Politics, polling and psephology

Polling and analysis of voting behaviour

By John Burn-Murdoch and Aleksandra Wisniewska

Scotland voted on Thursday to remain in the United Kingdom, with the pro-union camp securing 55.3 per cent of the vote. 

Ukip leader Nigel Farage (left) and Conservative MP for Clacton-on-Sea Douglas Carswell who has announced he is defecting to the eurosceptic party

A “seaside strategy” is being deployed by the UK Independence party in the run-up to next year’s general election which will see the eurosceptic party target seven seats in faded coastal areas of the UK.

Of the leaked list of 12“most wanted” seats where Ukip will concentrate its campaigning, half include seaside resorts, including South Thanet – where party leader Nigel Farage is standing – plus Skegness and Great Yarmouth. The addition of Clacton-on-Sea, whose Tory MP Douglas Carswell announced his surprise defection to Ukip last week, makes seven.

All seven constituencies produced impressive victories for the Conservative party in the 2010 general election – on average, the Tories achieved a 23 per cent majority and a 49 per cent share of the vote. Where Ukip fielded a candidate, its average share was just 6.3 per cent.

However, the deprived demographics of Britain’s coastal towns mean that Ukip is finding increasing support beside the seaside. Fast forward four years, and the eurosceptic party took the greatest share of the vote in May’s European elections in all seven of the seaside towns where it has pledged to fight the Tories on the beaches. 

It’s impossible to know just how seriously to take the polling for the Scottish independence referendum. Pollsters haven’t had the same opportunity to calibrate their forecasts through trial and error while observers don’t have a past record to go on, and as we reported yesterday, there’s a lot of disagreement between them. 

The 2013 British Social Attitude survey, released today, mainly focuses on questions of national identity and alongside asking everyone about questions on immigration and Britishness, asks Scots specifically a set of questions about their attitudes to nationhood and independence. 

by Nassos Stylianou and John Burn-Murdoch

Between May 22 and 25, some 400 million people will be eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections. But how many of them will actually turn up at the ballot box?

Following 2009 treaty changes, the European Parliament will for the first time have a more direct role in electing the president of the European Commission , the EU’s executive arm, giving May’s election added significance.

Despite the increasing influence of the European Parliament, the percentage of those voting to elect its members has fallen in every election, from 62 per cent in 1979’s inaugural direct elections through to 43 per cent in 2009.

At the last European elections five years ago, less than half of those eligible voted in 18 of the 27 member states. In six countries, the turnout was below 30 per cent. In one country, Slovakia, less than one in five of those eligible voted.

Turnout in Germany, France and Italy – founding members of the common market – has eroded by more than 20 percentage points since then. In the UK, turnout was already low at 32.3 per cent in 1979 and levels have remained consistently below 40 per cent ever since.

However, several of the newer member states such as Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria recorded a surge in turnout in 2009.