Election

In the 2019 election, MRP polls were more consistent, predicting 337 to 359 seats for the Tories. The actual result was 365 seats.

Why is This Election Hard to Predict?

National Swing and Undecided Voters

  • National Swing: A 16-point swing from the Tories to Labour is expected, the largest in recent memory.
  • Undecided Former Tory Voters: A Redfield & Wilton poll found 10% of 2019 Tory voters are undecided, compared to just 2% of Labour voters.

Impact on Polling Models

This large swing and high undecided rate are stressing polling models. The UK’s first-past-the-post system complicates predictions, as small shifts in vote share can lead to significant changes in seat totals.

Differing Approaches Among Pollsters

Pollsters struggle to predict tactical voting. For example, YouGov asks a “squeeze” question to differentiate true preferences from tactical responses.

Treatment of Smaller Parties 

Polls by Opinium and Savanta Comres: Do not list Reform UK initially, which can reduce its reported support.

Pollsters adjust raw data to represent the population accurately, leading to different results. For instance, treating older voters as one group or splitting them into sub-groups can significantly affect Labour’s lead.

The 2024 general election presents unique challenges for pollsters. Variations in methodologies and the large national swing expected complicate accurate predictions. As the election approaches, these polling discrepancies will be crucial in understanding potential outcomes.