Thursday, 6 May 2010

Behavioural politics, days 25-30 of 30

Friday once again was a day for the aftermath of Thursday night's debate.

Unforuntately right now, I have no time to discuss it as I'm very busy with the actual election. This is also why updates have been behind for the last week.

However, as a precommitment device to combat my own tendency to post hoc rationalisation, here are my summaries and ratings for the last six days of the campaign.

Day 25 (Friday): Cameron builds momentum on the back of "winning" the debate (see day 24 for explanation via confirmation bias). Social proof from other voters even more important than from head of M&S. Tory: 8/10, Labour: 6/10, Lib Dem: 4/10 (Clegg had most to lose as the unofficial king of debates).

Day 26 (Saturday): Newspaper endorsement day. The Guardian switched from Labour to Liberal Democrat - a tiny bit sensationalist I think, but their reasoning was understandable. Most others picked the Tories. Social proof again, and the momentum effect continuing to work for Cameron. Tory: 8/10, Lib Dem: 7/10, Labour: 5/10.

Day 27 (Sunday): Sunday papers line up with the daily papers, endorsing Tories and Lib Dems. But a couple of polls show a Lib Dem waver. Cameron managing the momentum by pre-announcing what he'll do in his first days of government - a clever strategy both as it is believable, and offers voters a feeling of certainty about the future in a time of great uncertainty. Labour may benefit from Lib Dem drop-off. Tory: 8/10, Lib Dem: 6/10, Labour: 6/10.

Day 28 (Monday): Clegg gets some useful coverage criticising Cameron for "measuring the curtains in Number 10" - the downside of the momentum strategy. The Philippa Stroud story (Tory candidate used to run prayer sessions which some claim were intended to "exorcise" gay people) sneaks onto the BBC's website but is not noticed by most voters. However, undoubtedly the story of the day is Gordon Brown's amazing speech to Citizens UK - which leaves most people wondering where he's been for the last two years. Labour: 9/10, Lib Dem: 7/10, Tory: 6/10.

Day 29 (Tuesday): The polls have been steady for the last few days and the result will clearly come down to two things: individual voting behaviour in each constituency, and the unpredictable last-minute choices of undecided voters. Today, therefore, tactical voting is the topic. Some Labour ministers endorse tactical voting to keep the Tories from winning. Officially, Gordon Brown does not, but he has to say that. However the mixed message dilutes the potential last-gasp recovery message from Brown's Monday speech. Cameron gets some good coverage for the start of his 36-hour campaigning marathon. Liberal Democrats should benefit from tactical voting call, Tories may be hurt a little. It's not clear though whether tactical voting will be more deployed against Labour or the Conservatives, and whom Lib Dem votes will hurt in Lab-Con marginals. Lib Dem: 8/10, Tory: 7/10, Labour: 6/10.

Day 30 (Wednesday - try finding the 5 May link on the BBC website by the way. Thanks, Google!): All the final polls projections are out, and nearly universally point to a hung parliament with the Conservatives the largest party. My own projections from CountMyVote are Conservative 285, Labour 198, Liberal Democrats 132. If this happens, things will be very precarious - even a Lab-Lib coalition would barely have a majority. Most other projections show the Tories closer to a majority, Labour also with more seats, and the Lib Dems with fewer. Five Thirty-Eight, an excellent site which predicted the 2008 US election results very accurately, is interesting on this. Will these projections have a psychological effect on voters? They may motivate Lab-Lib tactical voters a bit, but against that they might also encourage some uncertain Tory voters to vote Conservative to try to ensure a clear majority. The best bet for Labour is the hope that people, their dislike of Brown expunged by an endless campaign, will revert to the incumbent government in the polling booth. It's too hard to predict the psychological impact of these numbers, so I'm going to call today's ratings: Conservative: 7/10, Labour: 7/10, Liberal Democrat: 7/10.

Time to go and vote now. After the fog has cleared I'm sure there will be plenty to add when hindsight shows up. And maybe I'll get back to a bit of that "economics" stuff. The bond markets are opening at 1am on Friday. I can't wait.

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