Polls have been wrong before - they can be wrong again

PUBLISHED: 08:29 28 November 2019 | UPDATED: 09:06 28 November 2019

Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon, Liz Saville-Roberts, and Boris Johnson. Photograph: TNE/PA.

Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas, Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon, Liz Saville-Roberts, and Boris Johnson. Photograph: TNE/PA.

Archant

Opposition parties appear to be in panic mode with just two weeks to go until election day.

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It revolves around YouGov's MRP polling which suggests the Tories are on course for a majority of nearly 60 seats.

Within hours we learn that Labour is now looking to move the focus away from winning over Remainers to winning over Leavers who are more inclined to vote for the Tories.

The polling is disappointing for the Remain movement, but Labour's strategy to chase Leave voters over the last two weeks does not seem the best use of time.

We know that Boris Johnson is doing more to unite the Leavers than Jeremy Corbyn is managing to win them over, but that should not mean he should be trying to do the same.

As polling expert John Curtice has previously noted, Corbyn's chancers would be greatly increased if he could unite Remainers instead.

We know that the Labour leader performs best with a vision of hope and when he can enthuse young people who - on the whole - voted to stay in the European Union.

Those last two weeks of the election campaign spent chasing votes from those that may be inclined to falsely believe they are voting to 'get Brexit done', while alienating the Remain voters he has on side, is not the best use of his time.

On the same night YouGov's MRP polling was released Labour had increased its position by two points, and the Tories had reduced its lead by seven points, suggesting that the polls are still moving in the right direction albeit slower than they would hope.

It is true that they were the one to predict Theresa May would not win a majority last time, but the polling was conducted closer to election day, and even there on a constituency basis the figures were far from accurate.

Even YouGov is erring on the side of caution with some big "unknowns" remaining. What is the effect of the Brexit Party? Has the mood shifted since the initial polling was conducted? Could there still be a surge of undecideds making a decision?

And finally could the polling still miss the potential for tactical voting?

As Best for Britain noted in its analysis hours before YouGov released its data, it only takes a few thousand to completely change the result.

Boris Johnson could lose a majority through Labour voters holding their nose and voting Lib Dem and vice versa.

That is why it seems premature from the parties to panic. While the Lib Dems have wisely decided to focus on Tory maginal seats where it can have the most impact in denting Johnson's majority, I fear Labour could end up alienating the voters it needs to keep on side.

The polls have been wrong before - they can be wrong again this time.

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