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Rule, data, data rule the waves…

In Politics on April 14, 2010 by datanamics Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

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Having lived for some time in the United Kingdom, I am always paying extra attention when it comes to political events occurring in good ole Britannia. In the midst of this General Election year, there is plenty of information to gather here and there and we are certainly not running out of data to analyse voting trends.

On your mark, set... : PM candidates G. Brown, D. Cameron, N. Clegg

Months before the outcome, it was agreed that the 2010 general Elections will use a new constituency boundaries system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland the boundaries will be the same as 2005. After the election, there will be 650 seats in the House of Commons, four more than the 646 delimited so far. In partisan terms, the new areas give a net benefit to the Conservatives, an official report from the British Parliament revealed. If the 2005 election had been fought on the reshuffled boundaries, the Conservatives would have gained around 12 additional seats and Labour seven fewer. Hence the many potential outcomes generated and the crucial importance of swing voting.
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On Monday, April 5th, the Guardian website provided a visualization of the potential outcomes for the upcoming election.
As explained by Jonathan from Flowing Data, a grid map, a dynamic geographic map and a bar chart allow the visitor to explore the different scenarios of constituencies changing hands.
The swingometer simulates voters moving from one of the three main parties (Labour, Conservative, Lib Dems). It also simulates positions in which there is a general shift from one party to the other two, including where, for instance, a large number of people abandon Labour for the Conservatives and a smaller number for the Lib Dems. Options are the following:
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The digital edition of the Telegraph also offers a visualization of the new constituencies with a dynamic political map, aimed to grasp the issues at stake. The map makes it clear that at least a 6,9% swing is necessary for David Cameron (Conservative party) to settle down at 10 Downing Street. Yet it is suspected that the Telegraph’s chief editor would endorse this outcome ASAP, is such a turnaround realistic for the Tories ? What is the trend like ?

Swing in previous General Elections

Back in 2005. The Labour party, led by incumbent PM Tony Blair, wins the UK general election with 35.3% of the popular British vote. The Conservative Party of Welsh-born Michael Howard is just a few points behind with 32.3% of the votes. However, the constituency system endows the Labour with a significant majority with 356 parliamentary seats as opposed to the 198 seats for the conservative party.

2005 election map

Therefore, David Cameron’s party needs a uniform Lab-Con turnaround to win and reach the 326 (50% +1) seats required for a conservative overall majority. Data show that only two general elections since 1979 have witnessed a swing exceeding 5% from party to another. However, since the 1997 Labour landslide victory was the result of a Con-Lab 10,2%  swing, it would be tricky to rule out an identical scenario. Needless to say, the experience of hung parliament is far from common in the UK, with only one example to date in 1974, following a remarkable status quo (-0,8%) in general election swings.

Poll figures
tend to acknowledge the fact that the Tories are about to win their first election since John Major. However, although David Cameron is riding ahead by about 10 points, his 18 points advance from last summer show that the race is getting tighter and the outcome remains uncertain. Many newspapers, such as the Guardian or the Independent, highlight that Gordon Brown still has a fighting chance, backed up with one of Labour’s best ICM ratings since December 2008.
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5 Responses to “Rule, data, data rule the waves…”

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