Lib Dem Voice publishes exclusive general election prediction

Election forecasting, that is the using data such as party standings, leader ratings and economic indicators to predict the result of the next general election, is still in its infancy. The combination of general elections only every four years or so with the relatively recent innovation of regular detailed polling figures means that there has often been a shortage of data and election results with which to create and test models.

However, as each general election passes the volume of data accumulates and predictive models get more sophisticated. Of course, this begs the question about how well you can predict an election in advance based on statistical factors. What about events and the human touch?

In order to shed a bit of light on this question (and to have a bit of political speculating fun), Liberal Democrat Voice has arranged for a team of academics to create an exclusive series of election predictions.

The team – Richard Nadeau, Michael Lewis-Beck and Eric Belanger – published a detailed paper in the August 2009 edition of Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. For those interested in the analytical approach, their introduction explained:

First, a prediction equation is offered, based on a powerful empirical proxy variable for the election outcome itself. Second, an explanatory equation is offered, accounting theoretically for that proxy variable. This recursive system of equations is estimated, evaluated and found, by various diagnostics, to be extremely robust. Then, forecasts are rendered for multiple measures of UK election outcomes, in order to bring together the various measures that have appeared in the literature: government vote (and seats) share, opposition votes (and seats) share, government vote (and seats) lead.

Their predictive model works on a three-month lagged structure; i.e. their model uses current information and says “if a General Election were held in three months time, here’s what the result would be.” That is because according to their work, looking at previous general elections, the situation in terms of figures such as leader ratings and government satisfaction three months out from polling day has provided a reliable guide to what then happens on polling day.

Here is the current prediction:

Conservative lead of 10% with 322 seats (4 short of an overall majority)
The forecasters explain: “These forecasts are based on the Ipsos MORI polling data gathered mid-October (16-18). The key variables from which our votes and seats forecasts are derived are the average approval rate of the government and PM (27.5) and the approval rate of the leader of the opposition (49.0) measured three months before an hypothetical election.”

But with the most likely election date being May next year, there is yet time for those ratings to change before we get to three months out from the election and the point at which the prediction gets ‘frozen’.

A three point shift up in Cameron’s approval and down in the Government and Brown’s approval would produce in their model instead a Conservative lead of 13% and 342 Conservative seats (a majority of 34 seats). On the other hand, a shift of three points in favour of Brown and the Government and off Cameron’s approval would produce only a 7% Conservative lead and leave them 24 short of an overall majority.

How reliable are these predictions? The accuracy of the model tested out on past elections in the article quoted above is impressive, though of course creating a model which gets the past right is easier than getting the future right.

We hope to update the predictions as the general election nears. Assuming a May 2010 election, February’s prediction will be the one on which the model stakes its credibility.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in General Election and News.


  • Mark – what’s it predicting for the Lib Dems at the moment?

  • Tom Papworth 19th Nov '09 - 3:29pm

    Without opening the sore of which party should we support to form a government after the election, a result of “Conservative lead of 10% with 322 seats (4 short of an overall majority)” would be extremely uncomfortable for the Lib Dems.

    Firstly, all those who argued that Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 and so should have been president would have to explain why the Conservatives should not form a Government in 2010.

    Secondly, those who argue for proportional representation would struggle to justify ignoring the percentages.

    I would solve the problem by sticking to my already-declared hung parliament position: a plague on both their houses! Let the Conservatives form a minority administration and vote on individual pieces of legislation as they arise.

  • Herbert Brown 19th Nov '09 - 3:45pm



    Hasn’t the party been arguing for decades that it’s not fair that a party should have a majority in the Commons on the basis of around 40% of the popular vote?

  • “Let the Conservatives form a minority administration and vote on individual pieces of legislation as they arise.”

    Yes quite! The notion that a hung-parliament results in a coalition is not necessarily accurate. Also that minority governments are inherantly unstable. Canada has had a minority Conservative government since 2006, for example.

    The role for the LibDems in a hung parliament should be acting as the constructive opposition, putting the breaks on the nuttier pieces of right wing legislation the tories want to introduce.

    Unfortunately, I think the Tories can count on winning enough seats in London, the south east and the midlands to win a workable majority.

  • The prediction of a Tory majority of around 0 fits with my own, amateur thoughts on the result. I have also been predicting that Labour & Libdems would get similar vote shares, too close to call. What do your team say about that? How does their model take account of the growth in Libdem support which often happens during the campaign itself?

