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General Election Tracker 2015

Written by Paul | 06-May-2015 15:42:00


Move over Mystic Meg, it’s our equimedia election predictions

By Paul and Sian

As the main party leaders make their final dashes around the nation’s marginal constituencies, it’s time for us to take a breath, study the data and make our equimedia predictions for the 2015 general election.

So, what do we know?

A look across the main polling data tells us that the traditional methods of measuring public opinion are fast becoming irrelevant. The major polls we have reviewed since the start of 2015 have constantly changed their stance, with 90% of them backing both Conservative and Labour leads within their data.

As of today, there is general consensus that either the Labour or Conservative party will win the popular vote. Currently around 60% of major polls are backing a Conservative win, with 40% backing Labour. Whatever the outcome we can conclude a large number of polls are going to be wrong in their short range forecasting, not a great success rate!

Bucking the trend, however, our own analysis has consistently shown a marginal Conservative advantage since our tracking began in February.

Why are so many major polls predicting different results? While it could be argued that a large majority of undecided voters could skew results in a close run race, in reality voters are unlikely to switch in large numbers so close to polling day. The Scottish referendum showed us that mainstream polls were becoming less reliable and results from the general election are likely to press home the need for more robust analytical procedures to deliver more accurate results.

Is the popular vote a good guide to identifying the likely governmental outcome?

In most cases yes, but not this time. Seats are what counts when forming a government so the popular vote, while a good indicator, does not always point to the final outcome.

The main problem is this: you can’t vote for a coalition government on the ballot paper. You may be happy for things to continue as they are, but there is no way to guarantee your vote will go towards your desired outcome.

This situation has been driven by two main additions to the political landscape, the SNP and UKIP.

Both parties are taking sizeable chunks out of both Conservative and Labour traditional supporter bases, though UKIP voters are pivotal. As most seats are unlikely to won by UKIP candidates, will their supporters follow Nigel Farage’s suggestions to switch to Conservative in marginal constituencies to keep Labour out?

If yes, the Conservatives could in reality return a much larger minority advantage. None of our data points to this large scale switch as of yet, leaving the final outcome still very much in the balance.

This is of course only true if the SNP grip on Scottish seats is all that it seems. A better than projected Labour performance in Scotland could have a decisive advantage in this close election race. Once again, nothing in our data is pointing to this switch as of yet.

To further muddy the water, we can also not discount each of these scenarios occurring simultaneously, potentially canceling each other’s advantage, something which may be more likely to occur than many observers predict.

In reality, the likely outcome suggests the Conservatives will have the first attempt to form a coalition. The continuation of the current Liberal Democrat arrangement is unlikely to be possible as this scenario is likely to fall short of the required number of seats, therefore requiring additional minor party support.

The looming influence of the SNP may be enough to drive unlikely partnerships as the preferred option is a more loose extended coalition led by David Cameron.

Ed Miliband’s consistently underperforming leadership rating may make this slightly more palatable with the general electorate, as in reality outside of party allegiances, David Cameron is still considered the best man for the job.

While we have seen Mr Miliband’s general approval increase slightly over the final run in, his perceived lack of leadership credentials have been enough to turn what could have been a highly likely Labour advantage against a backdrop of tough economic times over the last parliament into a potential loss.

Is this going to drag on after the election?

Probably yes, as either way a large majority of voters are not going to get what they want. The most likely outcome may see formation of a similar coalition to the one currently in place, although with a few additional smaller players and much more pressure applied to Conservative policy.

Let’s hope voters and the parties find a sensible solution quickly first time round!


Which way to the Emerald City?

By Paul and Sian

With a hung parliament all but a certainty, main parties have begun to issue a volley of positive spin soundbites to win electorate favor. Thinking about this array of amazing promises including
tax breaks, home buyer boosts and additional money to fund large scale NHS spending; it is nothing short of political genius.

All parties know they will never be held accountable to ful/wp-content/uploads/filling any real commitments made now as without a house majority they will never be able to push them through. Any minority government can blame the other parties for non-co-operation if voters raise questions about pre-election promises.

Unfortunately, all of which leaves the electorate in a totally confused state, scratching their heads as to which party’s yellow brick road to follow.

And it is not just the public who are left in the dark. The
Institute for Fiscal Studies just about managed to gleam broad outlines of the choice on offer within the parties’ manifestos last week, but it agreed that voters were in the dark over cuts planned by the main UK parties.

