Tories Likely Headed to Overall Majority Today

The final polls before the British election today have been breaking quite nicely for the Conservatives as the Lib Dem boomlet fades, while Labour has been getting no traction and still may finish third in votes. 

The Real Clear Politics average has the final polling average as: 

Conservatives 36%, Liberal Democrats 27.4%, Labour 27%

Right after the first televised debate, the Tories had been down to a 2-3 point lead with many individual polls showing Nick Clegg's Lib Dems in the lead for the first time in the party's history. Ever since, the Tories have been gradually extending a lead at the expense of the Lib Dems. 

If every seat swung uniformly, the encyclopedic Electoral Calculus would give us the following seat breakdown: 

Conservatives 299, Labour 233, Liberal Democrats 86

The Conservatives need 325 to give them an outright majority, and despite these predicted numbers, I think the Tories will manage to avoid a hung Parliament and (just) clear the bar of being able to form a Government without the support of other parties. 

Behind this assumption is the deep suspicion that all seats won't swing uniformly. Some will swing more than others, and those are more likely to be the critical marginal seats where voters feel the greatest burden of deciding who gets into Number 10 and with what kind of Government. 

Already, polls are showing the marginals with an overall swing to the Conservatives of 1 to 2 points greater than the national average. Meanwhile, the Lib Dems might not be able to siphon off Tory seats despite their momentum and may make most of their gains at the expense of Labour. 

In 1997, Labour were predicted to get in with a 370-seat majority. They won 416. Massive tactical voting by Liberal Democrat supporters in competitive Labour vs. Tory seats juiced their total. 

The Tory-Lib Dem alliance in the electorate isn't quite as strong, but it's still a factor against the flailing Labour government: the Conservatives have been gaining completely at the expense of the Lib Dems in the last two weeks, showing there's some overlap in their base. 

Meanwhile, Cameron has been closing strong and making a strong pitch against a hung Parliament. Judging by his party's rising poll numbers, people seem to be buying it:  

An example from over here would help illustrate the point. 

In 2008, Indiana was competitive in a Presidential election for the first time in decades, eventually going to Obama. Yet a uniform national swing would have had McCain still winning the state by 10 points. Its proximity to Obama's home base of Illinois and its economically distressed status can only explain part of this shift. Take a look at this map showing the county-by-county shift in votes from 2004 compared to other neighboring states: 

Indiana was an outlier. The next counties over in Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio did not swing as strongly for Obama despite their demographic similarities and Great Lakes status. 

The only thing that can explain this single state swing is a competition effect. When a state is competitive when it wasn't before, turnout surges as new voters come to the polls. This effect is particularly strong in the handful of states that are portrayed as neck-and-neck or decisive to the outcome. A certain inertia dictating a too-close-to-call race kicks in to produce a single-state outcome that can't be explained by demographics or regional differences. Case in point: Florida was Ground Zero in the 2000 election and it swung less strongly to Bush than would have otherwise been expected. Ohio was Ground Zero in 2004 and it swung differently than Pennsylvania and Michigan which were similar economically and demographically but weren't quite as competitive. Subconsciously, voters in those states seemed to take seriously their role as the "deciders" of the Presidential election and voted accordingly.  

This effect will be magnified in Britain where the governing unit is a Parliamentary constituency one sixth the size of a typical Congressional district here. There you get swings that are well outside the national norms depending on which party is perceived as having the best shot at throwing the bums out. 

One of my favorite stories of this General Election is the race in Morley and Outwood between the unfortunately named Gordon Brown henchman Ed Balls and Conservative challenger Antony Calvert. 

Labour won this newly created seat by 21% at the last general election, yet the race is portrayed as neck-and-beck, with the betting sites now pegging Calvert as the favorite. Calvert has been running a Scott Brown-style Internet campaign fueled by small donations gunning for a "Were you up for Portillo?" moment -- a last-minute come from behind decapitation (or castration?") of a high-value Cabinet minister and potential Party leader. 

What's happening in Morley and Outwood will likely be repeated up and down Great Britain today as people calibrate their votes to do the greatest possible damage to Gordon Brown and Labour, for whom the infamous "bigoted woman" incident was the last straw. 

My prediction: The Tories wind up with 328 seats and the chance to form a Government outright. 

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UK final vote and seat projections from various sources

 

From Pollster.com:

2010-05-05-UK-vote-share-averages.png

2010-05-05-uk-seat-projections

http://www.pollster.com/blogs/roundup_of_final_uk_vote_seat.php

 

538 has various scenarios for an outright conservative majority

 

Nate Silver's final projection:

 

 

  UK Election Day Scenarios given the polls on which the projections above are based may be off by a big margin given the history of UK polls going awry in the past election cycles. Betting sites are giving a 38% odds for an outright conservative win. We will know shortly!

 

Oh, well

Healthy days.

Maybe not so simple

Dear Dr. Bones,I suppose you and I should not criticize a Party of Grant _señorito_ for goin’ on at length about the electoral system of Airstrip One, which, after all, we do not know well either.Still, we may probably claim to have more imagination than even the whippersnapperly vanguard of the KSM [*] can lay plausible claim to.  ’Tis imagination, Dr. Bones, that makes the present coarse and illiterate keyboard dubious about Don Patricito’s<BLOCKQUOTE>A simple bargain with the Liberal Democrats is now needed to form a majority</BLOCKQUOTE>That plan may well be adopted by Neocomrade David, Freelord Cameron, and the UK Stupid Party™ -- only to prove far from ‘simple’.Recall that the Gladstone-Asquith-DLG crew have been locked out of the power cupboard for ... lemme see ... I make it ... eighty-eight years as of 22 October next [http://j.mp/a5PZHX] May one reasonably expect, sir, that when probably none of the newly elected Claggite MP’s have parents who can remember a brand-name Liberal régime, that they are going to behave like the forty-one-percent majoritarians of Big Management Party Neocomrade Senator J. A. von Böhner _chez nous_?  Are they not far more likely to prove thoroughly unwhippable, reducing his freelordship the Prime Minister (and their own ‘leader’) to something not unlike herding spaghetti with chopsticks?  Especially in light of the fact that throwing one’s franchise away on the _tertium quids_ has long been a standard ploy of that ever-charming Sassenach ‘eccentricity’ _shtyk_?To make factual predictions is silly, especially about the future, but let us say that I shall not be altogether flabbergasted if whichever ‘real’ party manages to buy Mr. Clegg discovers that they have bought nothing *but* Mr. Clegg that can be relied on from one vote to the next.We shall see.  Father Zeus knows best.And I wish you, Dr. Bones,   Healthy and affordable days.       ___[*]  Kiddie Selfservative Movement