  • I hope this will be a spur to potential Lib Dem voters in Tory target seats 100-120 that (except where the LDs hold the seat) they can vote Labour to block a Tory Commons majority earned on a minority vote with only negligible damage to the LDs national vote share.

  • David Allen 19th Nov '09 - 5:59pm

    I’d be quite happy to argue that on a result along these lines, i.e. Tory 40%, Labour 30%, Lib Dem 20% or thereabouts, the Tories would not deserve to have an absolute majority in the Commons.

    What would be a lot harder for us to deal with would be a limited semi-revival from Labour (which may indeed be happening), leading to e.g. Tory 38%, Labour 32%, Lib Dem 20%, Labour and Tories dead-heated on seats.

    The argument some have made in the past is that in such circumstances we should do a deal with the “moral victors”, i.e. the Tories. This, however, will look very questionable if it is the Tories who have been falling back during the campaign, losing the arguments and losing support.

    We could just decide to walk away from the issue as Tom Papworth suggests, and leave a weak minority government struggling to cope on an ad-hoc basis. But depending on what was happening in the world at the time, that might turn out to be a terrible mistake, which would rebound on us. What if there was a massive megacrisis going on, and the nation were to start screaming for a strong government to sort it out?

    We may need to make that awful choice between Gordon and Dave. We may not be able to delegate our decision to the “verdict of the electorate”. We may not be able to identify who won a “moral victory”. We don’t have to make the choice in advance, and since the precise election outcome could be very widely variable, we almost certainly shouldn’t make the choice in advance. But we do need to be prepared to make a choice.

  • Herbert Brown 19th Nov '09 - 6:40pm

    “Is this prediction based on uniform national ’swing’?”

    By the sound of it, it’s based on an “empirical proxy variable” calculated mainly from the approval ratings for the prime minister, government and leader of the opposition, so it’s quite different from conventional calculations based on voting intention.

    It does seem rather strange that having spent so long pointing out (rightly) that conventional projections can’t be expected to predict Lib Dem performance accurately, Lib Dem Voice is now giving prominence to a different projection method which – from the summary above – doesn’t seem to account for the Lib Dems at all.

  • On the question of what we do in a hung Parliament, one argument against letting the Tories run a minority Govt is that electoral reform would be put off for another 4 or 5 years at least. Our 1st decision may be what to do about Labour. GB or whoever doesnt have to resign just because theyve lost their majority, they could try to carry on as a minority or try to form a coalition. For all the disadvantages of backing Labour their is the great advantage of gaining some sort of electoral reform.
    I want to stress again my belief that we have a real chance of pushing Labour into 3rd place, in the share of the vote. Just look at the most recent large-scale test of public opinion on June the 6th. Labour beat us by 2% in the euros, we beat them by 3% in the locals; their is everything to play for.

  • Stanley Theed 19th Nov '09 - 7:26pm

    I know that this is a harmless recreational discussion on what might happen in the forthcoming General Election but without wishing to suggest that contributors are not already doing so may I suggest that we would be better off working our socks off to ensure that the Liberal Democrats perform markedly better than any projections might currently suggest. How predictable would be the outcome of the election if the Liberal Democrats did not exist?

  • Cheltenham Robin 19th Nov '09 - 7:33pm

    Jo’s prediction of a Green Party surge within 2 elections proves that, not only do they support the natural environment it appears that they are smoking some of it too.

  • Jo,

    How charming.

  • Richard Church 19th Nov '09 - 8:50pm

    Anything less than 12 or so short of a majority, and the balance of power is held by Ulster Unionists, not Lib Dems. Add in Sinn Fein abstainers and the Tories need to be 15 or more short of a majority not to be dependent on Lib Dem abstentions to form a government, and that’s without considering Scot Nats, Plaid Cymru and others.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Nov '09 - 9:27pm

    I think that the last time there was no single party with a majority was Feb 1974.
    Cons (Heath defending) down from 330 in 1970 to 297 (46.8%)
    Labour (Wilson re-emerging) up from 288 to 301 (47.4%)
    Liberals up from 6 to 14 (from 7.5% to 19.3%)

    A few points:
    1. ISTR (I was celebrating Paul Tyler’s first and most slender of wins at the time) that, although there were negotiations with Heath, in the end the outgoing team SAT ON THEIR HANDS (or stayed in their pews) for the Queens Speech and allowed Wilson back into No10. Do not underestimate the determination of Cons and Lab to keep the two-party system intact.
    2. There is still a need to have a set of publishable and attractive negotiating terms for Friday after polling day to ensure that we are talking policy and not positions (and also that those terms include changes to the mechanics of decision making processes should point 1 not be the eventuality).
    3. There is a need to have a rapid consultation system in place (as there was in 1997) so that the Party President can assess the mood of the Party and report this to the Leader.
    4. 19.3% won us 14 seats in 1974, which shows the sophistication and extent of tactical voting in recent elections. Who has voted for us tactically? What would make them forsake that ‘lent’ support? I suggest that this is the largest factor weighing on our strategic position now, in the near term campaign and during the election.

