PollWatch: For which other parties would LibDem voters consider voting?

There’s an interesting poll conducted by ComRes and published today. There’s no surprise in its headline voting intention figures, below — they’re in line with other surveys and indeed with what ‘Super Thursday’s elections found:

    Conservative 31% (-2)
    Labour 43% (+2)
    Lib Dem 10% (0)
    UKIP 8% (-1)
    Others 8% (+1)

But what is new is that ComRes has asked the following question: ‘Which, if any, of these parties would you seriously consider voting for at a General Election if it were held tomorrow? Please indicate all that apply.’

So much political punditry is predicated on the (false) assumption that voters answering a hypothetical voting question half-way through a Parliament are to one degree or another certain about who they actually will cast their vote for. Yet we know that mid-term polling is an abysmal predictor of real elections. This form of question is helpful in getting us closer to understanding who voters might switch to and therefore the range of potential support within which parties are operating.

(One of the most useful questions I’ve always found when canvassing someone who refuses to be drawn on which way they’ll vote is to ask, ‘Who would you definitely not vote for?’ Most, though by no means all, voters have an answer to that one.)

Anyway, here’s the ComRes table in full:

Which, if any, of these parties would you seriously consider voting for at a General Election if it were held tomorrow? Please indicate all that apply.Currently intending to vote ConservativeLabourLib Dem
Conservative-5%31%
Labour7%-24%
Lib Dem18%13-
Green7%18%29%
UKIP26%13%10%
BNP3%5%3%
Pirate Party2%2%5%
Respect Party1%4%5%
SNP*3%1%
Plaid Cymru*3%2%
None of these41%40%26%
Don't know7%8%4%

The big worry for the Lib Dems will be that — even at our reduced standing in the polls — so many of our current voters are open to voting for the Tories (31%), Labour (24%) or Green (29%). This may simply reflect the natural tendency of liberal-inclined voters to float and be non-partisan. Still, it shows how small our core vote actually is: just 26% of Lib Dem voters wouldn’t consider voting for any other party, compared with 4-in-10 for both Labour and Tories. It’s also troubling that relatively few current Tory or Labour voters would seriously consider voting Lib Dem: 18% and 13% respectively. (Though it would be interesting to know how much higher those figures would be in seats where there is a Lib Dem MP.)

Right-wing Tories might perhaps be given pause for thought by the finding that only 26% of their current voters would consider voting Ukip. Sure, that’s more than a quarter of the party’s voters — but it’s not actually very much more than the 18% of Tory voters who would consider voting Lib Dem. Of course, the Tories’ issue with Ukip would have been much reduced if they supported a preferential voting system, but their short-sighted opposition to electoral reform is their look-out.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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7 Comments

  • Peter Watson 18th Nov '12 - 2:43pm

    I’ve posted before that the Lib Dems might perform better in an election than their poor polling would suggest once push comes to shove for anti-tory tactical voters, but that the party could have real problems in seats where there is a credible alternative (Greens, SNP, save the NHS, independents, etc.). These figures suggest that if the Greens mounted a credible campaign against incumbent Lib Dem MPs, especially where the student vote is high or the target is high profile (Clegg?) then in the next parliament it could be “taxi for the lib dems”.

  • @Peter Watson – It looks like a Green challenge in Sheffield Hallam would work to Clegg’s favour, in the local elections May 2012, the Sheffield Hallam wards still had 39% Lib Dem support with the opposition split between Labour 23%, Conservative 17%, Green 11%, UKIP 7% and Independent 3%.

    Of course that assumes no boundary changes. If the new boundaries come in, then Labour would be strong favourites to gain Sheffield Heeley (a Labour seat that would be nominally Lib Dem on 2010 vote) and Clegg would have a tough battle to keep hold of Sheffield Hallam and Penistone.

  • paul barker 18th Nov '12 - 5:54pm

    The problem with all polling is that voters lie/ interpret question to mean what they want them to mean. Are 40% of lab/con voters saying that if their parties ceased to exist they would never vote again ? I think its more reasonable to suppose that they dont want to answer the question.

  • well Paul Barker

    Are the same voters lying when they didn’t to vote for you last week?

    What terrible liars, tricking you into believing you are unpopular. In last years local elections when I voted for someone else, I just did it because I was playing some big game and only pretending!

    I think Paul Watson may have a point which is why I think you will have a higher vote and number of seats that the polling would suggest. This is not guaranteed though and may be problematic with the ‘left’ if you continue as Tory-lite

  • David Allen 18th Nov '12 - 7:16pm

    So, although we’ve fallen to 10%, we haven’t hit bedrock. We could easily fall still further.

  • Richard Swales 21st Nov '12 - 1:38pm

    In coalition goverment (so including in PR countries) the first question voters ask themselves is “Do I support the current government?” Whether they answer yes or no, the next question is “In which case which parties can I vote for?”
    The present Lib Dem selling point, being a government party yet messaging that it is unhappy with the coalition pretty much strikes the party off the list for people answering either “yes” or “no” (note that while there are also “not sure” voters, they don’t want to vote for a “not sure” party). Under PR we would be looking at a result under the 5 percent threshold (particularly as more alternatives would exist), but in the UK, the “in which case which parties can I vote for?” question is answered with reference to the electoral sums in the particular consituency (and also based on the work of the sitting MP), so it might be ok, particularly where there are Tory votes to squeeze.

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