How the YouGov MRP poll changed this election

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December 9, 2019 by Paul Goldsmith

The YouGov MRP poll released two weeks ago appears to have massively influenced the election campaign. It may have led to a fall away for the Liberal Democrats and to the Labour Party to change their strategy.

MRP stands for ‘Multi-Lineal Regression Post- stratification’. The simplest way to explain it is that a series of interviews are held and research carried out to find out how different demographic characteristics (eg Gender, Age, Income, ethnicity) are likely to vote. This is the ‘regression’ part, a statistical technique to assess the strength of the relationship between such variables and, in this case, who they intend to vote for. Then, using census and demographic data, it is worked out how many of each demographic type are living in each constituency, and then likely voting patterns in each constituency can be estimated.

The technique arose out of the question marks over the inability of pollsters to predict the 2015 election and 2016 referendum results. It was first used in a General Election in 2017, when the YouGov MRP poll was the only poll to predict a hung Parliament. So it gained considerable credibility then.

When it was released two weeks ago, it suggested the Conservatives would win around 350 seats , Labour in the low 200s and the Lib Dems a paltry 13, which was way down from expectations for a Party that at one stage thought it was looking at near three figures in seats.

Furthermore, the poll predicted that the Conservatives would indeed be breaking through the ‘red wall’ of Labour seats in the North, as Leave voters flood to them in numbers that were thought possible in 2017 but didn’t materialise due to Theresa May’s dire performance and the fact that the UK was so far from Brexit. This time, with Boris Johnson having changed the deal with the EU AND got it through one stage of Parliament, Leave voters seem to realise that THIS is it for Brexit.

The impact has been stark. The Liberal Democrats are almost in post mortem mode already. Recriminations around the ‘Revoke Article 50’ pledge that has in fact pushed away many potential Lib Dem voters as seeming too extreme and the campaign performance of Jo Swinson are looming large.

Meanwhile, Labour, who started the campaign in ‘offensive mode’, target ting bunches of Tory held seats, have moved to defensive mode. Jeremy Corbyn has been going further North himself, and Leave leaning Northern based Shadow Cabinet members like Richard Burgon and Laura Pidcock have been pushed much more to the fore.

So, the poll has possibly changed this election, which makes it incredibly powerful.

The question is, was it correct? We will find out on Thursday at 10pm when the exit poll comes out, and we will know by Friday morning.

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