Monday, May 29, 2017

Age Is The New Political Dividing Line

YouGov polling shows that if only people under 50 voted it is likely that Corbyn and Labour would win the election.

The Conservatives have a strong lead among the over 50s and a staggering 49% lead among the over 65s. By contrast Labour are 19% ahead amongst the 18-24 year-olds.

YouGov's analysis shows that for every 10 years older a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around 8%.

Their analysis has concluded that age not class or income is the new dividing line in British politics. 

While the Conservatives have a dominant led among richer income groups they also have a lead among lower income groups as we can see below.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

'Spoof News' Tops The Most Shared Election Content Last Week

Browsing the most shared content about the UK General Election last week I was surprised to see the above spoof post top the list. The full list is below.

Nearly 50,000 people shared the spoof post. Maybe it is a reaction to serious election content and a difficult week in the real world.  Studies do show that people share content to entertain their friends and maybe this amusing post caught their attention. Fake news and spoof posts have the advantage that they can create catchy, shareable headlines as they are not restricted by facts.

Latest Electoral Calculus Projection Has Conservative Majority of 116

There were five opinion polls published this weekend. All five have Conservative support between 43 and 46 per cent. Labour may be doing better but as we can see from the Electoral Calculus projections above Theresa May is still on course for a substantial majority on current poll projections.

The five latest polls from this weekend are:

ICM:         CON 46%(-1), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 8%(-1), UKIP 5%(+1)
ComRes:   CON 46%(-2), LAB 34%(+4), LDEM 8%(-2), UKIP 5%(nc)
Opinium:  CON 45%(-1), LAB 35%(+2), LDEM 7%(-1), UKIP 5%(nc)
ORB:        CON 44%(-2), LAB 38%(+4), LDEM 7%(nc), UKIP 5%(-2)
YouGov:   CON 43%(nc), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 9%(-1), UKIP 4%(nc)

It was a YouGov poll that caused excitement this week showing Labour just 5% behind the Conservatives. This has widened to 7% and across all polls there is still a solid Conservative lead at this time.

What is most striking is the poor performance of the Lib Dems, this is a party that achieved 22%of the vote in 2005. The current projections have them losing all but two of their seats. I personally expect incumbency and local factors to help them achieve more seats but the euphoria of their Richmond by-election win has quickly dissipated. Farron's focus on the Brexit 48% remain voters appears increasingly like a major mistake.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Labour Continue To Cut Poll Lead

The fall out from the Conservative manifesto debacle over social care continues to reduce their lead in the polls. The latest YouGov poll has the lead down to just 5 points.

This is the first poll since the Manchester terror attacks but the detailed analysis below suggests that the attack will benefit the Tories more than Labour.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why We Should Treat Labour Polling Data With Caution

There has been a lot of talk recently about the narrowing of the polls and the increase in Labour's estimated vote share. However, when you look in more detail at the polls there is plenty of reason to treat the data with caution.

The chart above from Ipsos MORI shows that Labour's vote is much softer than the Conservative vote. 42% of those saying they will vote Labour say they may change their mind whereas the number is only 22% for the Conservatives.

Also Labour appear to be polling well because they are:
  • holding on to many Labour voters who dislike Corbyn
  • gaining new voters who previously didn't vote Labour but who like Corbyn
YouGov have produced the following analysis which found that 11% of voters that didn't vote Labour in the last election are Pro-Corbyn, almost half of Pro-Corbyn supporters.

I think it can be assumed that this 11% includes a lot of younger people and maybe some of those that voted Green or Liberal last time. Younger voters typically are less likely to vote so it may depend on how motivated they are to vote this time. The Independent reported that over a quarter of a million under 25s registered to vote on Monday this week. This might indicate that we will see a Corbyn effect in getting younger people to the polls.

However, even if more younger voters actually vote, Corbyn will still need to hang on to the 15% of people that voted Labour last time that are anti-Corbyn. It does appear that he could hang on to many these voters as a YouGov study found that 17% of people who say they will vote Labour also say they want Labour to lose, thus we can assume they are anti-Corbyn but holding their nose and voting Labour.

The other difficulty for Labour is that even if they poll better than they did at the last election they will still lose a lot more seats if the Conservatives pick up the former UKIP vote. An analysis by John Curtice suggests that the UKIP vote is moving almost exclusively to the Conservatives. As we can see below Leave voters in the referendum are heavily switching to the Conservatives.

