With one week to go, the Conservatives have a mountain to climb

Freddie SayersEditor-in-Chief of YouGov
April 29, 2015, 10:03 AM GMT+0

Nowcast update: Despite some narrowing, Ed Miliband is still in the stronger position

The YouGov Nowcast is a statistical model that looks at the detail of voting patterns on a seat by seat basis to work out how the national vote share translates into seats. It includes more data from more respondents than any other election forecasts. We share some data with some academic forecasting groups, such as Chris Hanretty’s electionforecast.co.uk (recently borrowed by US forecaster Nate Silver), but only the YouGov Nowcast has the full volume of constituency-level voting intention responses that we believe are the best indicator of voting behaviour.

It is also important to point out that, unlike other forecasting models, the YouGov Nowcast includes no speculation or educated guesswork about things that haven’t happened yet, such as late swings back to incumbents. It is a pure reflection of the state of the campaign today.

The latest Nowcast makes use of constituency level voting intention data from 181,806 UK voters, including 40,876 new interviews since the last published version on April 23rd. Since last week, the Conservatives have gained four seats and lost two, bringing their total to 272 (+2), while Labour has lost three and gained two for a total of 276 (-1). The SNP continue to cement their position in Scotland, rising to 52 seats out of 59, potentially giving them more than twice as many MPs as the Liberal Democrats, who slip back to 24. So far, this is more movement about the edges than a trend.

The Conservatives’ internal ambition is to retain 300 seats, and that the Lib Dems retain over 25, allowing the current coalition to continue into a second parliament. At this point, with eight days to go until polling day, something dramatic will need to happen to achieve that ambition. On today’s Nowcast numbers, a Labour/SNP block would command a majority in the House of Commons (328), while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would fall well short (296) even with support from DUP and/or UKIP.

Whether or not the Conservatives edge ahead of Labour in seats, the overall arithmetic is plain. David Cameron's hopes of remaining prime minister need to be pinned on a perfect recipe of a strong incumbency factor, a unexpectedly prevalent 'shy Tory' factor and a significant late campaign swing. On today's data, in the race to Number 10, Ed Miliband is in the stronger position.