Survation and Royal Holloway, University of London, announce three year research partnership

Survation and the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London, today announced a three-year partnership to improve methods for gauging public opinion.

Following previous successful collaborations during the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 UK general election, researchers from Royal Holloway will work on methods in collaboration with Survation for estimating local area opinion in the UK in Europe as well as geographies such as the U.S.

These new and improved methods will help Survation in its work with commercial partners to better understand not just the attitudes of a surveyed population nationally but how those attitudes differ at the level of small geographies.

While these techniques have been used for elections to model how party political support translates into constituency/seat level estimates, under the agreement researchers from Royal Holloway will work to extend these methods to model different commercial and policy-related outcomes, from product, brand or service demand to views on urban development and renewal.

The collaboration will also fund two PhD studentships and provide research and internship opportunities for MSc students based in the Democracy and Elections Centre.

Damian Lyons Lowe, founder and Chief Executive of Survation said:

During the 2017 General Election, Survation’s online and telephone polling correctly predicted the hung parliament outcome. To add additional certainty to that forecast (which was controversial at the time) we employed additional methods, including work with Professor Chris Hanretty combining very large sample customised online national polling with small area estimation techniques to provide precision on a seat-by-seat basis.

Our partnership with Royal Holloway brings additional investment into this advanced statistical technique – called MRP (which stands for multilevel regression with post-stratification). MRP allows us to paint a much more detailed picture with our data outside of politics, by taking a person’s demographic information along with attitudes on any topic, as well as specific regional or other differences that we know about, and applying those to small geographic areas of interest. These methods can also be applied to a huge variety of other measures of attitudes and behaviour that are crucial to both social research and commercial applications.”

Professor Chris Hanretty, co-Director of the Democracy and Elections Centre at Royal Holloway, said that the agreement,

Is the perfect outgrowth of some of the academic work that I’ve done on MRP, and a real investment in knowledge exchange. It’s a technique which is fairly common in academic research – but now’s the time to conduct further research so that the technique can be used quickly and reliably in a production environment.

Professor Oliver Heath, said,

This partnership provides a unique opportunity for our research students to develop new skills in political risk analysis and election forecasting and to gain experience putting these skills into practice.

About MRP

MRP is a way of producing estimates of opinion and attitudes for small areas. It works by combining information from large national samples (say, around 12,000 respondents) with information from the census. The responses given by respondents are modelled on the basis of their demographic characteristics and what we know about their area (its past voting history, how it voted in the EU referendum, and so on). This is the “multilevel regression” part.

In the subsequent “post-stratification” stage, we look up the census to see how many people of each demographic type live in each constituency, and make a prediction as to how many of those people will vote for each party. In this way, the estimates, although they are derived from a national sample, end up being representative of the demographic make-up of each constituency.

Although MRP has been most often used for elections, it can in principle be applied to any outcome which can be predicted on the basis of demographic characteristics – including a range of consumer behaviours. This would help commercial customers in making decisions about site locations or targeting advertising spend.

For more information please contact:

Harry Mason on 0203 818 9662 or John Gibb on 0203 818 9661 

Alternatively to contact our research team email

For general enquiries, please call 0203 142 7640 or email


About Royal Holloway, University of London –

Royal Holloway, University of London, is ranked in the top 30 universities in the UK[1] and the top 200 universities in the world[2].   Through world class research that expands minds and changes lives, the dedication of our teachers and the feel of the Royal Holloway experience, ours is a community that inspires individuals to succeed academically, socially and personally.

The university was founded by two social reformers who pioneered the ideal of education and knowledge for all who could benefit. Their vision lives on today.  As one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities we are home to some of the world’s foremost authorities in the sciences, arts, business, economics and law.  We are strengthened by diversity, and welcome students and academics who travel from all over the world to study and work here, ensuring an international and multi-cultural perspective within a close knit and historic campus.

The Democracy and Elections Centre was founded 2017 in order to carry out research into elections, participation in political life, and the challenges facing contemporary democracies. The Centre is home to the leading journal in the field of elections (Electoral Studies) and will this year be hosting the Political Studies Association’s Elections, Public Opinion and Parties specialist group conference.

Chris Hanretty is Professor of Politics at Royal Holloway. He is best known for working out how each Westminster constituency voted in the 2016 EU referendum, a referendum which was counted at the local authority level. He has previously worked in election forecasting and the study of constituency opinion. He has published in the British Journal of Political Science, Electoral Studies, and the Journal of Political Marketing.

Oliver Heath is Professor of Politics at Royal Holloway. He is one of the authors of the most-cited study of EU referendum voting behaviour (“The 2016 referendum, Brexit and the left behind: an aggregate‐level analysis of the result”, featured in the Political Quarterly). He has worked on a range of different topics, from class voting through to turnout in Indian elections, and is co-Director of the Democracy and Elections Centre.

[1] Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018
[2] Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018


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