  • “I hope this will be a spur to potential Lib Dem voters in Tory target seats 100-120 that (except where the LDs hold the seat) they can vote Labour to block a Tory Commons majority earned on a minority vote with only negligible damage to the LDs national vote share.”

    Incredible. Absolutely incredible. This is the sum ambition of the Limp Dims. The best argument I have ever seen explaining why a vote for the Limp Dims is a wasted vote.

    What an incredibly short-sighted – and petty – mentality.

  • The thing a number of you are missing is that a number of us Lib Dems want Brown out, and would like us to join up with a Tory Party more than a Labour one.
    I feel that the David Cameron party is a lot closer to us than Labour is.

    Mr. Brown lying to us about
    * 10p tax rate fiasco – lied
    * Abolished boom and bust – lied
    * Government debt – lied
    * Immigration – lied
    * Climate change – lied
    * The Gurkers -lied
    The Tory party agreed with us on all these points.

  • Richard how could the balance of power be held by Ulster Unionists? Presumably you mean charming people in the DUP?

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '09 - 8:52am

    Nick Clegg has to come up with some very strong negotiating positions, and say “I will not budge from these – I and my party believe they are absolutely essential for the future good government of this country”. It should obviously include STV, but we need to be a little careful on being held up for damaging the stability of this country by stopping the formation of a government on the grounds of what most people will think of as a trivial issue. Therefore I think also some sort of taxation measures to shift tax from the poor to the wealthy. It has to be something which will strike with the general public, but Cameron and Brown will be very reluctant to concede to.

    The point is to get Clegg to the position where he can say to Brown and Cameron “You two gentlemen seem to have far more in common with each other than you have with us. Therefore the obvious step is for you two to form a coalition government”.

    One might note how much the FDP prospers in Germany when there’s a CDP/CSU/SPD grand coalition.

  • West Mids Activist 20th Nov '09 - 9:17am

    Do not underestimate the damage that will be done to the Lib Dems if you prop up a detested Brown administration.

  • Strange I must have missed the Tories agreeing with us on immigration and climate change.

    The big obstacle for Lib Dem/Tory co-operation would be the headline pledge to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a (as yet undefined but apparently unenforceable) Bill of Rights

  • I’m not entirely sure that a minority Tory administration would end the chances of PR – in fact, it might just increase it.

    Presuming that Labour ditch Brown and appoint someone like Miliband jnr instead, PR could give Labour their first opportunity to inflict a defeat on the Tories. Provided they got the bill right – proposing STV or even the Jenkins proposals – they could get the backing of the Lib Dems, and probably the SNP and Plaid too. They might also get a sympathetic hearing from the NI parties – don’t know what their specific positions on PR are, but STV is used for all elections there bar Westminster so it wouldn’t be a huge leap for them. OK, so some of the Labour hardliners might not support it, but there’s probably enough there to get it through in time for the next GE – thus ensuring that a left-of-centre balance would appear in Westminster at the next GE.

  • Oh and David – there may be a number of Lib Dems who’d want us to go into coalition with the Tories, but there’s an even bigger number who would feel physically sick at even the thought of it, and a large number of them would probably be key activists and councillors. Nick would have the biggest political challenge of his life if he went that way, and I’d really fear for the future of the Lib Dems if he did – and I think he probably realises that.

  • The Tory party agreed with us on all these points – I don’t think so.

    * 10p tax rate fiasco – Cameron said that the income tax cut announced at the same time showed it the Conservatives were right to propose “sharing the proceeds of growth” – just before there wasn’t any growth to share. he only changed his tune after the Lib dems pointed out where the money came from.

    * Abolished boom and bust – Right up there with the Conseravtive claim that Labour isn’t working and 1 million unemployed was a scandal and that they would get Britain back to work. of course this bust is all Gordon’s fault unlike the recssions of 1979 +, the Lawson Boom and the Major era slump.

    * Government debt – yes Labour have run up record debt, beating the record set by the previous conservative government !

    * Immigration – Michael Howard – “It;’s not unethical ….. to imply that your opponents are saying it’s racist to talk about imigration.”

