ICM poll: Tories edge ahead of Labour, while Ukip collapse to 4th behind Lib Dems

Amidst all the reshuffle excitement, I didn’t get chance to report the latest ICM poll – regarded by pundits as the ‘gold standard’ – for The Guardian, published on Tuesday. It shows the Tories a nose ahead of Labour, 34% to 33%, with Ukip slumping to fourth place (9%) behind the Lib Dems on 12%.

icm poll - july 2014

The collapse of the Ukip vote is the most dramatic story in the poll – Nigel Farage’s party topped the nationwide Euro-elections just a few weeks ago. However, the pattern is a familiar one: a spike in their support ahead of what’s seen as a low-stakes protest election, then a swift decline when voters think about the high-stakes general election to follow.

Three other points worth noting. First, the Tories and Labour between them attract just 67% of the vote. It’s hard to see a result other than a hung parliament unless and until one of them is able to hit the high-30s and/or pull ahead by at least 3% (Labour) or 5% (Tories).

Secondly, the Lib Dems’ 12% under ICM is at odds with the 6% YouGov reported the other day. If you’re wondering why, here’s the most likely explanation:

ICM, which has the best record in recent general elections, differs from many others in continuing to conduct its surveys of voting intention over the telephone as opposed to online. It also makes a distinctive adjustment to deal with voters who are happy to report how they voted last time, but are less forthcoming about what they will do in the future. It assumes that many such voters “return home” in future elections, which in the past has been a useful way to identify “shy Tories” at times when the Conservatives have been unfashionable.

In Monday’s data, however, ICM’s adjustments do not much change the relative standing of the main two parties – Labour and the Conservatives would both be on 35% without the adjustment, although the Liberal Democrats would fare worse – they stand at just 9% before the assumption about some current deserters returning to the fold is applied.

In effect, then, ICM is a combination of a snapshot poll and also a forecast. What has happened in previous elections is that pollsters begin to converge the closer it gets to polling day. Lib Dem voters who are least likely to say they are certain to vote for the party make up their minds later; and we are more likely to benefit from tactical votes in key seats. Of course, no-one knows if what’s held true in previous elections will also hold true in 2015. But for the moment at least I’d be more inclined to bet that ICM and YouGov won’t be far apart come May 2015 and that will be because YouGov has moved towards ICM rather than the reverse.

Thirdly, though politicos get excited about each and every poll movement, the polling reality is a whole lot less exciting.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Bill le Breton 17th Jul '14 - 12:05pm

    So, where did the ‘intend to vote UKIPs’ go? Con +3, LD +2, Lab +1. Anyone really surprised?

  • It’ll be interesting to see if the Bedroom Tax announcement has any noticeable effect over the next week or so.

  • Of course we should never get too excited over individual Polls, but the direction of movement is shown acroos most Polls. UKIP have been falling at about 1% a week & are now down to 12%, the level they were around for most of the Spring. Most of their lost votes have gone to The Tories.
    Labour have gone up & then down again, I expect them to fall back to the low 30s over The Summer.
    We have been steadily creeping up to an average of 9%.

  • Jonathan Pile 17th Jul '14 - 12:56pm

    This is better news for the party . On these results – electoral calculus predict 25 LIB DEM seats in a hung parliament. Labour are overall looking pretty limp and UKIP is fading back. With a reshuffled leadership and policy changes like scrapping bedroom tax, tuition fees, and HS2 we might still fightback.

  • Too early to talk about any kind of real revival. Yougov has us on 9% today, which is just about where we were before the European election debacle.

    Of our 2010 supporters, 32% are still with us, 36% are with Labour, 18% have gone to don’t know, 12% (inexplicably) have gone Tory, 8% UKIP and 8% Green. Meanwhile, we have only picked up 1% of Tory voters and 2% of Labour.

    We are still bumping along the bottom and have yet even to start to win back voters with clear messages about what kind of UK the Lib Dems stand for. Until we start doing that, we can’t hope for any kind of revival.

  • I’m sure way before the election we will see UKIP again pick up after the EU election and local elections the UKIP lot are busy taking a break, but give it to about November when people start to think of the MP’s getting that wage rise and then maybe we will be hearing about the paedophile rings and things will start to go up and down, UKIP will pick up . I suspect labour to take a hit plus the Liberals and yes I do vote Liberal but not this time I’m retiring.

    Clegg today concerning the bedroom tax the evidence was all around him if he looked sadly it’s to late now and the public will see it as trying to regain lost voters it’s a disgrace the so called bedroom tax is a tax on the poorest because the Tories nor labour build social housing.

  • Adam Robertson 17th Jul '14 - 3:52pm

    Although, I am like Stephen, interested in Polls, as they give us a snapshot of voting intentions. However, they do not account for variable regional swings within the country. Secondly, Lib Dem MP’s and Lib Dem PPC’s, will win where they connect with their constituency. I think a great example of this is, Mark Williams, who is the MP for Ceredigion, who is personally liked by his constituency and engages with students at Aberystwyth University. On the Other Hand, I know an MP, who also has a University within his constituency, who will not go onto the University Campus, who is ‘scared’ of students. Frankly, this MP, is fifth in a poll done by Lord Ashcroft.

    I think we should focus on the job on hand, instead of aiming for a ‘balanced parliament’. I want to fight the election on liberal values, not being seen as a moderator of the Labour and Conservative parties. Is our characterisation going to be one of a liberal party, who believes in fairness and justice or one of moderation, where we simply dilute the worst of one of the main parties. We need to rediscover our identity soon. The European Election campaign, was a shambles. Senior Management, should heed lessons from this.

