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Yasper ahead of the curve with mayoral polling

When I heard that Redfield & Wilton Strategies would be releasing polling on mayoral voting intention for the Tees Valley, my ears pricked up. We had conducted our own survey with BPC member Censuswide on the very same topic in February, which was revealed in The State of Devolution report, published this March.


I identified back at the start of the year how important this mayoral race would be to national politics – with some even predicting that a Tory loss could lead to a leadership challenge to the Prime Minister.


I knew that polling always becomes more accurate the closer you get to an election, but felt it was important to gather early data on the topic. As such, our results were covered widely, appearing in national newspapers such as the Mirror, Express, Mail and iNews, whilst also being reported online for the likes of the Independent. In fact, the polling generated 236 individual pieces of media coverage.


Now the first rule of getting involved in politics is, ‘don’t’ unless you are prepared to come in for criticism. And right on cue, one of the candidates subject to Yasper’s polling (I had contacted all candidates prior to releasing the results offering my data) came out aggressively trying to discredit the results. In fact, this candidate was ringing around journalists on a Friday evening, trying to get them to spike the story, and has continued their tirade against the data in national media as recent as the past few weeks.


I’ve conducted enough polls to understand that the way you ask questions is important, and working with a British Polling Council member on compliant questions and robust datasets was a key consideration. We had always been upfront about the methodology for the polling, and to a degree the ‘politician criticised by poll criticises poll’ wasn’t a huge surprise, even if the aggression shown was.


So how do the two polls compare? Well in Redfield & Wilton’s polling, the Labour Candidate and Conservative candidate are neck and neck, whereas in our own polling, Labour held a large lead. This wasn’t a huge surprise to me. In our poll, we listed the parties, rather than individual candidates (as some hadn’t been named at that point – it wasn’t fair to name some and not others). Also the list of options included parties that hadn’t revealed whether they would stand or not – for example, the 12% of people signalling intention to vote Reform in Yasper’s polling will predominantly vote Conservative (now that Reform have confirmed they’re not standing).


Comparing the most similar question between the two polls, on national voting intention, the results are remarkably similar, showing a big Labour lead and a sizeable backing for Reform. I’m very happy that the data gathered in Yasper’s polling appears to have been validated in this way, especially having faced some quite stressful (and mainly unjustified) criticism on methodology. See the comparison below.

As was cautioned in my press release and associated reports, any poll is a ‘snapshot in time’ and the way that data is collected needs to be scrutinised to fully understand the results. This can lead to what on the face of it are very similar questions, revealing very different responses. I was always upfront about that health warning.


Speaking to a very knowledgeable journalist before Yasper’s polling was revealed, he said that he thought ‘Ben Houchen would be mayor for as long as Ben Houchen wants’. My polling presented a counter argument to that, and provoked debate. Would other pollsters have conducted polling anyway? Yes, in all probability. But I’m very proud to have kickstarted the debate, even if I have upset a candidate or two. I’ve always enjoyed the saying that ‘you can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs’.


So what are my predictions for the actual election? It’ll still be a huge shock, but I predict a Labour win in Tees Valley by c10%. At the end of the day, there is only one poll that matters, and that’s the one where the candidates are put to the public vote on May 2nd.


You can read bespoke analysis for our polling here, as well as a deep-dive into the Tees Valley and West Yorkshire areas. Censuswide’s data (now weighted for age and gender) can be seen here.

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