‘Tis the week before the elections, and the polls the polls are calling.
Nigel Farage and his newly-formed Brexit party are in a dominant position as we head towards the upcoming European Parliament Elections, the latest forecasts show, knocking the Conservatives to fifth place and eclipsing Labour – the next closest party – by a remarkable 18 points.
But if we have been taught anything by the past few elections it is to take poll results with a bucket full of salt. For a start, the Brexit party simply seems to have taken the place of UKIP in the polls, and has barely advanced on the numbers that particular faction of Brexiteers would garner in previous EU elections.
And the turnout – usually comparatively small – rarely translates into a truly national movement in other, arguably more meaningful elections. As Stephen Bush noted in the New Statesman, “in the 2010-5 parliament, UKIP won the European elections and two by-elections. At the general election it won just one seat: Clacton, where it had the benefits of the most pro-UKIP demographics of the whole country.”
“In the run-up to the 2014 European elections, enthusiasm for Ukip consistently bled over into what people told pollsters about the Westminster elections, with that party polling at the 18 to 20 per cent mark. They got 13 per cent in the 2015 general election.”
It’s also worth breaking down what the polls are actually saying, because if true, they show how easily Nigel Farage can be beaten come 23rd May. In a fresh survey for The Independent, BMG pollsters found that although the Brexit party enjoy a good deal of support among those aged over 55, when it comes to 35-44 year-olds just 17 per cent say they would definitely vote for them in the European elections, and just 6 per cent of 18-24 year-olds say the same.
And if the turnout is above 40 per cent, Farage could be in trouble. As Alex Andreou writes here, he has never prevailed in any electoral contest with a turnout of over 40 per cent. “His win-zone is a low turnout. He has a ceiling. The Vote Leave campaign recognised this and kept his toxicity at arms’ length.”
So regardless of what we’re seeing in the polls it’s clear to see that the man can be beaten. We just need to stop amplifying his conversation, talk to the Remain base and drive up turnout. Simples.