Little serious discussion has been around the big issues of national debt and austerity policies. These have been to date deemed ‘non vote winning’, however, with a growing groundswell of party policy disbelief this week, we may well see a party take on the more serious issues. (I await the general public’s stunned silence as politicians actually talk about matters that are actually going to drive marginal votes.)

Carrying on with the theme of strange goings on, the last month has seen the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s pro/wp-content/uploads/file continue to grow south of the border.

With bias claims still ringing hard in traditional media after the
Scottish independence referendum, we can’t be too surprised for a more Scottish centric focus, however, a quick check on the equimedia election tracker shows that in reality the SNP will only capture around 4-5% of the total projected share of vote and will contest a massive zero seats outside non Scottish constituencies.

While this is a small proportion of the popular vote, it is enough to give the SNP a fair swathe of seats to impose a much greater political influence in Westminster, something which could become extremely important to all voters no matter what country they currently reside in.

So taking into consideration our projected share of vote, how under or over represented are the main party leaders in the mainstream online news media? Are certain groups getting way too much coverage considering their base supporting levels or are we just imagining it!

Taking a sample of data from the last four weeks we have produced a comparative index to try and make a bit more sense of the data. If leader coverage is equal to the likely supporting levels, i.e. the similar level of representation, we should receive an index around 100.

Online leader news site representation index

Leader Index
Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) 260
Nick Clegg (LIB) 178
David Cameron (CON) 92
Nigel Farage (UKIP) 91
Ed Miliband (LAB) 71

Well the good news is the online media can’t be accused of bias towards the larger parties as both the SNP and Liberal Democrat leaders are more than punching above their electoral weight, with Ed Miliband the most likely loser in the fair representation stakes.

The data would appear to suggest that it’s not your imagination, Nicola Sturgeon really is everywhere, so we dug a little deeper into the social perceptions around the SNP’s First Minister.

As you would expect, conversations around Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland are very positive. We also see this overall positive sentiment in Northern Ireland.

Recent conversations from Wales and England are quite balanced in sentiment, with the amount of negative mentions balancing out those that are positive.

The topic of immigration ranks very highly for the SNP leader. This follows her impressive performance at the Challenger’s Debate, where she took on Nigel Farage’s strong views on the topic. Following the televised debate, the Daily Mirror’s poll ranked Sturgeon’s performance as second, just behind Miliband. When the survey’s results are isolated to Scottish participants, the SNP leader came out on top, with 68% of the vote.

Although Nicola Sturgeon is the First Minister of Scotland, there is no chance of her getting a seat at Westminster. That is because she’s not running for a seat.

Due to this rather confusing situation and the SNP not contesting the vast majority of constituencies in this election (alongside the lack of room to squeeze her onto the graphic), Nicola is unfortunately not available for inclusion onto the ever popular equimedia leaderOmeter.

As I finally note in this week’s blog, let us take a moment of reflection to remember Alex Salmond, as everyone appears to have forgotten he is actually running for parliament and likely to be a key power broker if SNP influence is realised within Westminster. Then again, the majority of Scotland voters did vote against his political vision only a few months ago in a national referendum, so I suppose it goes to show that personality is just as important as policy in this election.

What a very strange week indeed!


Manifesto Mania

commentary by Sian Miller

This week saw parties launch their full manifestos onto the public and begin a battle for policy coverage headlines across the media throughout the week.

While most voters are unlikely to trawl through all (or any) of the main party publications, the view mainstream media takes on these documents and how they are reviewed and promoted to the public is the true goal driving each party strategy.

A snap survey of our data reveals over the last week manifesto references were found in
23% of all ‘News’ sources, decreasing to 6% when looking at social media channels. 

News sites were
nearly four times more likely to feature manifesto conversations than on social media channels; the trickle down approach is clearly the best option to reach the general public.

So, how were the parties’ manifestos and policies viewed overall by the online audience?

Using a number of data calculations we have come up with our equimedia interpretation: 

Labour seems to have scored a good advantage over the other party launches, being more positively received and talked about above any other manifesto publication in the last week.

There is no doubt, however, that the run up to election day will see main points distilled down into bite-sized chunks around key issues as parties try and sway the undecided public before voting begins.

