Archive for March, 2011


Andy Cooke asks: Where have the Lib Dem voters gone?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Meeting the Boojum

The YouGov Budget poll provides an opportunity to investigate where the Lib Dems from 2010 have gone. Regardless of the fact that different pollsters have found different levels of support for cuts/Coalition economic competence/blame levels, when we look internally in a poll which provides breakdowns by 2010 vote and current preference, we should (hopefully) be able to track some of the net churn.

So, in the YouGov poll, the first thing we see is that either the respondents were more likely to vote than the general populace, or there are a number of lying-weasel answers. According to the respondents, 30.3% voted Tory, 26.5% Labour and 21.8% Lib Dem. Compare to the actual vote share of the2010 electorate of 24.1%, 19.4% and 15.4% and we find that there are either more socially responsible voters in the sample than there should be – or they are remembering something they didn’t do.

Moreover, the Lib Dems have the highest “we voted, honest!” factor: 26% more say they voted Con than should have done, 37% more Labour and 42% more Lib Dem. As has been noted on pbc before, a number of these should probably be told that “Like” on Facebook, does not equate to a democratically cast vote. Maybe the YouGov panel is more likely to vote than the general populace, but even so, this wouldn’t be good in providing a decent sample – and why should the Lib Dems and (lesserly) Labour have more of a boost? Weasel alarm.

The next is that plenty of the claimed 2010 Lib Dem voters have simply “softly and suddenly vanished away” and aren’t accounted for in the current Conservative and Labour tally.

Of the weighted sample, Conservatives are down from 745 to 718 (a net fall of 27); Labour are up by a net 149 from 650 to 799 – so the Big Two are up 122 voters in this sample. The Lib Dems are down by 312 of their purported 535 General Election voters in this sample, down to 223. The net drift into the Big Two only accounts for just over a third of the Lib Dem losses. Where have the others gone? There are far too many for the minor parties to have swallowed.

We’d expect some churn from the Tories to Labour, probably made up to some extent for the blue team by gaining some right-leaning Lib Dems. Looking at the questions on cuts (good for economy/bad for economy, necessary or not, too deep/not deep enough/ just right, fair/unfair, who to blame, who to trust), there appear to be a lot of 2010 Lib Dems who aren’t opposed to the Coalition’s economic stance who are simply not supporting appearing in the 2011 voting share figures.

Remember that this is a net effect. It could be that the missing voters are anti-Cameron Tories, and there’s been a greater Lib-Dem to Con drift than appears on first view. It could be that Blairite Labourites have decided to quit the field and there’s been a correspondingly larger drift from the Lib Dems. Or both. But we must also remember that the opposite will have happened to some extent – that voters dissatisfied with the Hague/Howard/IDS Tories and Blairite Labour will have returned to their ancestral homes, so there’s even more drift to account for.

So. What’s the upshot? It’s certain that lefty Lib Dems have decamped to Labour and some righty Lib Dems to the Tories – but there will have been a slight counterflow of Lab-LD and Con-LD. Some Con-Lab net drift has occurred, with fewer going the other way. Some of each party will have headed off to sit on their hands or to minor parties, but there will have been some flow back into the voting numbers. However – when all is said and done, the net drifts are:

About a fifth of the claimed 2010 Lib Dem vote -> Labour.
About a tenth of the claimed 2010 Lib Dem vote -> Tory.
A little under a tenth of the claimed 2010 Tory vote -> Labour.
Between a quarter and a third of the claimed 2010 Lib Dem vote has vanished. Disappeared. Dissolved. Met Lewis Carroll’s Boojum.
Net result of current destinations for claimed 2010 YouGov Lib Dem vote.

All of the above goes quite some way to reconciling the YouGov and ICM findings on Lib Dem support – the spiral of silence adjustment that proved itself so well last time is reallocating some of those “Boojumed” Lib Dems back to Clegg’s team.

If these voters have decamped to “Don’t know/won’t say”-land, can we find supporting evidence elsewhere? Our Genial Host was looking at another poll ( ICM – Scotland) when I emailed him the first draft of this article.

This shows found that 40% of the 2010 Lib Dem GE vote in Scotland – by far the largest component of the cohort – had gone to “Don’t know” rather than the alternative parties.

Now Scotland is likely to act a little differently to the rest of the country (maximum toxicity level for the Conservatives, for a start), but I think it’s a strong corroboration, by a pollster with differing methodology and sampling.

Important questions:

  • – Are those who have vanished away and/or those who have drifted across more likely to be from the lying-weasel-I-voted-honest demographic? In which case, the effect is likely to be far less than it appears. Fewer “likes” on Facebook, but not as much impact in the ballot box.
  • – Is the net drift reflective of the overall true drift? That is: is it mainly due to Lib Dems sitting on their hands rather than heading to the Big Two and balancing an outflow from them to the “Won’t Vote” tendency?
  • – If so, and these drifters aren’t necessarily hostile to the Coalition’s economic stance – what will it take to get them to rematerialize when the Yellow team need them in 2015?
  • – And in the best case for the Lib Dems – by how much will this mitigate against the larger FPTP effect of the loss of the Labour tactical voters?
  • Mike Smithson is tied up with a series of meetings today and won’t be posting


    Should you be taking the 7/2 against the SNP?

