In Depth

Final polls: it’s a dead heat or they’ve got it dead wrong

Pollsters shows Labour and Tories tied – which means a 3.5 average swing to Labour since 2010

Columnist Don Brind

EDITOR'S UPDATE at 10.10, Thurs: Since this article was posted, the new Ashcroft poll has been released. It too shows a tie between Labour and the Conservatives. They’re both on 33 per cent – the Tories up one point since Ashcroft's last survey, Labour up three.

Polling day has arrived with the Tories and Labour exactly where they have been for most of the election campaign – heading for a dead heat. That’s the picture that emerges from the latest polls by all the firms who have been churning out surveys over the past weeks and months.

The new polls are those on which the pollsters will be judged for their accuracy: just how close will they get to the actual results which start coming in at about 1.30 am tomorrow? 

In broad terms a tie is better news for Ed Miliband. It would mean there’s been a swing of 3.5 per cent to Labour since 2010 when the Tories had a seven-point lead but failed, of course, to get enough seats to rule on their own. 

A 3.5 per swing could be enough to win Labour around 40 Conservative-held marginal seats.

However, Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report estimates that Labour could do better than that because 3.5 is a nationwide figure including Scotland: the swing in England and Wales, where most of the Tory-Labour battleground seats are located, looks more like five per cent, enough to gain Labour perhaps 60 Tory seats.

London is a key battleground and a YouGov poll for the Evening Standard released yesterday put Labour 13 points ahead of the Tories (46 to 33 per cent) which represents a 5 per cent swing, enough to give Labour eight to ten Tory seats, including the iconic Finchley seat once held by Margaret Thatcher.

The higher swing in England is some compensation to Labour for what is expected to happen in Scotland. Heavy losses to the SNP north of the border will put a huge dent in Labour’s nationwide figures. Labour has 41 Scottish seats and all are at risk. The question early tomorrow morning will be whether Labour’s gains from the Tories and Lib Dems south of the border outweigh their Scottish losses.

Meanwhile, here are the polling details:

ICM, which boasts that in three of the past four general elections their final survey “has got closer than the rest of the polling pack to the final result”, has Labour and the Tories tied: Con 35 (unchanged), Lab 35 (up 3), Lib Dems 9 (u/c), Ukip 11 (down 2), Greens 3 (down 2). 

Panelbase has Labour maintaining a two-point lead: Con 31 (down 1), Lab 33 (down 1), Lib Dems 8 (u/c), Ukip 16 (down 1), Greens 5 (up 1).

YouGov has a tie: Con 34, Lab 34, Lib Dems 10, Ukip 12, Greens 4.

Survation also has them tied: Con 31.4, Lab 31.4, Lib Dems 9.6, Ukip 15.7, Greens 4.8.

ComRes gives the Tories a one-point lead: Con 35, Lab 34, Lib Dems 9, Ukip 12, Greens 4.

There will be further polls in the course of today, including the results of a new national survey from Lord Ashcroft, as pollsters do their best not to get caught out by a late swing.

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