The focus on policy this week and the nearing Election Day has seemed to have had a negative effect on UKIP this week with our Election Tracker showing a sharp drop in support. Even UKIP leader Nigel Farage has urged voters to back the Conservative candidates in areas where UKIP cannot win, indicating this downward trend may continue towards polling day.

Data suggests the race to number 10 is fast becoming a choice between who shall receive minority control between the two largest parties.

Mirroring his parties’ recent dip in support, Nigel is this week’s big mover on the equimedia ‘LeaderOmeter’ showing a large decline in his public rating.

A sustained attempt by Labour to raise Ed Milliband’s image in recent weeks has also showed signs of success with a large step increase in his leader ratings this week, moving him into a clear second in the public standing. At this late stage his overall ratings are unlikely to challenge those of current Prime Minister, David Cameron.

With a minority government the most likely outcome, either the Conservative or Labour party must take the lead in promoting there coalition leadership credentials to increase their likelihood of a controlling stake in the next hung parliament.


Mapping the Campaign

commentary by Sian Miller

The 2015 general election is now less than one month away and the political parties are in full swing with campaigning. This means the leaders are covering some serious ground across the UK in a bid to meet with members of the public and stage plenty of photo opportunities.

We took a look at where the leaders of major parties have been campaigning during the first week.

The Conservatives have the lead so far with David Cameron making a total of 11 stops in the first 8 days of campaigning. He even managed to visit all four nations of the UK in just one day. If this momentum is maintained he will tick off a large proportion of the UK’s towns and cities by May 7

Labour leader Ed Miliband isn’t too far behind, making seven campaign stops so far. Four of these visits were to constituencies in the North West, a key marginal battleground for Labour and the Tories. He is yet to visit North of the border, but polls this week show Labour seats in Scotland are even more at risk of an SNP takeover.

With Labour candidates struggling against their nationalist counterparts, has former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s input helped the situation? Edinburgh born Blair gave Miliband his full support this week and criticised the Conservative’s plan of an EU referendum. But the Scottish parliament was set up under his rule and recent comments from Labour veterans accuse him of ignoring the signs of devolution whilst residing at Number 10.

We looked at online conversations around the Labour party and discovered a large spike on the topic of Blair in recent days.

Nick Clegg comes in just behind Miliband with six stops and UKIP’s Nigel Farage brings up the rear with only three campaign stops so far. One of these visits was to his adopted constituency of South Thanet, where polls put him just one point behind the Conservative candidate, Craig Mackinlay. The outspoken UKIP leader admitted this week that he is “a bit stretched” running both national and personal election campaigns following accusations of a lack of focus on local issues. It is yet to be seen whether the four days spent campaigning within the Kent constituency will be enough to defend the party against the strong anti-UKIP movement in the county.

Heading out on the campaign trail is certainly a good way to keep up the momentum of media coverage, but does all of this campaigning translate into votes?

It could be argued that meeting voters and shaking hands is an old fashioned method of getting their messages across, but each of the leaders all are keen to be seen as in touch with the people of Britain. In contrast, a number of parties are relying on more modern methods of interacting with the public. This week the Green party published a comical election broadcast mocking Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Farage. The parody music video showing the party leaders as a boyband singing about pro-austerity policies and their love for the coalition was posted on the Green party’s YouTube channel and has so far racked up over 200,000 views.



And so it begins!

commentary by Sian Miller

All parties start their campaigns at full tilt after the dissolution of parliament and politicians are busy outlining their stances on key issues to the electorate in earnest. These topics are likely to include the EU, NHS, the economy, taxation, immigration and spending among others.

Scotland and devolution have become an increasingly important part of the election rhetoric in recent years and this year perhaps even more so with Labour and the SNP leading the discussion.

A recent Guardian/ICM poll suggests Labour is set to lose 29 of the 41 Scottish seats that Gordon Brown won in 2010. If these are the results after May 7th, the SNP will have a large influence on the final outcome and as Alex Salmond has claimed, the party could hold the balance of power.

These claims saw a swift response from Ed Miliband, who accused the former SNP leader of “a combination of bluster and bluff”. Miliband has said he wanted a majority Labour government and as an incentive to voters, has pledged to deliver more power to the Scottish parliament over social security, jobs and income tax. But is the Labour leader fighting a losing battle as the data suggests or would his time be more effectively spent on addressing other issues?