    Monday, March 28th, 2011
    Scottish Election polls Date LAB % SNP % CON % LD % GRN %
    TNS-BMRB/STV 27/03/11 38 37 14 7  
    YouGov 18/03/11 41 38 10 6  
    ICM 14/03/11 39 35 13 10  
    TNS-BMRB/STV 27/03/11 35 35 14 8 5
    YouGov 18/03/11 39 32 11 6 5
    ICM 14/03/11 37 34 13 9 4

    Could the SNP hang on to power in Scotland?

    There’s a new TNS/BMRB poll out tonight on the May 5th Scottish Parliament elections that suggests this is going to be a lot tighter than it first appeared. As can be seen Labour are just one point ahead in the constituency section but are level-pegging in the regional vote.

    This starts to make some of the bookie prices against the SNP securing most seats a lot more interesting. Ladbrokes currently have 11/4 while William Hill, Victor Chandler and Paddy Power are at 7/2.

    My guess is that these prices will tighten quite sharply. I’ve just put a three figure bet on with Ladbrokes – the only traditional bookie that lets me place reasonable sized bets.

    Later tonight there are two national voting intention polls and one from YouGov on the English local elections. This post will be updated.

    UPDATE: Labour back in the 40s with ComRes phone poll

    Poll/publication Date CON % LAB % LD % OTH
    ComRes/Independent (Phone) 27/03/11 35 41 13 11
    ComRes/Independent (Phone) 27/02/11 35 39 12 14
    ComRes/Independent (phone) 30/01/11 34 43 10 13
    ComRes/Independent (phone) 09/01/11 34 42 12 12
    ComRes/Independent (Phone) 29/11/10 36 40 12 12

    Note ComRes phone polls operate with a totally different methodology than their online surveys which is why I record them separately.

    There’s also some findings on Libya using ComRes’s “Agree-Disagree” format. Like on the budget reaction this is producing different findings from those pollsters that have differently phrased questions. I’ll look at this in a future post.

    Mike Smithson


    Are we all still spooked by the Baroness?

    Monday, March 28th, 2011

    When are all sides going to move on from Maggie?

    Ed Miliband had a difficult hand to play on Saturday. The thrust of most of the hundreds of thousands who joined the TUC protest was that all cuts were wrong and should be opposed.

    As Andrew Ranwsley observed in the Observer this is “..not a position the Labour leader can afford to be associated with and not the position he has taken. He tried to finesse his dilemma by addressing the rally in Hyde Park, but not joining the march. His speech to the rally framed the government as a return to Thatcherism. This may be appealing to the nostalgic, but I’m not sure it is wise for the Labour leader crudely to brand the coalition as identical to the Tory governments of the 1980s and 1990s, a regular refrain in his speeches. For one thing, Labour leaders using similar rhetoric against Margaret Thatcher were crushed by her three times before going down to a fourth defeat at the hands of John Major….”

    The same goes for many on the right as well. Mrs Thatcher showed how you can be resolute pursuing right-wing policies and still win elections outright – something, as we are regularly reminded, that the current blue standard-bearer, David Cameron, failed to do.

    The Lib Dems are part of this too – and you’ll regularly hear coalition supporters arguing that preventing the Tories from returning to their “base Thatcherite instincts” is a key reason for being in the partnership.

    No doubt PC and SNP will have their own Thatcher-linked rhetoric for use during the devolved parliament election campaigns.

    It’s worth reminding ourselves that Mrs. Thatcher was a long time ago. When she became Tory leader Edward Miliband was just five years old.

    At some stage we’ll all move on – but there’s still a lot of mileage in Thatcher. It’s just too easy for politicians of all persuasions to invoke the Baroness when the need arises.

    Mike Smithson


    Could Labour end up winning 1,000+ seats on May 5th?

    Monday, March 28th, 2011

    English local elections battleground May 2011 (Rallings and Thrasher LGC) CON defending LAB defending LD defending OTH defending
    Metropolitan boroughs: 815 seats in 36 councils 186 393 199 37
    Unitary authorities: 1928 seats in total in 49 councils 909 501 380 138
    District councils: 6647 seats in 194 councils 3931 726 1287 703
    Total 9484 seats 5026 1620 1866 878

    How will the parties do in the first test since the general?

    May 5th, just five and a half weeks away, looks set to be a massive challenge for all the main parties. Not only will there be the much-discussed referendum but we’ll also have the elections to the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales and local elections in large parts of England.

    A very poor result for the LDs could make like difficult for Nick Clegg particularly if the referendum outcome is a NO.

    Although London is without other elections apart from AV most voters in England will be able to take part in locals.

