Earlier this week I wrote about the effect of local factors on the outcome of the election on a constituency by constituency basis. Polling company YouGov has attempted to quantify this in a new election centre feature. Not known for being particularly friendly towards Ukip, YouGov is now suggesting a possible eight seats for our party in the May election, up from two yesterday, although it does seem to be fluctuating on a daily basis.
The company has a snazzy graphics system on its website which allows views to zoom in on each constituency in turn. Each is represented by a coloured dot, illustrating which party the pollsters say is the current favourite in each seat.
On Wednesday there were just two purple dots on the map, Thurrock and Clacton. On Thursday morning, and again this morning they were joined by a further six: Rotherham, Great Grimsby, and Dagenham and Rainham – all current Labour seats; the Tories’ South Thanet and Northampton South; and Rochester and Strood, currently held by Ukip convertee Mark Reckless. Yesterday there were six, with some variation.
It’s important to stress that this is not a forecast of the outcome on the day, but what YouGov call a ‘Nowcast’. Explaining the difference, they say:
“It’s a common misconception about opinion polls that they are supposed to be predictions of the final result. Actually, they are a reflection of the current state of play – what people are telling us right now. Of course, people often say one thing and then change their mind once it comes nearer to election day – that’s the whole point of an election campaign.
“For this website we’ve attempted to make this distinction clear. The Nowcast is our best estimate of what the data suggests today. Unlike a forecast, it does not include any hunches, educated guesswork, or predictions of what movement there might be before or on election day.”
The results are based on general national polling of 150,000 respondents, combined with data from 5,000 new daily interviews in order to come up with a localised result. For those of you who are statistically minded, they explain their process in more detail here.
In five constituencies – Clacton, Rochester and Strood, Bradford West, Buckingham and South Thanet – the model is not being used as it is not deemed to be sensitive enough to “hyperlocal considerations”. And some anomolies are already being thrown up – Castle Point doesn’t feature on their list of Ukip hopefuls, yet is showing strong support on the doorstep and has been named as a Ukip hopeful by other pollsters.
Nonetheless, for a small party such as Ukip, it can provide an invaluable tool for helping to direct our limited resources into the seats where they are likely to have the most impact. Don’t discount seats which aren’t being highlighted by YouGov as Ukip hopefuls if you’re hearing rumours that they could do well, but if you find yourself at a loose end for an afternoon and don’t know where to go, try using the Nowcast to find the closest purple dot to you, jump in the car or on the train, and get door-knocking! Your contribution might make all the difference.