What is also interesting in this analysis is that the Lib Dems are losing their support amongst Remain voters despite their strategy of focusing on a second referendum.

Overall, there are many reasons to be cautious about the rise in Labour support in the polls.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Political Parties Use Ads For Rapid Rebuttal

Labour dubbed the Conservatives new social care policy the 'dementia tax' and it rapidly gained ground on social media. Most Facebook posts were negative, see more on how the polling gap narrowed after the policy was announced.

In order to try to stop the groundswell of opposition it was interesting to see the Conservatives take out an ad on Google, see image above, to try to get its point of view across. Labour also created a similar ad.

It seems ads are becoming an essential part of the modern political rapid rebuttal process.

The Conservatives rebuttal approach was clearly not working as Theresa May has this morning backed down and withdrawn the proposal.  Latest details in the Financial Times.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Gap Narrows Following Manifesto Launches

The latest polls show a significant narrowing of the Conservative Party lead following the manifesto launches.

Four polls published this weekend project a Conservative vote share of between 44 and 46 percent, still well ahead of the Labour Party on 33 to 35 percent, but potentially reducing a Conservative majority to around 40 seats.

The Conservative manifesto has attracted a lot of criticism and the Labour Party have been quick to capitalise dubbing their social care proposals a "dementia tax". Below are some recent posts that are getting well shared on Facebook in the last few days.

Update: The reactions to the so-called "dementia tax" have led Theresa May to back down and withdraw the proposal today (Monday 22nd May 2017). Latest details in the Financial Times.

By contrast BuzzFeed published a post on last week's most shared UK election articles using BuzzSumo data and found that people really like sharing Labour's manifesto.

Update: The Labour Party have also now proposed scrapping student tuition fees for students from this September and this story is trending on Monday morning (22nd May 2017) according to BuzzSumo.

The three minor parties appear to be squeezed with UKIP support ebbing away and the Liberals potentially on course to do less well than they did at the last election. Their second referendum strategy targeted at the 48% that voted remain appears to have been a mistake in terms of the election.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Facebook: How UK Parties Are Using Facebook

The Financial Times recently wrote an interesting article about how Facebook has become a key battleground in the UK General Election. The Guardian also covered similar ground with this article on voter targeting with Facebook ads. Both of the main parties will spend over £1m in Facebook advertising this year.

One of the interesting aspects is how the parties are using sponsored posts. I am probably unusual in receiving adverts from both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party in my Facebook feed. Here are two recent examples.

What is noticeable is how the Conservative Party are targeting specific messages. The message is very specific to Brexit. Now I have no evidence for this but I am assuming they may have targeted me as someone who has posted a lot about Brexit and liked various Brexit posts. if so, then the ad makes sense as it is focusing on a specific issue. The Labour Party ad is very general by comparison and asks me to read about their full range of manifesto proposals.

It seems to me that the trick is to identify potential wavering voters, much as parties do with doorstep canvassing as well as identifying your supporters are and your opponents supporters. The same principle applies to Facebook as you really want to target ads at floating voters and also be specific about the issues that concern them. Facebook potentially gives you this detailed level of targeting.

What you need to avoid is spending money on ads to your own strong supporters or your opponents. Evidence suggests you won't convert a strong supporter of the other side and in fact your ads will cause them to double down on their existing beliefs. Equally you don't need to waste money on ads to your own supporters, it is like Clinton piling up votes in California which are not necessary in the scheme of things.

The FT article says Labour have a system called “Promote” which tailors more than 1,000 versions of their policy proposals to deliver “super local” messages on Facebook. That sounds a good approach to me although I haven't seen any evidence of this yet.  The Gina Miller, Best for Britain, campaign is targeting specific constituencies such as Battersea, Oxford West, Portsmouth South and Preston with messages such as “Prevent an extreme Brexit. Make this the biggest tactical vote in British history.”

In terms of their own Facebook pages the Conservatives top posts are images and two of the top three are attacking the Labour Party as part of their coalition of chaos message. They are using memes such as the Can't Lead, Can't Count image which is designed for sharing.