    At stake will be 9,484 council seats most of which were last contested in 2007 – seven weeks before Tony Blair handed over to Gordon Brown. The final national ICM poll before the 2007 elections had CON 37: LAB 30: LD 21 which is not far off what happened in the general election three years later in 2010.

    Now, of course, the political world has been turned on its head and Labour have soared in the polls. Only this month YouGov has had them at 45% and only the latest ICM survey has had Edward’s party in second place.

    Labour is defending just 17% of the council seats being contested – a fact that creates the platform for dramatic gains on May 5th. The question is how many would be a good performance?

    It was in England at the general election, remember, where Labour lost 89 of the 94 seats that led to the party losing power after thirteen years in office. Many of the council seats being fought over this year will be in constituencies which Labour needs to win back if it is to become the government again.

    To come up with a proper prediction a detailed analysis should be done in each of the contests. Here I’m looking at the broad picture and my suggestion of a 1,000 seat Labour win target (500 each from the yellows and blues) would still leave the party with only 30% of the seats at stake. That surely must be within the red team’s grasp?

    I’m really hoping that there’ll be council seat betting markets.

    Mike Smithson


    Jonathan’s Sunday Slot

    Sunday, March 27th, 2011

    Labour meets the Four Horsemen

    Opposition is hard. In the past month, Labour was rudely reminded of the weakness of opposition and just how difficult it will be to regain power. There are four political horseman of the apocalypse that can doom any opposition party. In March, Labour received visits from all of them. Fortunately for Labour, their visits came early, weren’t fatal and the party should learn from the experience. Who are they?

    Irrelevance. Opposition parties rely on the oxygen of publicity to make progress. However, sometimes the opposition is irrelevant to the big political story. Last month the Libyan crisis dominated the headlines. The political question was how well would the Coalition respond to its first big test. Labour was out of the picture. The crisis denied the opposition the chance to restart the flagging “Yes To AV” campaign. With time running out, this may prove decisive. With bombs falling, who cares about AV?

    Impotence. Labour was taken aback by last week’s budget. With two popular tax cuts, George Osborne demonstrated his power to set the political debate. The chancellor was able to create headlines that distracted attention from his dire growth figures. Until that point, the hairshirt, austerity rhetoric of the Coalition had obscured this key asset. For the first time George exploited his advantage. The tables were obviously turned on Labour. After 13 years in office, it could not have been easy pill to swallow.

    Introversion. To win power, Labour has to consolidate its core support and then reach out. After 13 years of New Labour, it is entirely legitimate for Ed Miliband to re-energise Labour’s left wing. However, as former Blair speech writer Phillip Collins pointed out in the Times, the risk for Labour is that this proves so comfortable that the party stops there. Whilst Saturday’s march was great for morale, the party urgently needs to win back more than 2 million voters.

    Labour can learn much from its encounters with these first three horsemen. Whilst it can do nothing about events, it can work on a simpler more resilient message. Labour’s budget response did spot the big economic issue. The government clearly has a problem with growth. And Saturday’s march proved that Labour’s core is already large and energised. The party can confidently start to look beyond its comfort zone. As for the fourth horseman? That discussion is for another day.

    Jonathan is a Labour activist


    Both Dave and Nick move up in the leadership ratings

    Sunday, March 27th, 2011
    YouGov leadership ratings “…doing well/badly?” All % CON voters LAB voters LD voters
    David Cameron        
    Well 47(+4) 96 9 69
    Badly 47(-3) 3 87 28
    Ed Miliband        
    Well 32 (-2) 14 67 22
    Badly 47(nc) 71 20 53
    Nick Clegg        
    Well 28(+3) 58 5 68
    Badly 63(-3) 34 92 29

    But Edward drops a couple of notches

    The first leadership ratings numbers since the budget are out from YouGov and show positive movement for both coalition party leaders but Ed Miliband (the pollster has yet to refer to him as “Edward”) is down.

    The above are the best figures for Cameron since the start of December 2010. Edward’s ratings are the worst for seven weeks though they are well above his “low” in the first poll of the year.

    Nicholas Clegg’s numbers are the best since mid-February.

    As regulars will know I regard these as a good pointer though I much prefer the Ipsos-MORI question asking if people are satisfied/dissatisfied.

    The figures represent the reception that the budget has received and, perhaps, the level of media coverage that you see in budget weeks.

    Mike Smithson


    What’ll be the political fall-out?

    Saturday, March 26th, 2011

    Will today advance the anti-cuts cause?

    I’m sure I’m not the only one to have been shocked by some of the images that have been coming out of London’s West End in the past few hours.

    The real problem all those involved face, those on the official march and those in the breakaway groups, is that polling this week underlines that the need for cuts is well understood and supported by the majority.

    There might be opposition to specific measures but there’s overall backing for action to deal with the deficit.

    We’ll see in the next few days whether these latest events have shifted opinion – my guess is that it will simply reinforce views on either side.

    Mike Smithson


    Marf’s take on the march

    Saturday, March 26th, 2011

    More of Marf’s work can be found at