The Scottish conundrum

Using a detailed sample of political online conversation across the last two weeks, we have estimated the contribution of ‘Scottish’ topics to both Conservative and Labour Party and Leader conversations.

Unsurprisingly, Scotland is a much larger issue for both Ed Milliband and the Labour party, though other topics still form the majority of conversational volume.

Labour find themselves in an increasingly difficult situation; they need to win Scottish seats and so must campaign vigorously North of the border, but still need to keep English and Welsh voters with sustained campaigning across other key non Scottish issues.

The Conservatives have stayed on the side-line regarding the topic of Scotland. Apart from the one seat they hold in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, they appear to have accepted that it would be a poor allocation of resources to focus campaigning efforts above the border.

They did voice their opinion with a new animated campaign video attacking both Salmon and the Labour party.

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David Cameron made sure his point was made in PMQs by accusing the Labour party of “trying to crawl through the gates of Downing Street on the coat-tails of the SNP”.

Scotland will be a complex issue which will play out further during this election, but parties are aware that it will be the other core topics that are likely to swing undecided voters.


To TV debate or not to TV debate, that is the question

The election TV debates have been in the news over the last week, as broadcasters, politicians and the public all had their say on the matter. The topic was brought to a head at a rowdy Prime Minister’s Question Time last week.

While David Cameron is reluctant to engage, Ed Miliband has been using the opportunity to try and gain some leverage, even being spurred into posting his first direct tweet to his rival at the beginning of March.


But just how important are these TV debates to the public?  We took a look at the social data to try to find out.

Interestingly, while the topic has been present in conversation since the start of the year, overall this hasn’t been a major topic of discussion until the media push in March, only accounting for around 0.62% of ‘Party Leader’ and 0.13% ‘Party’ total political conversation.

Data however points towards the topic of ‘TV debates’ firmly remaining an issue for leader image rather than a more detailed consideration of party and policy.

Where main broadcasters are failing however, the new opportunities presented by the online space may be having more luck.

The Telegraph, Guardian and Google have proposed a five-way ‘digital debate’ towards the end of the general election campaign, to be streamed on YouTube and penciled in for 26
th/27th March.

So why are the leaders more inclined to agree to this?  Most likely the younger demographic, which is becoming increasingly important in this close election, is too good an opportunity to pass up.

While this may prove a small victory it does serve a good example of how traditional broadcasting is quickly losing its mainstream influence in the face of greater online audience segmentation.

All the TV debate fallout has seen David Cameron take a small dent in the leadership ratings this week, down by two points on our LeaderOmeter, while Ed Miliband remains steady for the third consecutive week.

This election is going to be tight and David Cameron’s small drop in public ratings has seen the Election tracker swing to a very marginal Labour advantage for the first time.

In reality, data has been showing a finally balanced battle between both Conservative and Labour parties for the ability to lead a possible coalition. While the TV debate has driven a small blip for the conservative leader David Cameron this week, the underlying issue of Ed Miliband’s poor public image is still a considerable hurdle the Labour party still need to urgently address.

We are, however, still very much in the pre-election push, with the 30
th of March marking the point where all parties are likely to ramp up their rhetoric and come out all guns blazing.





Who is this Louis Tomlinson?

Last week the political world was blown apart by the startling revelations contained in the Doncaster Free Press 2015 power list that Ed Miliband is
ranked below Louis Tomlinson from ‘One Direction’, and 4th overall.

While Ed has jumped up two places in the Doncaster power league since 2014, which shouldn’t be sniffed at, the fact that the potential future prime minister of the country isn’t ranking as number one in his own constituency may be a bit of a worry.

It is safe to say the election campaign trail has not been set alight as of yet with all parties keeping their powder dry until we get to the pointy end, and this hasn’t stopped the party leaders from trying to raise their pro/wp-content/uploads/files.

Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg are both up for some TV debating to help them engage with the public, though David Cameron, who holds a much higher personal ratings pro/wp-content/uploads/file, is understandably less keen to engage in a no-win scenario.

However, the ‘equimedia getting yourself out there award’ must surely go this week to Nigel Farage, who bravely navigated an episode of ITV’s daytime juggernaut, Loose Women.


Social media opinion has been mixed after the political grilling Nigel received, flanked by the lady from Birds of a Feather and another lady who I’ve seen on telly loads before but not sure where from, but at least he is getting out there.

