Politics, Government & Current Affairs

Oldham East & Saddleworth By Election Survey Results (Mail On Sunday)

Oldham East & Saddleworth By Election Survey for The Mail On Sunday

Fieldwork dates: December 28th – January 7th (excluding public holidays).


Interview Method: Telephone.


Population sampled: Adults 18+ registered to vote in Oldham East & Saddleworth


Sampling Method: Within the parliamentary constituency of Oldham East & Saddleworth registered voters with demographics known to Survation were targeted in a balanced way across the wards of Alexandra, St Mary’s, Saddleworth South, Saddleworth North, Saddleworth West & Lees, St. James’, Waterhead, Shaw and Crompton.

Sample size: 549


Data Weighting: Data were weighted to the latest available census information. Data were weighted by sex, age, and past voting behaviour in the recent general election. We also weighted data on the prevalence of postal voting.


Weighting for turnout: Before the voting intention question, Survation initially asks respondents how likely they are to actually vote on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most likely to vote. Regardless of their response we then ask for which party the respondent is most likely to vote or undecided. The figures are then adjusted for turnout calculated to the respondent’s stated intention to vote.


Below, each question in full and the order in which they were put to respondents;

1) Are you aware that there is a by election taking place here on Thursday January 13th?

2) On a scale of  1 to 5 with 5 being the most likely. How likely are you to vote in the upcoming by election?


3) For which of the following candidates (or undecided) are you most likely to vote? (main party order rotates)

Kashif Ali (Conservative),

Elwyn Watkins (Liberal Democrat)

Debbie Abrahams – (Labour)

Another Party


4) Do you remember which party you voted for at the last general election? (order rotates)


Liberal Democrat


Another Party

Or “Did not vote”

5) Did you apply for a postal vote for this by-election?  Yes/ No


6) How many other voters are there in the household?

None (skip to 9) / One / Two or more – how many?


7) Thinking about the other voters in the household. Do you know which candidates (or undecided) are they most likely to vote?

Kashif Ali (Conservatives)

Elwyn Watkins:  (Lib Dem)

Debbie Abrahams:  (Labour)

Another party:

Don’t know:

(8) Are they male or female?

Male /            Female

9) Thank you for your responses. This is the final question – Which age category do you fall into? – 18-24 / 25-34 / 35-44 / 45-54 /55-64 / 65+   <END>

The raw, unweighted responses were as follows for the 549 calls

Unweighted response
Refused to state intention25646.6%
Elwyn Watkins8916.2%
Debbie Abrahams8515.5%
Kashif Ali274.9%
Another Party244.4%

Ignoring the “refused” respondents to the voting intention question, unweighted percentages can be then rebased as follows;

Rebased Ignoring Refused
Unweighted response
Elwyn Watkins8930.4%
Debbie Abrahams8529.0%
Kashif Ali279.2%
Another Party248.2%

Weighting the data – Younger People Under-Represented;

Whilst our survey gender and voting intention distributions were similar to the population, as is usual in this type of survey younger voters aged 18-34 were under-represented.

We have applied a high weighting factor to adjust to the overall population distribution.

Due to the sample size for this age group, we suspect that applying a large weighting factor would magnify sampling bias, hence we have made the assumption that the 18-34 age group will vote in accordance with party percentages at the last general election with voter migration trend as indicated later in this report.

Weightings Summary:


We underweighted females & over-weighted males slightly in accordance with census data.



As discussed above – we over-weighted younger voters and underweighted older voters


Past voting:

We over-weighted Conservatives slightly due to minor under-representation based on past vote recall.


Voting intention:

Asked on a scale of 1-5, respondents who said 1 or 2 were removed. We noticed that 59% of respondents gave a response of 5. We found this to be surprisingly high given the turnout at the last general election was 61.2% for this constituency. On this basis, we scaled down the weight of intention to vote as follows: a response of 5 was given a weighting of 0.8, a response of 4 was given a weighting of 0.6, and a response of 3 was given a weighting of 0.4. This reassuringly gives an implied turnout figure of 58% which is closer to the likely turnout suggested by the unweighted data.

Postal Vote weighting:

Respondents that were registered to vote by post were given a premium weighting of 1.2 as they have an increased propensity to vote.


Non Voters:

Those respondents that said they did not vote in the last election were discounted by a factor of 0.5.

