Beware Trusting the Polls

Over the last five months – let’s face facts, this General Election campaign started as soon as the Bells had stopped echoing through the land – we’ve seen poll after poll predicting how well the SNP will do.  If you believe some polls, the SNP will sweep all before them and we will have just one colour once Brian Taylor and Jeremy Vine have had their fun.  Personally, I have taken each of these polls with a hefty shovelful of salt, especially once you look at the number of undecided voters.  Some surveys have put this as high as a third of the Scottish electorate, which for argument’s sake we’ll call one million voters.  That’s still a lot to play for. Also, before this election, according to Prof. John Curtice, Scots tended to vote differently at different elections.  While you could count on people to support your party at a Westminster ballot, that didn’t necessarily translate to a vote at Holyrood, for the European Parliament or the council.  That looks to have changed though in recent months but only time and results will tell.

Alex Salmond set what was then an ambitious target of 20 seats five years ago, only for the party to have six MPs at Westminster.  To put that in context, the most SNP MPs the Commons has seen was eleven following the second 1974 election.  Since then, the SNP have not managed to reach double digits. Where does that leave predictions for the final count then?  Looking at the latest poll of polls analysis by What Scotland Thinks, if the parties’ ratings were repeated at every Scottish ballot box then the SNP would win 55 seats, Labour three and the Lib Dems one.  For that to happen is a considerable task but where does that leave expectations?  I’ve long thought that the SNP winning anything over twenty seats would prove a spectacular success.  Now, anything less than forty will look like a failure.

I think we’ll have between forty-five and fifty SNP MPs, depending on how much tactical voting takes places.  I don’t think all of this will have an anti-SNP motive though; I know folk who are voting to ensure the Tories don’t win their seat or are determined to turf the sitting Lib Dem out.  Somehow, I cannot see the Better Together supporters voting for their opposing number to keep the SNP out.  Can you imagine a Labour supporter voting for a Conservative or vice versa?  No, I can’t either.

Another point to take into account is we’ve seen the polls get it wrong before, especially those of us with longer memories.  1992 still sends shivers down my spine, especially walking through Stirling the next morning facing a bleak future on a dark and dreicht day.  Then, almost every poll predicted a hung parliament where Labour was the largest party or a small Labour majority.  The polls then told us it was neck and neck in the last few days of the campaign.  What we got was 336 Tory MPs and 271 Labour MPs and five more years of John Major, the phony king of England.  This failure by the opinion polls was down to the ‘Shy Tory Factor’ and the companies failing to take into account how respondents voted in the previous general election.  They have changed that now but I don’t think they have taken into account tactical voting, or at least not enough.  That’s why I am still wary of the polls, but not as much as Ed Miliband and David Cameron are.  I expect both to have a very troubled and gut-wrenching night tomorrow. I say they both deserve it.

For those of you who, like me, like to pour over the numbers and the stats, I’ve put the number of Labour and SNP MPs since the latter fought their first UK General Election in 1935.  I’ve also included votes cast for them and the number of votes in total, as well as the constituency results for Holyrood since they are FPtP seats.  I’m very interested to see how this year’s figures measure up, especially in relation to the referendum result of 2,001,926 No Voters and 1,617,989 Yes Voters.

Election

Labour MPs

Labour Votes

SNP MPs

SNP Votes

Seats Available

Total Votes Cast

1935

20

863,789

0

25,652

71

2,323,797

1945

37

1,144,310

0

30,595

71

2,389,892

1950

37

1,259,410

0

9,708

71

2,726,684

1951

35

1,330,244

0

7,299

71

2,777,837

1955

34

1,188,058

0

12,112

71

2,543,254

1959

38

1,245,255

0

21,738

71

2,667,513

1964

43

1,283,667

0

64,044

71

2,634,539

1966

46

1,273,916

0

128,474

71

2,552,380

1970

44

1,197,068

1

306,802

71

2,688,235

Feb 1974

40

1,057,601

7

633,180

71

2,887,075

Oct 1974

41

1,000,581

11

839,617

71

2,758,101

1979

44

1,211,455

2

504,259

71

2,916,637

1983

41

990,654

2

331,975

72

2,824,580

1987

50

1,258,132

3

416,473

72

2,967,808

1992

49

1,142,911

3

629,564

72

2,931,698

1997

56

1,283,350

6

621,550

72

2,816,748

1999 (SP)

53

908,392

7

672,757

73

2,345,658

2001

56

1,001,173

5

464,314

72

2,315,703

2003 (SP)

46

659,879

9

449,476

73

1,891,335

2005

41

922,402

6

412,267

59

2,333,887

2007 (SP)

37

648,374

21

664,227

73

2,016,978

2010

41

1,035,528

6

491,386

59

2,465,722

2011 (SP)

15

630,461

53

902,915

73

1,989,222

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About LothiansKen

I'm a middle classed kiddie, but I know where I stand.
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