The minor fact of UKIP not having an actual manifesto ready yet has not stopped their leader gaining an additional leader point this week, placing him firmly in second place on the equimedia LeaderOmeter. Ed Miliband remains a distant third; maybe the Doncaster power list is a better social barometer than we first thought!



So do people vote for leaders or parties?


This does however raise an interesting question, just how do parties engage with their potential voters, is it through party policy and detail or is boosting leader image a more effective vote winner?

Here at equimedia we are not ones to shirk the big questions, and so using a detailed sample of social data captured over the last month we have been able to make some topline observations around online political conversation to try and shed a bit of light on this question.

Interestingly, data indicates online conversation treats both ‘Party’ and ‘Leader’ in most cases as the same political entity, with a much smaller proportion of overall conversation featuring both elements together.

Party only’ mentions are the most prominent driver of conversation across the board, while ‘Leader only’ share of all conversation varies considerably across each of the four main parties.

David Cameron is the party leader most likely to be discussed in isolation (38.0%) and Nigel Farage is the leader most likely to be mentioned alongside his party (15.3%)

Once again data points to Ed Miliband’s current lack of impact with 77.4% of all Labour conversation not mentioning him at all, the highest share across all of the four main parties.

All of this week’s data strongly suggests that the Labour leader really needs to raise his pro/wp-content/uploads/file to help get his parties election campaign back on track.


Results have remained on an even keel this week with our prediction board still pointing to an extremely slender Conservative advantage; however, the Scottish battle lines are being drawn as we speak. If Labour can wrestle seats back in the run up from the projected SNP wins their hopes will dramatically improve. Fail to rule out SNP co-operation in a minority government and marginal Labour voters south of the boarder may become rightly concerned.

For the conservatives the task is slightly simpler, win back the UKIP votes, possible via a strong immigration-led policy statement of intent towards the end of the campaign and mop up the wavering Liberal Democrat South West vote.

In a race so close it could be the economic winds than that finally pushes forwards a slender party advantage. But will people’s pockets feel the benefit before polling day? We shall have to wait and see.



With the political landscape coming under increased scrutiny as parties and leaders jostle for position prior to the election on 7
th May 2015, we thought we would take this opportunity for a weekly look at the goings on from a social slant.

Earlier this year we ran a small blog series looking at the
Scottish referendum and by combining social elements alongside multi-source big data analysis we managed to successfully predict the final voting outcome.

Spurred on by our recent success and by popular demand we are once again running our political predictor powered by our ‘equidata engine’ for the upcoming general election.

Taking in multiple data sources we will be producing a regular high tech animated visual representation of our projected election results based on our weekly analysis, available at the start of each week running up to polling day.

In addition, we will be keeping our fingers on the pulse of public opinion about the main parties’ leaders via our trendy ‘leaderometer’, once again powered by the ‘equidata engine’.

The computer power required to generate and maintain these graphical dashboards dims the lights in our office during their weekly creation and regularly baffles the national grid so please check back to the blog every week to see how things are progressing!

So what’s our starting point?

Considering the current parliament has seen austerity, recession and all round tough times, signs do not bode well for the Labour opposition, currently holding only a slender lead in the majority of standard polls.

While far from out of the race, Ed Milliband’s consistently low personal ratings are dragging the likelihood of a Labour victory ever downwards.

Add to this recent economic performance and unemployment rates showing signs of quickening improvement, it is unlikely that the slender Labour advantage can be maintained on pure momentum.

The real story of this election will be around the smaller parties’ performances, particularly the Liberal Democrats whose image has taken a battering under the current coalition arrangement.

The Scottish referendum means safe Labour seats are no more, as the SNP continue to gain ground on Scottish seats. UKIP still has the potential to grab decisive seats from the Conservatives in a close race to Number 10.

While a hung parliament is once again the most likely outcome, there is growing evidence to suggest the Conservatives may return a slightly larger overall share of the vote, especially if Liberal voters decide to vote Conservative in the key South West constituencies and marginal voters south of the boarder worry about SNP demands for a Labour-led coalition.

Interestingly, this may not be able to guarantee a possible continuation of the current coalition, especially as the Liberal Democrats appear to be way behind in the voting race, opening up a confusing and unclear final outcome.

With a little over 60 days to go before people cast their votes, a lot can and will happen, so let’s see what the data tells us in the upcoming weeks. We’re sure it’s going to be very interesting.