    * Climate change – “Mentioned in the 1992 Lib Dem manifesto, derided as beards and scandals Liberals

    * The Gurkers – the number of Gurkha’s allowed to settle in the UK by the Thatcher and Major Government was zero. No wonder they got so cross with Gordon Brown for trying to follow their example.

  • Jo – I while I haven’t an axe to grind against the Green Party, even on the most optimistic forecasts you might get 5 MPs. Personally, I’d place a bet on gaining just one, in Brighton. They will have as much impact as the other independents, from the chap who won in wales on the issue of all women shortlists, the Kiddiminster Hospital chap, George Galloway, Martin Bell in Tatton, etc etc

    As for being in the same position as the Lib Dems in 2019, rather you than me. It would of course make you the most sucessful green party in the world but, I can’t see why the green party will achieve in 10 years what it took the Liberals 60 years to build to.

    As for advocates of a hung parlaiment position of “a plague on both their houses! Let the Conservatives form a minority administration and vote on individual pieces of legislation as they arise.”

    It’s just utter silliness. It’s a very like the Green Party waiting for a win taht’s not going to happen.

    Firstly, as other people have pointed out, it’s is very unlikely that the Lib dems would hold a “balance of power” position with two evenly matched other parties. Secondly, the minority government holds the key card of baing able to call a general election to get a workable majority – as happened in 1966 and 1974. (The local Council comparison is therefore pants) Thirdly, the actions of other parties will be just as important in determining what happens – If I was Cameron, I’d relish being a minority Govt rather than a coalition. (Give the man what he wants ?) Fourthly, every time the Liberal tried this tatic e.g. 1923 and 1929, it was utterly useless and led to horrific loses in the following general election.

  • In the event of a hung Parliament we need to take serious & open positions based on what we believe will be good for the UK; we certainly should not be putting “transitional demands” to expose other parties or sitting back & letting the Tories waste half a decade & damage the country while they are at it.
    Yes, propping up a Labour govt would be unpopular, so was opposing the Iraq war. The prize, if it included fairer taxes, green jobs & electoral reform- might be worth it. Of course Labour cant be trusted & yes, we should talk to the Tories but what chance they would agree to real reform or fairer taxes?

  • Jo Anglezarke – how do you feel about making common cause with the Hard Left?

  • Plumbus – Labour’s track record on Electoral Reform and Brown’s psche – always seeka political solution that stiffs the opposition, regardless of what’s “right” – means that I find it almost impossible to see a situation where any sort of deal could be done with Labour.

    just go back and look at nearly 100 years of history between Labour and Liberal – you’d think we’d have learned by experience by now.

  • West Mids Activist 20th Nov '09 - 9:07pm

    “…there may be a number of Lib Dems who’d want us to go into coalition with the Tories, but there’s an even bigger number who would feel physically sick at even the thought of it…”

    Actually, most of the recent polling evidence shows that the majority of Lib Dem voters would prefer to see a Conservative Government lead by Cameron than a Labour government lead by Brown (by 61% to 26%):

    You guys need to get on board with the way your supporters think, or you are in trouble, The problem is, most Lib Dem activists and councillors are more anti-Conservative than your supporters and voters on thhe streets.

    This is also interesting:

  • Jo

    The comment by the Lib Dem Head of communications(Mark Littlewood) that PR wasn’t a deal breaker was immediate renounced by the party and led to his leaving office. Since then he has left the party and his own neo-Conservative/Libertarian agenda should be is clear to everyone who is interested (no many people obviously)

    I don’t think there are “quite a lot” of ex-Lib Dems in the BNP. Can you name 5 ? There’s only about 6000 people in the BNP. About the same as the green party ? There isn’t a lot of people in the BNP. In the 1930’s the British Union of Facists had 60,000 members.

    If I was you, I’d be delighted ex-communists and indeed ex-anyone else was joining the greens. I wish they were joining the Lib Dems. The only problem with converts is that they can appear even more purist and off-putting to non members. They tend to criticse their old party rather than promote the virtues of their new party. I’m sure you will recognise the syndrome.

  • Tom Papworth 21st Nov '09 - 5:59pm

    Belatedly, I return!

    Herbert: “Hasn’t the party been arguing for decades that it’s not fair that a party should have a majority in the Commons on the basis of around 40% of the popular vote?”

    Certainly, and that is what the article predicts. However, the Tories would still have the largest minority, just as Al Gore had the largest minority in 2000. This is usually referred to as “winning the popular vote” even though there is not actually an overall winner.