The Labour Party are leading with videos and a Facebook live video of their manifesto launch. Facebook live videos get higher priority in the feed and we can expect to see more of these. 
In terms of Facebook numbers, as we have seen in previous research, the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn in particular, have a much more active base of Facebook supporters. Over 870,000 people like Corbyn's official Facebook page, while 370,000 like May's official page. Corbyn also has more Facebook followers than the Labour Party which has 680,000 compared to the Conservatives 575,000 followers.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Conservatives Ahead In Every Social Class

The latest poll by ORB for the Daily Telegraph has the Conservatives ahead in every social class. 

44% of voters in the D/E social class currently intend to vote Conservative according to the survey.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Corbyn Polling Higher Than Ed Miliband

At the 2015 election, Labour under David Miliband took 30.4% of the vote. This time Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has been increasing its share of the vote according to recent polls. This increase has taken place since the election was called and following the first few weeks of the campaign.

The latest weekly poll by Orb in the Sunday Telegraph has figures of:
  • CON 46%(nc) 
  • LAB 32%(+1)
  • LDEM 8%(-1)
  • UKIP 7%(-1)
32% is the highest Labour have achieved so far in the campaign.

If Labour are polling slightly better than Miliband did at the last election you might reasonably ask why the Conservatives are on course for a landslide. The answer is a much improved Conservative vote. Cameron only got 37.8% of the vote last time whereas May is projected to get up to 47-48%.  This appears to be primarily a straight switch from the 12.9% that voted UKIP last time.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

UK Election #GE2017: Twitter League Table

When it comes to political news and interactions Facebook beats Twitter hands down. However, Twitter remains an important channel as it is where a lot of political stories start and get amplified.

Above is the Twitter presence of Jeremy Corbyn and Labour and Theresa May and the Conservatives. I have included May even though she only appears to tweet once a year. Data is from BuzzSumo.

The number of followers is a bit of a vanity metric and we don't know how many people check their feeds or actively watch what people are sharing on Twitter. The key metric I believe is the average retweets, in simple terms how many times each of their tweets are retweeted on average. Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party supporters appear to be far more engaged on Twitter in trying to spread the word.

The figures for other parties are below. What jumps out is the retweet rate for Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader and the high retweet rate for Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader given her relatively smaller target audience.

What is interesting is that in every case the retweet rates of the Leaders are well above those of their party, with the exception of May who doesn't tweet.

Of course Twitter retweets don't win elections as we can see from Nigel Farage and the collapse of UKIP in the opinion polls.

Sussex Election Battlegrounds: Ashcroft Polling Data

There are four major election battlegrounds in East Sussex in the upcoming election. Hove is the only Labour seat in the South East and Brighton Pavilion is the only Green seat in the country. Brighton Kemptown is a target for Labour and Lewes is a target for the Lib Dems.

The data above is from Lord Ashcroft's polls for each constituency. Currently Ashcroft has Hove as too close to call. Lewes looks from this data as if it might remain Conservative with strong support for Theresa May and with a more pro-Brexit outlook.

Green MP Caroline Lucas looks safe in Brighton Pavilion as it is the only constituency where a majority do not prefer Theresa May as Prime Minister, where there is the strongest anti-Brexit felling and where 70% of people feel Britain is on the wrong track.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Macron's Challenge

Macron needs to translate his success in the Presidential election to the upcoming National Assembly elections.

Many have hailed his election as a renewal of French politics. However, the data above from Ipsos shows that 43% of those that voted Macron were doing so to keep Le Pen out, as opposed to the 33% of his voters that were voting for political renewal.

In itself this may seem understandable but the scale of his challenge is underlined when we look at what this means in national votes. The left hand chart below shows the votes in the second round of the election in millions.

The right hand chart shows how the Macron vote was split between those voting to keep Le Pen out and those voting for Macron.

Of course the National Assembly elections are quite different and France has a history of giving the new President a working majority in the Assembly. However, it does show the scale of Macron's challenge in winning a majority in the Assembly in June.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Is A Progressive Alliance Around The 48% A Delusion?

George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman stirred things up this week with his claim the 48% don't exist, and the progressive alliance is built on a delusion.

The progressive alliance believes that tactical voting by "the 48 per cent" against anti-EU candidates can help provide a stronger opposition to the Tories. 

Eaton argues that the key figure to focus on is not "the 48 per cent" or "the 52 per cent" but the 69 per cent - the number who believe the government has a duty to leave the EU (more than a third of whom voted Remain). 

