Encouraging poll news for the Liberal Democrats

The first Scottish opinion polls since the General Election was announced have been published and there’s mixed news for the Liberal Democrats.

Panelbase has us on just 5% (but that’s still up since January) and Survation has us up 1 from the 2015 election at 9%. If we go up at the rate that we have done in every election other than 2015, we could be on for a fair few gains up here. Edinburgh West and North East Fife, both gained from the SNP at Holyrood last year are the top targets but seats like Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross and Charles Kennedy’s old seat of Ross, Skye and Lochaber are definitely in play. Winning back those highland heartlands from the SNP would be a marvellous thing and it is eminently doable.

On a UK level, we’ve gone up 4 points to 12% in a YouGov poll.

And there has been another important development:

UKIP are on the way down, and they certainly don’t seem to have learned any lessons about candidate approval, if one of their Glasgow council candidates is anything to go by. It’s quite something when being in favour of the guillotine and flogging are the mildest of your bizarre views. From the Herald:

She said: “I am not anti-gay – but how can you call that a community? Sex life is everybody’s private affair. You do not come out and declare openly. Do you think I am going all over the city and saying my idea of a sexually-attractive creature is a gorilla? When I go to a zoo and I see a gorilla my hormones go absolutely crazy. I find a gorilla very attractive.”

The mother-of-four was also adamant that mothers should stay at home and look after their young children, adding that councils should withdraw nursery funding.

She said: “When you have very small children it is advisable that you look after them yourself. If a woman is a dentist or a doctor, or in any career important to the community, we should do our best to get her back to work as soon as possible, because such careers shouldn’t really be interrupted. But if somebody sits in an office at a computer, I think her place is at home until the children are bigger.”

This week has seen us rise from the 7-8% levels where we have languished for too long to some consistent 11-12% showings. I’d rather see a slow and steady increase than a massive surge that evaporated.

Tim Farron is playing a blinder in the media at the moment. This morning he’s on Peston on Sunday at 10 am on ITV/STV.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News.


  • The good news is that it only takes a small up-swing in the polls for us get more seats, especially if the rises are coming from people who are switching their vote to keep out a pro-Brexit Tory. On the other hand, I expect the drop in UKIP numbers means a boost to pro-Brexit Tories, to keep out us remoaners.

    The Scottish figures fascinate me, and while I’m applying a large pinch of salt and assuming that they are at the extreme end of margins of error, I’m sure they reflect a definite (albeit smaller) shift. There are many Scots who are fed up with the SNP, and while we are welcoming nose-holding Labour and Tories to vote for our pro-EU stance, the Tories are enjoying an equivalent in Scotland thanks to their firm pro-UK stance, while I fully expect many Tories & Labour to vote tactically for us LibDems in places like Edinburgh West.

    Translating polls to seats will be more complex than usual this time around, as swings will have a lot of regional variation. However, our steady gains over the last few months makes me think it’s not just a few pockets.

  • Bill le Breton 23rd Apr '17 - 9:06am

    It may seem illogical but getting ahead of UKIP for the first time is not good news. Voting UKIP previously is acting as a bridge to the Conservatives for thousands of previous Labour and Lib Dem voters.

    Add four fifth of the 2015 UKIP vote to the Conservative vote and one has a better estimate of the size of the task for us.

    We are going to win some new seats, but they aren’t going to come necessarily from ‘somewhere’ – there going to come from where the ‘anywheres’ congregate in sufficient numbers.

    And the latest YouGov poll shows us ‘unchanged’. Raising expectations only serves to erode a proper targeted approach and risks a huge post polling day ‘downer’ especially among our new members.

    Too many Liberal and Liberal Democrat GE campaigns have been distracted waiting for a non-existent late surge.

  • Sorry I know it’s crazy but getting rather tired of this relentless optimism! Agree with Bill completely. I will not trust a single poll in this election – our share of the vote never correlates to seats anyway and if the ukip votes shifts lock stock and barrel to the tories, we might even lose seats! And the libdems have 95k members, etc. Well so what?! Labour have 500k+ members and they are going to get absolutely trounced!

  • There are two Scottish polls in Sunday’s newspapers – Panelbase for the Sunday Times and Survation for the Sunday Post. Voting intention figures, with changes since the general election in 2015, are below:

    Panelbase/S Times – SNP 44%(-6), CON 33%(+18), LAB 13%(-11), LDEM 5%(-3)
    Survation/S Post – SNP 43%(-7), CON 28%(+13), LAB 18%(-6), LDEM 9%(+1)

  • It’s inevitable. They were essentially a sort of lobby and Brexit means they are redundant. Most of their votes will swing back to the Tories, which is where most of them came from. However, I suspect it won’t effect the balance of the election that much because they were mainly effective in Tory seats and in truth their inroads into Labour and Lib Dems seats were not a as large as claimed.