Results weighted for gender, past vote with voting intention and postal vote premium;

Gender, Age, Past Voting weighted with VI and postal vote premium filter
Elwyn Watkins5112.0%
Debbie Abrahams5212.3%
Kashif Ali102.4%
Another Party143.4%

Weighted results, rebased removing refusals, rounded n=169

Debbie Abrahams, Labour 31%

Elwyn Watkins, Liberal Democrats 30%

Undecided 25%

Another Party 8%

Kashif Ali 6%

Clearly, a large proportion of the “Undecided” group are Conservative supporters who are torn between voting as they did in the last election and voting for the best “Coalition candidate” to defeat Labour. Some of these voters will clearly vote for Kashif Ali again – he will not receive only 6% of the final vote – when we assume no change to past voting, and alloctate the  undecided voters, the Conservatives are at 16%. Some  Conservative voters are clearly voting tactically for the Coalition. The extent to which this is the case will likely decide the election winner.

Secondly a large part of the undecided voters are disaffected Liberal Democrat supporters (see their performance nationally since joining the Coalition).

A final group are disaffected Labour supporters likely due to the behaviour of the previous Labour candidate. We break these groups out on the following pages;

Voter Migration – how have voters changed their views since the last General Election?

Elwyn Watkins – Liberal Democrats.

Looking at just the primary respondent in the household and their previous voting recall from the last general election we can track the change in views from the General Election to the current by election.


Liberal Democrat Migration
Liberal DemocratRefused11%
Elwyn Watkins4258%
Debbie Abrahams1216%
Kashif Ali23%
Another Party34%


As you can see, Elwyn Watkins can only be sure of 58% of his support from the Liberal Democrats who say they supported him at the last general election. 16% of his former supporters that declare a voting intention say they will now vote Labour, and just 3% of his supporters say they will now vote for Kashif Ali the Conservative candidate. 18% of Elwyn’s former supporters are undecided – a high figure at this stage.

Debbie Abrahams – Labour Party

As you can see from the table below, Labour’s support is more “sticky” than that of the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party can be sure of 72% of their support from respondents who say they supported them at the last general election.

Labour Migration
Elwyn Watkins810%
Debbie Abrahams5772%
Kashif Ali11%
Another Party34%

The previous Labour MP, Phil Woolas was barred after being found to have breached the Representation of the People Act 1983 in the course of the 2010 general election. As a result his victory at the 2010 general election campaign has been declared void, he lost his seat in the House of Commons,and has been barred from holding public office for 3 years.

There has been concern that Woolas’ law-breaking would have a negative effect on Labour’s vote in Oldham East & Saddleworth (despite Labour’s improved position in opinion polls nationally).

The above table would assist in quantifying that factor. 10% of former Labour supporters will now vote for the Liberal Democrats and 13% of Labour’s declared supporters say that they are now undecided.

Kashif Ali – Conservative Party

As you can see from the table below, former supporters of the Conservative Party candidate Kashif Ali are now split 3 ways.


Conservative Migration
Elwyn Watkins1226%
Debbie Abrahams12%
Kashif Ali1635%
Another Party12%

There has been speculation that the David Cameron lead Coalition government would very much like to see Labour lose the Oldham East & Saddleworth by election and view Elwyn Watkin’s Liberal Democrats as the best chance of making that happen.

It is also speculated that David Cameron’s Coalition government see a good performance by the Lib Dems as being beneficial to the Coalition and are tacitly encouraging Conservative supporters to tactically vote for the Liberal Democrats.

26% of Kashif Ali’s former supporters tell us they are voting Liberal Democrat in the by election. 35% of Kashif Ali’s supporters say they are undecided, perhaps confused by the “mixed messages” from the Conservative campaign and their late start and muted campaigning.

Just 35% of Kashif’s support base from the last general election have decided they will be likely to vote for him again – the lowest of the 3 candidates.

As Kashif Ali secured 26.4% of the vote in the 2010 General Election (11,773 votes) his currently undecided supporters and the 26% voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats could play a key factor in the contest, especially if the race is established to be a “two horse race” between the Liberal Democrats and Labour.


Although we show Labour in the lead, there is very little between Labour and the Lib Dems and so the fate of the election in our opinion rests in the hands of their Coalition partner’s supporters.

Liberal Democrat Elwyn Watkins could yet win this seat, but not without the tactical assistance of Conservative supporters who are clearly in a position to win him the seat should they choose to make this a case of “Coalition vs Labour”

Prepared by;

Stuart Jackaman, Head of Statistics stuart.jackaman@survation.com

Damian Lyons Lowe, CEO damian.lyonslowe@survation.com

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