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Pollster that called May's election shock sees profit boost

(Bloomberg) -- YouGov Plc, the market research and data analytics group that predicted the U.K.’s shock election result in June, jumped after saying its correct call boosted revenue.

“YouGov’s ability to provide accurate, in-depth data on a digital platform was publicly demonstrated during the period through our ground-breaking U.K. General Election seat-by-seat model,” the London-based company said in a statement Friday.

A volunteer runs with a ballot box for three constituencies in Tyne and Wear ceremonial county at the Silksworth Community Pool, Tennis and Wellness Centre in Sunderland, U.K., on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Britons voted today after an election dominated by Brexit, austerity and in the closing phases, security. Photographer: Matthew Lloyd/Bloomberg

Subsequent media coverage of the company has allowed it to achieve revenue growth “well ahead of the global market research sector.” It now expects full-year profit ahead of previous expectations, with international sales also benefiting from the weaker pound.

YouGov shares rose as much as 7.7 percent to 280 pence a share in London trading Friday.

The company’s U.K. election model, developed by Benjamin Lauderdale of the London School of Economics, used an unusual mix of opinion surveys and demographic data samples. It studied small numbers of responses to survey questions to understand how voting is related to individual characteristics of people living in each constituency, and then projected the result based on each constituency’s make-up and past voting record.

The model consistently predicted the actual outcome, in which no party would have a majority, while other polls predicted a large Conservative win.

‘Whole country laughed’“It was an extraordinary evening, because we had gone over the data every which way and we couldn’t see the flaw in it,” YouGov Chief Executive Stephan Shakespeare said about the June 8 election. “When the results came out, I was exuberant.”

“We came up with a very, very controversial prediction one week out. The whole country essentially laughed at it and said it was ridiculous,” Shakespeare commented in a phone interview.

Shakespeare added that while usually the company’s election predictions are just a small part of its business, its performance in this year’s vote has made it easier to get customers’ attention.

The new methodology differentiates YouGov from other research groups and will drive its profitability in custom research, Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis Securities in London, said by email.

“We remain positive on YouGov and believe the group is making excellent progress in rolling out its data products,” Richards commented, retaining his ‘add’ recommendation on the stock with a 306 pence price target.

--With assistance from Joe Mayes

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