  • Every Poll over the last 5 days has given us either 11% or 12%, after a couple of Months when we were stuck on 10%. We can expect to do a lot better than that on May 4th, perhaps twice as well. Its way too soon to set limits on what we can do in this Election, so much depends on May 4th & how the Media report the reults on May 5th & 6th.

  • UKIP going down is good for us. Being in 4th place in the polls and having no MPs means the BBC will have to give them less air time than us overall. Recently the “3rd voice” on political matters has tended to be UKIP or SNP. The more we get our message across the easier it will be to convince Remain Tories that we represent their best interest. In elections in the past our percentage in the polls has edged up slowly week by week and we still have nearly 7 weeks. My constituency went Tory a while back but I am campaigning in the locals and will carry on after aiming to win in June.

  • UKIP voters returning to the Conservatives is not necessarily helpful, but Barry is right that being seen to be above them in the polls is important when it comes to media coverage, and persuading hesitant voters that we can overturn considerable majorities.

    Optimism can be dangerous, but it’s a valuable commodity on the doorstep. People like to be associated with a party on the up, and while absolute membership numbers can be misleading (as the Labour party discovered in Richmond), our increases do appear to be genuine, and reflect a satisfaction with our approach, and a desire to do more than sit at home and complain at the tv.

  • I see that UKIP are trying to remain relevant by coming up with distinct policies, such as banning the burka. So they still might pull votes from the more racist and/or paranoid elements of the Tory party as well as the hard-core Brexiteers who still don’t trust the Tories.

  • @Bill Le Breton – I don’t share your view on this. It seems to me that the times when the Liberal Democrats do best in General Elections is exactly when there is no sense of jeopardy – that the outcome is clearly defined. No sensible observer can be in any doubt that this election is going to result in a landslide Conservative win (as John Curtice noted this morning the Tories are looking at 12 seats in Scotland, for goodness sake!) and it is exactly under these circumstances that soft Tories in former Lib Dem seats might be inclined to lend their votes to that hard-working former Lib Dem MP who is standing again.

    I’d be prepared to stick my neck out and suggest that *if* the Liberal Democrats can get to 15% or so in the polls and the Tories stick in the mid to high 40’s, then we could be looking at mid-30’s or so Lib Dem MPs. Just as there was a cliff-edge below which Lib Dem MP numbers collapsed in the 2015 data (and which, of course, is exactly what happened), so there is a reverse cliff-edge at about 15% where the numbers shoot back up.

  • Agree entirely with William Hobhouse. Clearly we are on the up, but this election comes too soon for us. We needed time to refine our non Brexit offer to the electorate and by 2020 the public would have seen the beginning of what a hard Brexit means and would be deserting the Tories in droves. That’s why May has gone for a G.E. now, before things go really sour. Buys her party a bit more time in office.
    Sporting Index spread betting suggests we win 27-30 seats. I’m afraid I’m a seller !

  • paul barker 23rd Apr '17 - 2:37pm

    Just a note on UKIP, despite the best efforts of The BBC an average of the last 7 Polls puts them 3% behind us, on about 8%. They are fading rapidly.
    More generally, lets not put limits on what we can do till the last 3 Weeks of the campaign, things are moving very fast & likely to get faster. This is not a “Normal” Election.

  • Mick Taylor 23rd Apr '17 - 3:57pm

    Chris Cory. We are where we are and our core message is absolutely right. We have to get it across. As for seats? For the first time in my lifetime this is completely open. We have the potential to get a sizeable chunk of the remain vote and if that happens then all bets are off. I do think you haven’t quite grasped the magnitude of this election and that it has the potential to change British politics for ever. The only thing to do is campaign our socks off and grab all the votes we can muster.

  • David Evans 23rd Apr '17 - 5:29pm

    Paul Murray – I think the first part of your analysis is quite sound and ex-MPs who are prepared to fight again for their seats are our best chance of making a good number of gains.

    However, I fear your second part underestimates the effort needed. There is no magic threshold we just have to pass and seats will fall into out hands. We all know, it takes just one bad step to fall off a cliff, but it takes much, much longer to plan and execute an ascent of just one seat. The ex MPs and their local teams know it and their electorate know them and that they are capable of doing the job, but even so they will need as much help as they can get from people in nearby constituencies. Pretending that we just need to hit to some magic number and it will be alright, just encourages people to look no further than their own back yard and the help those ex MPs need will not come.

