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Blog: YouGov’s opinion poll predictions and the Midlands

The poll asks 2,000 people and extrapolates the result across the whole country. Credit: PA Images

YouGov’s massive new opinion poll projects a big majority for Boris Johnson - won largely thanks to big gains in the Midlands.

It is currently predicting the Tories to beat Dennis Skinner in Bolsover, to take all seats in the traditional Labour stronghold of Stoke-On-Trent, and to win former Deputy Leader Tom Watson’s old seat in West Brom. In all 14 gains;

  • Ashfield
  • Bassetlaw
  • Bolsover
  • Derby North
  • Dudley North
  • High Peak
  • Newcastle Under Lyme
  • Stoke On Trent Central
  • Stoke One Trent North
  • Warwick & Leamington
  • West Bromwich East
  • West Bromwich West
  • Wolverhampton North East
  • Wolverhampton South West

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Why is the poll so important?

Most of the opinion polls ask around 2,000 people and extrapolate the result across the whole country.

This one is different. It’s a new method called “Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification” which involves interviewing tens of thousands of people and building complex data models. YouGov trialled this method in 2017 and was the only poll to get the eventual result almost right. It was the only opinion poll to suggest that Tory-held Warwick and Leamington was in any danger of falling to Labour… one of the big shocks of the last election.

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Does this mean Boris Johnson will win the election?

No. It’s a useful guide, but there is a long way to go. All of the complex modelling is based on a national Tory lead of 11%, but we have already seen Labour eating into that lead as Lib Dem voters start to switch. If that trend continues over the next fortnight, we could easily see a hung parliament.

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Also, while it looks like the Tories will win a lot of seats, many of them are by tiny margins. In the ITV News Central region, eight of the gains are “won” with a margin of less than 5%. Another four, with a margin of less than 10%. A tiny error in the data, unusual turnout, a slight shift in the mood of the campaign … all of these things could conceivably tip those seats back into the Labour column.

In fact, even some of the seats which the Conservatives are defending are showing a tighter battle than you might expect. For example in Loughborough, the Tory lead is just 7% .. and no-one is really sure how many students might turn out to vote. They account for more than 20% of the total population in the town.

Then, there is tactical voting. If anti-Brexit, anti-Tory voters, currently pledging support to the Liberal Democrats or Greens decide to “lend” their votes to Labour to keep Boris Johnson out, that could make the difference in at least a few of those Midlands seats.

Still, the Conservatives will be pleased with this poll, right?

Yes. And No. Clearly any poll which projects you to win an election is good. It will be a big morale booster for those out campaigning on doorsteps, and it proves your messages are hitting home.

BUT … this is a sobering poll for “remainers” and it might prompt many of them to vote tactically. It provides a detailed map of where this might work, and how to vote.

The Conservatives, will also be worried about complacency. With newspaper headlines predicting a big win, the national conversation could start to see a Tory majority as inevitable. Some Tories may not turn out to vote. Others Conservatives who are unsure about Boris Johnson, and flirting with the idea of voting Lib Dem, might feel safe to do that, because a Jeremy Corbyn government seems so unlikely.

Make no mistake, this poll is the most comprehensive we have seem so far. It gives us a detailed picture of the Midlands which - if 2017 is anything to go by - is likely to be pretty accurate. But things could change in two weeks. Indeed this poll itself might change the course of the result.

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