He points to a number of other findings:
  • The number of people wanting to block or stop Brexit is 21% according to YouGov polling.
  • 55 per cent support May's assertion that "no deal is better than a bad deal"
  • Only 24 per cent believe it is more important to enjoy tariff-free trade with the EU than it is to control immigration
This chimes with previous research showing how vote switching by the 48% is actually beneficial to the Conservatives.

Eaton concludes: 

"as long as Remainers speak as if there is a nascent "progressive majority" 
built on "the 48 per cent", they will repeat the very mistake 
that led to Brexit: misreading the electorate."

If This Was A Facebook Election Labour Would win

Above are the top five Facebook posts about the UK General Election this week, measured by the most interactions (likes, shares, comments). They are all pro-Labour. Figures from BuzzSumo.

It seems the Corbynistas that mobilised to support Jeremy Corbyn to win the leadership are continuing to do a good job at driving the sharing and liking of Pro-Corbyn Facebook posts. Last month there were over 500,000 interactions with posts just on Corbyn's official page.

Over 870,000 people like Corbyn's official Facebook page compared to 370,000 that like May's official page. Corbyn also has more Facebook followers than the Labour Party which has 680,000. The Conservatives have 575,000 followers.

The numbers interacting with posts are relatively small but these interactions mean that Pro-Corbyn posts are being seen by many millions of people. However, many of these people will be the converted, people who already like Pro-Labour posts. Other parties with the help of companies such as Cambridge Analytica are targeting swing voters with Facebook ads rather than the converted.

On Facebook it has been said that those that shout the loudest get heard. A vocal minority can drive a lot of sharing but of course it doesn't mean Labour are on course for an election victory.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just To Prove London Is Different From the UK

LAB     41%
CON    36%
LDEM  14%
UKIP     6%

Above is the Evening Standard and YouGov poll of latest voting intentions in London. So it seems London did not only vote differently from the rest of the country when it came to Brexit but it will vote very differently in the General Election as well. 

The Reality Of Raising Taxes In The UK

The draft Labour Party manifesto promises in the words of Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee a "cornucopia of delights".

If I had £250bn I might also spend it building houses and investing in health and social care as the Labour Party proposes. The big question is how you fund these proposals. Typically it is a mix of borrowing and tax.

On tax the Labour Party have said they won't raise income tax for 95% of people, those earning over £80,000, or increase National Insurance or VAT. These three sources of tax raise almost two thirds of all tax in the UK as we can see in the above chart from the IFS. Which is why Cameron's triple lock policy of not increasing these taxes was madness. The Labour Party also say they will increase corporation tax which raises 7% of tax at the moment to fund their programmes.

There are a number of practical problems of increasingly targeting rich taxpayers and companies.

A Narrow Tax Base

The IFS have already warned that the UK is increasingly reliant on a smaller group of people for tax revenues. 44% of the UK population now pay no income tax. The proportion of income tax paid by the top 50% of tax payers has increased to over 90% as we can see below.

Probably more significantly the proportion of tax paid by the top 10% has increased to around 60%.

The proportion paid by the top 1% has grown from around 10% of all income tax receipts to over 25%.

I don't want to argue that tax paid by the rich should be increased or decreased but simply point out the problem of relying on a narrower and narrower tax base.

The IFS says "an income tax base that increasingly relies on a smaller group of taxpayers is .. more unpredictable and risky."

Raising Tax Rates Doesn't Always Increase Tax Receipts

I have written before about the Laffer Curve. In simple terms there comes a point with every tax when raising the top rate actually reduces tax receipts.

I would argue this has already happened with Stamp Duty. People avoid the tax by not moving and the number of higher value housing transactions has slumped since George Osborne increased Stamp Duty.

In aiming to significantly increase the tax paid by companies and high earners the Labour Party is targeting two very mobile groups. Let us set aside whether it is good thing or not to raise their tax rates.

The reality is that many in these groups can move to avoid higher tax rates. Whether we are near the peak taxation revenue point for corporation tax or income tax is open to debate. But what is not open for debate is that there comes a point when raising these tax rates will not increase tax revenues.

In my view the Labour Party are naive in thinking they can simply raise tax revenues in proportion by increasing tax rates. Corporation tax in the UK is 19%, the Labour Party have talked of increasing this to 26%. In Germany corporation tax is 15% and Trump has talked of reducing US corporation tax to 15%. In Ireland it is 12%. There comes a point at which raising taxes will cause mobile companies to relocate away from the UK, Brexit could also increase these pressures for some companies.

