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April 03, 2008

London Mayoral Election

In respense to several requests I’ve deided to hand an entry over to the London Mayoral election. See here for details of polling figures I refer to.

ICM are normally about 1-3% left of yougov, so I would have expected Johnson to be about 7-8% ahead, not 2% compared to the existing yougov polling. So there’s likely a methodology difference. ICM polling focussed on ensuring their survey had a weight average of ethnic minorities at the same level as their percentage of the London population. This is according to their announcement, and with reference to Livingston’s apparent criticism of the yougov polling.

Judging from the yougov blog they seemed to focus more on socio-economic groupings when trying to make their surveys representative, but this stuff tends to be quite hazy – polling isn’t as scientific as it ought to be. Furthermore historically ethnic minorities have poor turnout rates, so choosing the percentage of population is highly likely to overestimate their impact. So verdict is still out on which poll is more representative. Bear in mind the ipsos/mori polling from about a month and a half ago had Livingston ahead, but that was labour party funded and looking pretty out of date now.

Boris fell by 2% between the last two yougov polls, but this is within the margin of error of the poll, so can’t really be considered a trend without supporting evidence (comparing with ICM would be particularly flawed, since they are using a different methodology for deciding who to survey). Quantitative evidence seems to suggest that Boris is ahead, but by an indeterminate amount. A few points to consider:

1. Boris has a large financial advantage, according to both sides – he claims to be aiming at raising £1 million. This will come into play more as the campaign continues. Since I doubt either side is spending much at the moment (since the campaign is really only just started) it probably isn’t in the numbers already.
2. Large blatantly don’t know how to attack Johnson. First they tried calling him a racist then a right wing clown. The racism charge was never going to stick, and Johnson seems to have made a significant effort to behave in a more serious manner in the run up to this campaign. As incumbent Livingston has the massive advantage that he can do things, where as Johnson merely has to say them, therefore by allowing this to become a personality race Livingston gives away his big advantage and plays into Johnsons. When he first came to office he pushed the congestion charge as a radical policy, that both polarised debate and pushed popular voting his way. In order to make a comback in this race he needs another ‘big idea’. No new bendy buses and increasing congestion charges just won’t do.
3. I imagine given their traditional strength in London that the Labour party would have much more ‘on the ground’ support. This is hard to quantify, however and highly personality dependant. Frequently heavy in your face campaigning turns people off, whilst a personal chat from a respected neighbour might be the best campaigning method.
4. Location of votes – Livingston will dominate central London, whilst Johnson takes the suburbs – this seems to be so strong that even amongst informal conversation with people I know, people living in West London seem to support Johnson, and more central/city centre support Livingston.
5. According to the labour website tag cloud they seem to be really interested in Boris Johnson, he has more tags (41) than Alan Johnson (29), Alistair Darling (7), David Miliband (13), Harriet Harman (24), Hazel Blears (32) and Hilary Benn (37). I bring this up as interesting, rather more than informative and let the readers draw their own conclusions.

My guess is that Boris’ lead is reasonably strong, but overturnable, so in summary – he’ll win if he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth or if Livingston doesn’t pull anything out of the hat.

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