Alert readers will recall that this site has expended some energy on debunking the lazy myth – which suits the media and Labour alike – that a significant factor in the unexpected Conservative majority in May’s general election was voters being scared back to the Tories by a fear campaign about the prospect of the SNP influencing a minority Labour government.
Today we stumbled across an hour-long programme buried away in the depths of BBC Parliament, which televised “a seminar organised by Nuffield College Oxford at which leading academics and pollsters analyse the result of the General Election”.
The most interesting contribution came from a team at the University of Manchester who made two absolutely key findings from the extremely large and detailed British Election Study of the “short campaign” period, involving tens of thousands of voters.
Attention spans are brief these days, so we’ve cut it down to four minutes for you.
It could scarcely be any clearer. What the study discovered was that there was no evidence at all that the Tories had gained anything from the anti-SNP sentiment they worked so hard to whip up. Indeed, if anything, the UoM group found that it had LOST the Conservatives a small number of votes, driving them to UKIP.
More crucially, the analysis also concluded that the Tories had enjoyed a significant boost from UKIP supporters in the south of England switching back late to the Tories as a tactical move to keep Labour out. At 2m 23s in the clip above, the university’s Professor Jane Green tells the audience that:
“One of the things we find loud and clear in our data is that UKIP voters returned to the Conservative Party in constituencies in which they could stop a Labour or a Liberal Democrat gain or a hold.”
In other words, they did exactly what this site had been saying for 17 months they’d do. The final UKIP vote was significantly (between a third and a half) lower than the party had been polling for the past two years, but where voters switched away they did so disproportionately in seats where they might otherwise have damaged the Tories.
Professor Green notes that where UKIP had taken support from Labour, that support held firm at the ballot box because it had no reason not to actually vote for UKIP. But in the south, where UKIP votes could have cost the Tories seats, its supporters gave up their first preference and voted tactically to get what they saw as the lesser of two evils into Downing Street.
Just like we’d always told you they would.
We didn’t see a single serious analysis in the entire election campaign which took account of that likelihood. Everyone who blamed the pollsters for getting their figures wrong simply hadn’t factored it in, even though it was blindingly obvious to us and to anyone with a remotely rational brain.
It’s nice that someone else has at least worked it out now.