The Unpalatable Truth

There are no easy answers but it seems to me that to get the sustainable level of investment we need in public services we need everyone to pay more tax, including richer taxpayers, and we need to widen the tax base.

The Lib Dems have at least proposed raising income tax by 1% for everyone. The Labour Party in saying that we can significantly increase public spending without increasing tax for 95% of the population are perpetuating a dangerous fiction.

Borrowing £250bn through a national investment bank to invest in infrastructure may be a good thing but it is not free money and needs paying back at some point through taxes.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Electoral Calculus Increase Conservative Majority Projection To 190

Based on opinion polls up until 9th May, Electoral Calculus are now projecting an increased Conservative majority. Interestingly they actually have the Liberals losing seats and the Greens losing Brighton.

I am less sure of the Brighton projection as Labour appear to have put up a paper candidate and are focusing on campaigning in Hove and Brighton Kemptown instead. Below is the current projection but I personally anticipate a swing from Labour to Greens that will enable Caroline Lucas to retain the seat.

Note: The Lib Dems are showing zero as they are not standing in this seat.

How Alt Left Site 'Another Angry Voice' Went Viral: Shareable Content

If you are in the UK you may well have come across content from Another Angry Voice run by Thomas G Clark in your Facebook feed. The chart above shows there were over 560,000 likes and shares of the Facebook posts he published in April alone.

Clark's website Another Angry Voice is run on Google's hosted Blogger platform. Anyone can set up such a site. Yet few will rack up over 750,000 shares of their blog posts as he has. Equally anyone can set up a Facebook page but few will gain over 250,000 followers.

BuzzFeed has noted that measured by Facebook shares per article in the first week of the election campaign, Thomas was most viral political journalist in the entire country reaching millions of people. So how does Thomas achieve his success?

I took a look at both the blog and the Facebook page for some clues as to why the site gained so much traction.


The site is not politically affiliated but strongly pro Jeremy Corbyn which will appeal to the 873,000 people that like Jeremy Corbyn's page on Facebook.

There is no pretence at balance and posts such as the one opposite gained over 30,000 interactions on Facebook.

Other Pro-Corbyn posts include:

  • How many of Jeremy Corbyn's policies do you actually disagree with?
  • Read the Jeremy Corbyn speech the right-wing press don't want you to
  • How to answer the lazy "Corbyn is unelectable" propaganda trope
  • Read Jeremy Corbyn's speech on education policy

MEMEs and Images

Clark's home made images are made for sharing on Facebook. They are not polished and professional but Clark makes his point clearly and crisply. Here are a couple of examples.

In both cases he gets his point across in a matter of seconds in a way that is memorable. This is important in a sound bite world where the average person spends less than 4 minutes a week thinking about politics.


Clark mixes in a lot of black humour with his posts as we can see from the examples below.

Content designed for sharing

Clark's posts went viral not because he paid for Facebook ads but because his content was inherently shareable.  

Research shows that people share content:

- to show they are part of a tribe and to reaffirm their loyalty
- to provide entertaining content
- to get the word out about causes they care about

Clark's posts consistently meet these three criteria with a mix of humour, images and tribal content. So if you want to build an audience you should start creating shareable content. 

Below are some of the most shared posts on Clark's website, data from BuzzSumo. Clark's shares overwhelmingly take place on Facebook. They also receive relatively few links, traffic is driven through social sharing. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Tories Open Up A Record Poll Lead

  • Conservatives:    49% (up 2)
  • Labour:               27% (down 1)
  • Lib Dems:            9% (up 1)
  • Ukip:                   6% (down 2)
  • Greens:               3% (down 1)
The Conservatives have opened up a record polling lead according the the latest Guardian/ICM poll. Since last week's poll, the Conservatives have increased their projected vote share by two points to 49%.

According to Martin Boon, ICM’s director, the poll is "remarkable and historic". He says:
"Not only is the lead an outright record for any ICM poll, but the Conservative share is a record in the Guardian/ICM series."
The polling figures are at odds with last week's local elections but it is not the size of a sample that matters but how representative it is. The local elections may have been a large sample of voters but it does not mean they are representative and additionally there is evidence to suggest that how people vote locally is not how they would vote nationally.