Each week since this general election campaign began, The Independent on Sunday has asked the heads of the 10 top polling companies for their predictions. We combined their estimates, where they gave them, to arrive at the projected number of seats in the new House of Commons, excluding Northern Ireland.
Now it is crunch time. We can reveal the pollsters’ final forecasts. Their average prediction is that the Conservatives will win the most seats but won’t be able to put together a majority. So, Ed Miliband would become prime minister with the support, whether he wants it or not, of the SNP.
The Conservative lead over Labour widened again in the average forecast over the past week.
Conservatives 279 seats (+1 since last week); Labour 270 (-3); Scottish National Party 47 (+1); Liberal Democrats 27 (+1); Ukip 4, Plaid Cymru 3, Green 1, Respect 1 (all unchanged).
The big change since our first poll of pollsters back in January is that Labour, then on 301 seats, has lost out to the SNP, then on 22. The Tories have gone up a little, from 273 seats. But our pollsters’ consensus forecast has hardly changed since the start of the formal campaign on 30 March, with the Tories down two seats and Labour down two. Note, however, that at the last election, all eight of our leading pollsters predicted a Tory majority (although as you see below, Ben Page changed his mind at the last minute), whereas their polls mostly pointed to what actually happened: the Tories falling 19 seats short.
This time, their forecasts are very close to the average of the polls, which currently point to the Conservatives on 278, Labour 268, SNP 52, Lib Dems 27, Ukip 3, Others 5.
Martin Boon ICM
“The Tories appear to have developed a little momentum, which may or may not make any difference. I sense the now traditional herding of pollsters has begun, and the polls will coalesce around a Tory lead of between two and six points. I’ll guess at 36 per cent for the Tories and 32 per cent for Labour. The fight for third place could go either way. Beyond that I just don’t know what will happen and defer to the academics and gamblers when it comes to seat projections, and indeed when it comes to who on earth is going to form our next government. I’d like to apologise to Independent on Sunday readers for fence-sitting, but as I’ve said repeatedly of late: How should I know? I’m only a pollster.”
James Endersby Opinium
“We saw some movement to the Tories, but the two big parties are back to being neck and neck with the Conservatives a hair’s breadth ahead. How this translates into seats or a coalition is unclear but based on our numbers we’d put the Conservatives ahead of Labour on vote share but the two parties within 10 seats of each other in the new House of Commons. The maths here gives Ed Miliband more options than David Cameron, so it might be sensible for voters to look up Ramsay MacDonald when trying to make sense of the result!”
Michelle Harrison TNS
“We enter the last few days of this campaign pretty much where we started. This election represents what happens when a country is not confident about its economic future, unsure of its place in the world, and fed up with the state of its politics.
“The political stalemate at the centre, and the fragmentation of the traditional party system, has left us with a set of polls incapable of telling what will ultimately happen, when there are so many potential scenarios. What we can feel confident about though is that Thursday will be a seismic night for politics in Scotland. When the votes are counted, we expect the Tories to be the largest party, but that Labour should still have the greatest chance of forming a government. But how do we measure the advantage for the Conservatives of already being in No 10 in the days after the general election? The real drama will start on Friday.”
Andrew Hawkins ComRes
“The sclerotic, negative and risk-averse campaigns from the two main parties make it hard to see how much can alter. So, my prediction is the same – Tories get most votes, but Labour better placed to form a government. Then a long spell of political and perhaps constitutional chaos.”
Damian Lyons Lowe Survation
“Conservatives – I’m upgrading my seats prediction to 270-280 from 260-280. Labour – downgrading again to 265-275, based on the SNPs’ continued surge and Conservatives doing better in our seat-voting question as the election draws near and views are localised: SNP 45; Lib Dems 30; Ukip 6; Green 1; Respect 1. Ed Miliband will be the next prime minister.”
Nick Moon GfK
“SNP now 50, Ukip 2; Tories to be largest party in votes and seats, but still a Labour minority government.”
Rick Nye Populus
“Tories largest party, comfortably.”
Ben Page Ipsos MORI
“As the only pollster to correctly predict a hung parliament last time – and then foolishly change my prediction when I saw ALL the others were saying a Conservative majority – I am going to say hung parliament again. With more Conservative than Labour seats. The SNP won’t wipe out the Labour Party completely in Scotland but will get them down to single figures. The Lib Dems will out perform their poll numbers and should get circa 26 seats – or more. Ukip will be delighted with four seats at most, probably fewer.”
Joe Twyman YouGov
“‘The world is changed, I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air.’ So begins the film version of Lord of the Rings. – which is, of course, the famous tale of an epic journey culminating in the final battle between good and evil. The world of British politics has certainly changed.
“With a few days still to go I expect that more change could still occur, but it is likely to be minor and the national level and more concentrated on the ground in the key marginal constituencies where the Hold Your Nose or Cut It Off to Spite Your Face™ message pushes home. I expect the Conservatives to be the beneficiaries, but it will not be anything like enough to make a difference to the overall result.”
Michael Ashcroft Lord Ashcroft Polls
He refuses to make forecasts. “My polls are snapshots not predictions,” he said.
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