It looks like we need to have another word about GBP. The pollsters are once again making waves, this time with YouGov forecasting a hung parliament. Their central scenario is for the Conservatives to lose 20 seats, and Labour to win 30. With other polling agencies still predicting anything up to a 100 seat majority, is this YouGov sticking their necks out looking for glory, or does it reduce the information content of all polls to zero?
We can know this: all the polls have behaved similarly in relative terms. They all started with an increasing Tory majority, as UKIPpers mostly went back to the Tories. Then after the manifestos were released they showed a resurgence for Labour, who offered well telegraphed freebies against the Tories mixed messages on social care. We can conclude that when this was “The Brexit Election”, the Conservatives benefitted, with even many Remain voters now thinking it just needs getting on with. However when the manifestos reminded voters of specific policy concerns, old tribal habits die hard, and disgruntled anti-Corbyn voters returned to the fold.
Voters are realigning themselves. There’s a shakedown in the UK political system and the pieces of the puzzle are still mid-air. This happens after huge economic shifts that change the social landscape. The reality is that the politicians are behind the times. Across the world, voters want new faces. But then their loyalty to those new faces is untried and untested. Does the UK really want just to decide between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as PM? It has been said by the great veteran psephologist David Butler (follow him on Twitter if you’re not already!), that he’s never seen such a volatile electorate in the run up to an election. What are the Conservative and Labour parties and who do they represent? What are the big issues of the day, when 52% of the electorate ripped us out of a network with our closest trading partner? We want change, and the current system is straining to cope.
That’s the reason why this is such a bizarre election. And the big unknown factor is how will this volatile electorate turn out? Will they bother to vote at all? As Brenda in Bristol put it, when the election was first called: “Oh no, not again!”. The main reason for the wildly different seat predictions from each polling agency lies in their voter turnout filters.
For markets, the reality is that the Conservatives losing seats must now enter the scenario analysis. Or even if they fail to achieve even a majority of, say, 50, it will leave Theresa May looking weak for having gambled by calling an election in the first place. As discussed, this is the phoney battle ahead of the Brexit negotiation war. These polls suggest that the probability of a disorderly outcome is rising.