  • IPSOS MORI has us at 8%, whether it is party preference or amongst those actually intending to vote, ie 57%

  • Technical Ephemera 17th Jul '14 - 11:16pm

    Why does the author regard ICM as some sort of gold standard? They had a decent result in 2010 but all the evidence suggests that they are no better than the others post that date. Their methodology is questionable as well because it ignores the Lib Dem discontinuity in 2010 (the Orange Book coup).

  • Tony Dawson 18th Jul '14 - 8:35am

    @Jonathan Pile 1

    “On these results – electoral calculus predict 25 LIB DEM seats in a hung parliament.”

    Electoral Calculus is a silly algorithm of no relevance whatsoever when a Party’s support is below 20 per cent in the national polls, and even then rather limited.

    When you are talking about Party winning only a couple of dozen seats in the UK, the underlying national opinion poll ratings are largely irrelevant. Our 24 most winnable seats are by no means the most demographically favourable to us nor do they have the most fundamentally liberal electorates. They are being held onto, with gritted teeth and massive self-sacrifice, against national trends and despite the vicissitudes of national politicians, by tenacious and politically astute local teams.

  • matt (Bristol) 18th Jul '14 - 9:37am

    I don’t think this points to a revival, more to the fact that the EU elections may not (yet) be a guide to the General Election; which we should have known. I would be more interested to see this broken down geographically and see the Green and Nationalist vote indicated. This is going to be an eleciton where local and regional detail and campaigning matters, particularly given the Scottish situation.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Jul '14 - 9:43am

    Like TE, above, I don’t like the use of broad historical data to refine forecasts … which you can see here http://electionsetc.com/2014/07/04/why-is-the-2015-general-election-forecast-trending/ and http://sotonpolitics.org/2014/07/17/the-polling-observatory-forecast-3-slow-decline-in-conservative-prospects-but-still-too-close-to-call/ from academics rather than campaigners.

    He rightly sees discontinuity with LD history.

    To this I would add, as I have written previously here, I think that elections following deep/lasting recessions are special cases.

    This means that – if there is no significant rise in earnings between now and spring 2015, we should look carefully at 1992 which was a classic ‘sticking with nurse for fear of something worse’ election.

    But if earnings do rise and/or people start to answer more positively that they expect their own/family economic fortunes to be improving, then, 1983 remains a viable model. (To repeat, the Tory recovery began four or five months before the Falklands – ie the turn began December 1981 – and also the Falklands poll boost did begin to subside late 1982.)

    These forecasters both give great weight to changes over last 12 months and so really miss out on the key turn in 1981 and also the collapse of the Alliance support. Something similar will be happening as the UKIP vote continues to subside.

    These academic forecasters are also incapable of factoring in incumbency and LD campaigning expertise – even though I see that Fisher (presently forecasting T304, Lab 290, LD 29) is hoping to address this in months to come.
    My guess from this point in time: Ts 335, Lab 270, LDs 20. That is because I think we are not targeting either the right seats or tightly enough.

    But what do I know? 😉 When in doubt – tighten the targeting.

  • Paul in Wokingham 18th Jul '14 - 9:55am

    Today’s YouGov poll (LD 8%) asks the bi-weekly questions about quality of party leadership and perception of message consistency. The field work was done on Wed/Thur (i.e. just as the the u-turn on bedroom tax story was breaking).

    The poll shows no change in LD ratings on either measure since 2 weeks ago: “Led by people of real ability” – LD still get 3% (lowest of any party). And “they seem to chop and change: you can never be sure what they stand for” – LD still get 30% (highest of any party).

    It will be interesting to see what if any change there is in those numbers in 2 weeks time as the embarrassingly contrived, choreographed “conscious uncoupling” of the coalition partners continues.

  • What bothers me is the encouragement this poll will give to those Conservatives who argue that the way to victory for them is to shift their European policy more and more towards UKIP, as demonstrated by this week’s reshuffle.

  • Julian Critchley 18th Jul '14 - 11:17am


    That doesn’t bother me at all. The more swivel-eyed and frothing the Tories get on Europe (or indeed any issue), the fewer votes they get.

    A lot of clutching at straws here. This is a poll outside the normal range of polls. But it’s still just one poll.


    The guys above need to update their page (2 weeks out of date), but the rolling average of polls suggests no real change.

  • nvelope2003 18th Jul '14 - 9:44pm

    Why does ICM not mention the Greens ?

  • Peter Watson 23rd Jul '14 - 8:01am

    @nvelope2003 “Why does ICM not mention the Greens ?”
    ICM report the Greens in their results. Interestingly though, they don’t seem to prompt for the Greens or UKIP in their question: ” The Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and other parties would fight a new election in your area. If there were a general election tomorrow which party do you think you would vote for?” (http://www.icmresearch.com/data/media/pdf/OmBPC-Jul14-1.pdf). This wording could inflate the measured Lib Dem voting intention.

    Lord Ashcroft’s polling (which does not name any parties when asking about voting intention: ” If there was a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”) this week puts Lib Dems and Greens neck-and-neck on 7%.
    Looking at the figures behind this (http://lordashcroftpolls.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/ANP-140721-Full-data-tables.pdf), Lib Dems actually polled slightly behind the Greens.

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