U.K. election displays contrasts with U.S. system

tsj column writers - power and politicsBy Zachary Toillion

How long did it take for the United Kingdom to have its equivalent of a presidential election? Exactly 38 days. In that short time, incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron and his liberal Labour Party challenger Ed Miliband made their case to the U.K., a country with a population of over 64 million. The country experienced a record 74 percent turnout despite a little more than a month of preparation. Polling showed the two major parties neck and neck.

This is a massive difference from the U.S. system, in which candidates will oftentimes announce their candidacy well over 700 days before a new president is seated. For the 2016 race, the first candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz, to formally announce will have been campaigning for nearly 700 days in the event he wins the nomination and election. Despite the large amount of time in the U.S., voter turnout during presidential elections typically ranges from 55 to 65 percent.

In the end, the polling missed the election in the U.K. by a wide margin, with the Conservative Party gaining a number of seats previously unthought of. Leading the Conservative Tory Party’s campaign strategy was Jim Messina, a former political strategist to Barack Obama, who commented public polling was “garbage.”

Political analysts are hypothesizing the reason for the unexpected outcome of the U.K. election is the same flaws that plagued U.S. polling during the 2014 midterm election. The phenomenon has been dubbed the “Shy Tory Effect,” named after the U.K.’s Conservative Party. The idea is voters will not admit to pollsters their intention to vote for the conservative candidate, but when the voting actually begins, voters will indeed vote for conservative candidates.

If the polling effect remains in the 2016 presidential election, Republicans have very good reason to currently be skeptical of Hillary Clinton’s sizable lead in the polls. On the flip side, the man who led the prime minister to victory in the U.K. and Obama to reelection in 2012 is set to return to the U.S. to help run Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

In the end, only time will tell if lessons that apply to U.S. politics can be gleaned from the recent elections in the U.K. The one person most likely to know such lessons is headed back to the states.


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