Yours truly has begun this site’s coverage of the UK election this morning. Over the next seven weeks, I hope to post something about the campaign at least every weekday. There will be references to campaign events, stumbles, polls, and various analyses. It is my hope that you, dear reader, will be both more informed and more entertained – because experience has shown me there is nothing quite like a UK election.

That said, I think it’s only fair to make sure you read these posts with certain things in mind.

First, when it comes to any polling cited, the UK does polling a little differently than we do here. In order to be able to translate poll numbers into projected seats in the House of Commons, UK pollsters are more likely to simply assume undecided voters (a.k.a. Don’t Know/Refused) are (a) unlikely to vote, or (b) likely to vote just as decided voters do. Canadian pollsters do this, too – only they’re more open about it. This is one of the reasons UK polling has had its well-known failures in 1992 and in 2015 (Canada has had its share of recent surprises, too, especially in provincial elections). Moreover, unlike in the US, the UND/DK/R vote doesn’t have a history of shifting to the opposition (or else the results of 1992 and 2015 would have been very different).

Secondly, as you may have guessed, there are a lot more parties involved. Of the 650 MPs in the to-be-dissolved Parliament, nearly 100 were neither Conservative nor Labour when they were elected. If the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalists do as well as I think they will, that would go over 100 with this election. Plaid Cymru, the Greens, and the Northern Ireland parties may have small roles to play if the expected Tory landslide actually appears, but they will impact certain regions of the electorate.

Finally, there are the biases of the author. As much as I try to reach across the spectrum in UK media, my go-to source is still the Telegraph, an openly pro-Tory, pro-Brexit newspaper. I share their views on both subjects, so source bias is compounded by confirmation bias. I’d like to think I can wring those biases out of my posts, but readers are under no obligation to agree with me.

Then, of course, there is my terrible history of predictions. I got both the 2015 election and the EU referendum wrong.

So, please keep these things in mind as we go forward. Hopefully, you will still find this election to be as exciting and as interesting as I do.

  • The Jaded JD

    A key difference in UK and US polling is that traditional UK polls focus on voter swing, which is different from what US media reports as swing there. Although there has been an increase in US-style polling in the UK, especially as UK politicians increasingly try adopting US political tactics, traditional UK polls don’t just as who a voter supports, but who they supported last time. So when a UK poll (and election night coverage) reports a “swing” of x%, they mean people who have actually shifted party allegiance between general elections. That’s different from what people in the US are used to hearing when a poll show x% percent support for Candidate A later shows y% support for that candidate and the media report the difference as a swing to or against the candidate. That US-style swing can be attributable to including different voters in the sample, and reflects a shift in the aggregate electorate dependent on the randomness of the sample. The UK-style poll attempts to control for that by asking the “who did you vote for last time” question to get a sense of the country’s change in sentiment since the last election, and that is what most traditional UK media outlets consider newsworthy.

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