  • Paul Murray 23rd Apr '17 - 6:38pm

    @David Evans – I don’t disagree – it’s all about targeting, as ever. My point was essentially that a standard model suggests that at about 15% (which might be optimistic given the static polling since Wednesday) the Lib Dems should expect a number of seats in the high 30’s. And it is those seats and those seats *only* to which all resources should be directed in this campaign. I assume that lesson has been learned from 2015.

  • @ Paul Barker
    “We can expect to do a lot better than that on May 4th, perhaps twice as well.”

    I can be optimistic, but to think we can achieve 24% on 8th June is just ridiculous. The Alliance achieved 25.4% in 1983; we achieved 17.8% in 1992 and 23% in 2010 and we will not achieve this in 2017. Normally I think we add 2% during the course of a general election and in 2010 we added 5%. Therefore on a good day hopefully we can achieve 17% (just above what we achieved in 1997) and maybe end up with 46 MPs again.

  • paul barker 23rd Apr '17 - 9:01pm

    @Michael BG
    err, I said May 4th not June 8th.
    Generally our General Election votes are lower than in The Locals so 23% on May 4th would probably give us around 18% on June 8th.

  • Martin Land 23rd Apr '17 - 9:10pm

    Paul Barker has it right. Much will depend on May 4th. Firstly, UKIP’s decline will be confirmed and that will help the Tories. But a strong LD performance combined with a poor Labour showing make help us in squeezing them in our target seats.

  • I reccomend that everyone should read Mark Pack on our prospects. However I disagree with some of his conclusions, in particular I think there are good reasons to beleive that the Polls are still underestimating our support.
    2015 was not a normal Election & that was only 2 Years ago. Put simply, most Voters ideas about us havent moved on from 2015 yet, they still think of us as a broken rabble, limping away from the battlefield.
    The Polls will catch up with changes on the ground as June gets closer & Voters see more of us in action.
    The big unknown is how fast Labour collapses & how many of their ex-voters shift to us, we have to be prepared for almost anything.

  • phil ashley 24th Apr '17 - 1:36am

    Re Mick Taylor
    I believe seats are up for grabs in this election unlike any other since 1920’s. In 2015 15m combined voted for Green, Labour, UKIP, and SNP. Unless Labour recover to about 35%, these 4 will barely GAIN a seat between them. Meaning any voter seeking some sort of change can only choose Lib Dem or Con, or (PC in about 3 seats.)
    Likely disastrous drop in lab vote could lead to all sorts of possibilities leading to by election type swings as tactical voters know exactly where to put their X. Think this is reason why Tories predicted to gain 11 in Scotland. First surge. The 51% non nats may take chance to push SNP right back.
    By elections remind me of 6 nations rugby championship, all about momentum. Think polls will reflect this over campaign.

  • @Mick Taylor. You stole one of my favourite sayings (“We are where we are”), which has the beauty of being undeniably true. My point really was that I felt we were all in danger of getting carried away and that the fact that many constituencies were just not prepared (I assume the target ones were) should also temper expectations.
    I smiled when you suggested that I didn’t realise the magnitude of this election. Perhaps I have just been hardened by past experience, having gone back to my constituency, at David Steels suggestion, to prepare for government, and having experienced the awful disappointment of 1987 when we were convinced that we were going to make a major break through. Mike, I hope you’re right, it’s just I’ve drunken too much flat champagne over the years.
    Far better to say, look, this is a long game. Lets get a solid block of 20-25 MPs, continue to work with others to get the best Brexit we can, develop our policies and strengthen our local parties and build from there.

  • Don’t forget that Labour doing badly is not just good news for us in the “Labour-facing” seats. That plus us no longer seeming to Labour voters like pale Tories should help us a lot in Westcountry and other seats which we won from the Tories largely by squeezing the Labour vote and lost last time.

    That said, yes, cool-headed targeting is crucial. And as for the surge in membership, first, that’s a major long-term gain; and second, I know a lot of our people who joined after the last general election are out working for us. I don’t see a surge in Labour activist numbers to match their membership increase.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Mar '18 - 8:52am

    Vince Cable was on Peston on Sunday, which started with Paddy Ashdown’s ‘asterisk’ poll rating. It was not zero as claimed. It was 0-3% with a margin of error of 3%, somewhere in between.
    We seem to have not retained the support which Charles Kennedy got for his brave stance and lonely stance against the Iraq war. A pity because it helped diversity of membership. “We are now communicating on social media in 21 languages” and looking for support from EU nationals in the local elections.
    Labour MP Caroline Flint “seethed” when Vince announced his findings on OFSTED.
    The Labour Party ‘twice went back on their promises on university tuition fees’.
    “OFSTED is hated by teachers and many parents, The SATS tests are damaging childrens’ education …”

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