    Plumbus: “GB or whoever doesnt have to resign just because theyve lost their majority, they could try to carry on as a minority or try to form a coalition. For all the disadvantages of backing Labour their is the great advantage”

    However, an alliance that kept a Labour Government (even a Lib-Lab government) in power when they had been trounced in the popular vote would be hard to explain. I realise that the Tories would not have got a majority either, but sidelining the biggest minority would still be hard to justify.

    David: “The thing a number of you are missing is that a number of us Lib Dems want Brown out”.
    West Mids Activist: “Do not underestimate the damage that will be done to the Lib Dems if you prop up a detested Brown administration.”

    Absolutely!!! Which doesn’t mean that we want Cameron in (see the LDV poll on who readers think would be worse) but Brown must go. I think Julian is mistaken in thinking that no commentators here would be willing to support a Brown government. Those who have indicated that we should work with Labour in the circumstances set out in the article need to clarify whether they would be willing to allow Brown to remain leader and Prime Minister.

    My good friend Duncan Borrowman: “Let the Conservatives form a minority administration… if only Lib Dem council gropus had take that attitude in the past”

    Indeed! We paid the price for that mistake in 1998 locally and we’ll pay a similar price if we do the same thing nationally in 2010.

    Mouse: “even on the most optimistic forecasts you might get 5 MPs”

    But how many MPs did Labour win the first time round. Even 5 MPs would give the Greens the credibility they so clearly do not deserve. We made a mistake allowing Labour to shoulder their way in a century ago and we need to avoid making the same mistake with the Greens.

    Tabman: “how do you feel about making common cause with the Hard Left?”

    Disgusted. But I’m not a Green. For the Greens it is natural. The environment is an excuse for many so-called Greens, who would more accurately be described as Socialists (in the traditional sense). There are genuine environmentalists in the party, but fundamentally it is a radical socialist party. Interestingly – as we are talking about coalitions with the Tories – I’ve always thought that the Greens would sit nicely alongside an illiberal, anti-market, paternalistic and authoritarian party such as the Tories.

    And just as I finished reading this long and seemingly-good natured conversation, I came across that final comment by Mouse. Why make a personal attack on a former member? What a shame!

  • Yet another poll for the mix from Scotland.

    Labour — 39 percent (up 9 points from August)
    SNP — 24 percent (down 2)
    Conservatives — 18 percent (down 2)
    Lib Dems — 12 percent (down 6)

  • Herbert Brown 24th Nov '09 - 3:05pm

    “Lib Dems — 12 percent (down 6)”

    But that “down 6” is only by comparison with an unusually good 18% in August. 12% isn’t bad on recent form 0 – the ratings have been as low as 9% this year.

  • Jo A: “Tabman – there are quite a lot of ex Lib Dems in the current BNP party* – would I hold that against the Lib Dems? Surely not…”

    Jo. That analogy doesn’t work. That would imply that tBNP policy was influenced by having former Lib Dem members. It isn’t. Whereas Green party policy is quite clearly influenced by the number of ex-Hard Left members it has.

  • Toby Johnson 27th Nov '09 - 1:40pm

    ‘In the event of Nick Clegg not coming to power who do you least want as PM’ – what? The Lib Dems would need over 260 seats to form the next Government, sorry to burst the bubble, but if the Conservative Party cannot do that you certainly cannot. God help us if Labour do win the next election and especially if you pledge support to them in a minority Government! I say one thing, be careful and do not grag yourselves down by being on the loosing and VERy unpopular team!

  • Has Jo indeed left the Liberal Democrats?

    It seems but yesterday that she was trying to impose all kinds of policies on the party.

    What made her leave? Did people not agree with her? And does she not support democracy?

    Perhaps she will be happy in the Green Party.

2 Trackbacks

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Jeff
    It is one of the many contradictions of Boris Johnson, that despite his role in the UK leaving the EU, he was happy for Crossrail and other transport project...
  • George Thomas
    "I would like to see the funding mechanism that has funded Crossrail (which saw London businesses contributing significantly) around the country used as a model...
  • James Moore
    £20 billion to connect places that are already well connected by one of the most comprehensive underground and rail systems anywhere in the world. What could ...
  • David Goble
    @ Andy Daer: "If MPs can't trust the Prime Minister, Parliament can't function". And is the Prime Minister worried? No! I get the feeling, particularly in th...
  • Peter Martin
    @ Caroline, It makes sense for euro using countries, and perhaps local councils in the UK, to make use of the European Investment Bank if the terms on offer ...