THE senior academic and pollster who accurately predicted Theresa May would lose her majority at this year’s General Election has received a knighthood in the New Year’s honours.

Elections expert Professor John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow is well known to the public from his media and television work on polls and elections.

His exit poll in June’s snap election sent shockwaves through the UK on election night when it revealed the Prime Minister was set to lose her Commons majority.

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Opinion polls through the campaign had suggested the Tories had a massive lead over Labour and could be on target for a bigger majority.

But Tory hopes crashed when the results of Curtice’s poll were announced at 10pm just after polling stations had closed. His spot-on forecast prompted some to suggest he was the real winner in the ballot.

Born in Cornwall, Curtice studied at Oxford, and as well as his post at Strathclyde University, he is a senior research fellow at NatCen Social Research – Britain’s largest independent social research agency – and president of the British Polling Council.

Curtice said he did not expect the honour, but was “truly grateful”.

The academic said: “Just six months ago, the exit poll I led surprised everyone with a shock prediction that went on to be uncannily accurate. Now it is my turn to be surprised – and humbled – by the gracious decision to grant me a knighthood.

“It is not something I ever expected to happen. But it appears my attempts to analyse public opinion and outline its implications for the country’s political life are appreciated, and for that I am duly grateful.”

Curtice explained his June exit poll was based on comparing samples of how people were voting at around 140 polling stations in the UK with the same samples from the 2015 General Election.

“It’s very difficult to get a sample from polling stations that represent the overall pattern in the country, so we don’t try to do that,” he said.

“We operate on the statistical observation that although the level of support for parties varies widely from one constituency to another, the change in support from any two elections doesn’t vary so much – you are more likely to get the change figure right than the level.

“The exit poll, wherever possible, is conducted in exactly the same place as last time and we compare the 140 or so polling station with the figures this time to the figures last time.

“We can then work out if Scotland is different from England and are Leave voting areas different from Remain voting areas?

“And that’s how we end up with the forecasts. It’s completely different from how an opinion poll is conducted.”

In terms of independence, Curtice said support continued to be around 45 per cent – the same level it was in the September 2014 referendum.

“It looks like support for independence is still around 45 per cent. There isn’t consistent evidence that it’s going up or going down,” he said.

“One recent poll put support at 43 per cent, another put it at 47 per cent, so we are still bouncing around the 45 per cent mark.

“It seems to me we are still not in a position where the Scottish Government could hold an early referendum and be confident of winning, but equally neither could the Unionists be confident the Scottish Government would lose. So neither side is really where it wants to be.”

Curtice’s exit poll gave the Conservatives 314 seats, Labour 266 and the SNP 34 and the Liberal Democrats 14 – just a fraction off from the final figures of 318, 262, 35 and 12.

The day before the election, some were still predicting a Conservative percentage point lead into double figures.

When May called her snap election, the polls suggested Labour was facing a defeat on the scale of Michael Foot’s 1983 disaster when the party was reduced to just 209 MPs.

The ICM final poll showed May going into election day with a 12-point lead of 46 per cent to Labour’s 34 per cent, up from David Cameron’s seven-point win in 2015 and pointing to a Tory majority of 96.

“This poll confirms the pattern ICM has produced over the last fortnight: a fairly healthy ... Conservative share,” said ICM’s Martin Boon.