by Elliot Folan

With the London Mayoral election nearly upon us, opinion polls for the contest are finally beginning to emerge in force. And each one of them tells the same story: Sadiq Khan, the Labour candidate, is in the lead.

He wasn’t always. Back when the race for the Mayoral nominations began, Khan and the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith, were much closer – at one point Goldsmith had an 8-point lead. But as the race began in earnest, Khan opened up a large lead that hasn’t gone away. Currently, a simple average of polls in the last month (7th March-7th April, when the last poll was conducted) puts Khan on 54% to Goldsmith’s 46%.

(Average poll results by month for the final round in the Mayoral election.)

The most recent surveys show him with a lead of between 6 and 10 points over the Conservative candidate, Zac Goldsmith. While these could shift, there’s less than four weeks left for him to close the gap.

But could he? Polls change. And could the polls change that dramatically between now and May 5th? Let’s take a look at how the polls have changed in previous Mayoral elections.


From 7th March-7th April 2012, Boris Johnson’s average poll figures were 53.5% to Ken Livingstone’s 46.5%. On election day, the actual result (with changes from March-April) were:

Johnson (Con) – 51.5% (-2%)
Livingstone (Lab) – 48.5% (+2%)

So in 2012, between where we are now and election day that year, Labour actually gained support, rather than losing it. And that was with a campaign that got quite bitter at times, and with a Conservative candidate who was unusually popular.


From 7th March-7th April 2008, Boris Johnson’s average poll figures were 54.2% to Ken Livingstone’s 45.8%. On election day, the actual result (with changes from March-April) were:

Johnson (Con) – 53.2% (-1%)
Livingstone (Lab) – 46.8% (+1%)

So once again, back in ’08, Labour gained on election day relative to the polls at this point in the race, though not as much as they would go on to do in 2012.

What this means for 2016

The average shift for each party, in the final round, in 2008-12 was a gain of 1.5% for Labour and a drop of 1.5% for the Tories. This would suggest that, rather than swinging to Goldsmith, the final result on May 5th should be the following:

Khan (Lab) – 55.9%
Goldsmith (Con) – 45.7%

While it may not be as decisive as that – a 56-44 victory would be the largest Mayoral victory margin since Ken Livingstone was elected as an independent back in 2000 – I think the nature of polling in London, and the margins that Khan is managing in the polls, suggest he is on track to be the next Mayor of London, and Zac Goldsmith will be going back to Richmond Park to be a backbencher for the next four years.

Originally published on Observations on Electoral Statistics
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