Latest ICM poll shows Lib Dems at 14%. I’d call that “mildly encouraging”

guarian icm - jan 2014The latest ICM poll for The Guardian is published today. Its topline figures show Labour on 35% (-2%), the Tories on 32% (n/c), with the Lib Dems on 14% (+2%) and Ukip on 10% (+1%).

The changes from last month are all within the margin of error, so nothing too dramatic can be read into it. The ratings are mildly encouraging for the Lib Dems. The ICM poll at the equivalent point in the parliamentary cycle – January 2009 – had the party at 16%. ICM’s poll is the one most eagerly awaited by poll-watchers, as the company has the best historic track record. It also tends to give the Lib Dems better ratings (than, say, YouGov) because of its methodology – but it’s a methodology which has yet to be tested under Coalition conditions.

Input the figures into Electoral Calculus’s online prediction software and you’ll see they’d give Labour a majority of 24, with the Lib Dems reduced to 35 seats. In reality, I think the Lib Dems would do a little better than that on 14%, owing to the incumbency boost of our MPs’ (and local activists’) hard work – which would also likely eat into Labour’s seat tally, as it’s the Lib Dem-Labour battlegrounds where we’re most vulnerable.

The Tories’ stagnant ratings will trouble the party given the poll’s finding that economic optimism is definitely on the up: ‘a narrow majority of 52% of voters are now confident about their own financial position, and “ability to keep up with the cost of living”, the highest score on this question since October 2010’.

Conventionally, you’d expect this to boost the governing party’s (or, in the case of the Coalition, parties’) poll ratings. Yet its only apparent effect this month has been to subdue Labour’s ratings. The reason why not is presumably Ukip’s strong showing, driven in large part by immigration concerns. ICM’s findings are interesting:

Younger voters are much more evenly split on the immigration question, but there are two segments of the electorate where opinion is completely out of kilter with the rest. First, professionals, in the so-called AB occupational grades, who by 50% to 35%, say migration has been good for the country. Secondly, Ukip supporters, who – by a crushing majority of 91% to just 2% – take the opposite view, and insist that the effect is to take jobs and depress pay.

That younger, professional voters – mainstays of Lib Dem support – are least likely to buy the immigrant myths of the media (and politicians) will hopefully encourage the party leadership to stick to a principled line that recognises the benefits of free movement of people.

* 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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  • Charles Beaumont 14th Jan '14 - 12:48pm

    And would it persuade Tories to embrace PR? Probably not, but it’s nice to dream.

  • @Joe Otten
    “Would that be the worst mandate ever for a majority government?”

    No surely that would be 1951 when Labour won the popular vote yet the Tories formed a majority Government. It would be wrong but not the worst mandate ever….

  • Geoffrey Payne 14th Jan '14 - 1:10pm

    Maybe with Nick Clegg starting to fight back on benefits people are starting to notice? I do not think there is much to be said about it for now from just 1 poll. The European elections will be a big moment and how the polls readjust afterwards will give us a good idea of where things are going.

  • The national picture is not that useful, really we need to see local allocations of attitudes to undersadn the impact the more minority parties are sen as important the more impact local distribution will matter.

    “Ukip’s strong showing, driven in large part by immigration concerns”

    Hopefully in 12 months time when the predicted “wave” of immigration fails to materialise that will fall back.

  • What about the YouGov & Populous polls that consistently put Labour higher, and the Lib Dems lower? These haven’t been much reported on this site.

  • Could just be a blip. But the recent disagreements in the coalition from immigration to under 25’s benefits to Europe to married couple allowances has meant the Lib Dems have been more in the press than Labour recently. In fact having a coalition is a real pain for Labour as the ‘official’ opposition viewpoint is being squeezed out of the media by the opposition within government.

    Might have contributed to the 2% bump. The Euro elections are going to be fascinating..

  • “Input the figures into Electoral Calculus’s online prediction software and you’ll see they’d give Labour a majority of 24, with the Lib Dems reduced to 35 seats. In reality, I think the Lib Dems would do a little better than that on 14%, owing to the incumbency boost of our MPs”

    The problem with what you have said there though is that 6 Liberal Democrats have already announced that they are not standing at the next election, something like 1/9th of the current Liberal Democrat MP’s, so the party is set to loose the “incumbency boost” in those seats.
    How many more Liberal Democrats between now and the election will announce that they are not going to stand.

  • paul barker 14th Jan '14 - 2:28pm

    Im sorry but VI Polls are not designed as a predictive tool, they dont even ask about the next Election but an imaginary one that always happens “Tomorrow.”
    If we are going to use them as a a predictive tool then compare like with like, ie a fall of 2% since 5 years ago. That would “predict” a Libdem vote share of 22% in 2015.

  • @paul barker

    “Im sorry but VI Polls are not designed as a predictive tool”

    Unless you are talking about Labour of course.

    It is always quite amusing to read your posts and the contradictory manor in which you use polls.
    When you slate the polls as meaningless when they reference Liberal Democrats and predictions.
    But you use polls in an attempt to strengthen your argument when talking about the woes and predictions of Labour.

  • Polls are not meaningless, but two data points on a graph do not amount to a trend, or even the *suggestion* of a trend. One can only assess a trend after a long string of data shows a consistent change. It is *impossible* to know beforehand whether a point-shift reflects the beginning of a trend, or is just a statistical outlier.
    ICM also has results that are consistently different to other polls. This is because they filter voters according to a different methodology, one which considers them very unlikely to vote if they did not vote in the previous election. The results are therefore skewed toward the results of the previous election. If, for instance, UKIP has succeeded in mobilising a large number of new voters, they would be poorly represented in ICM’s polls. If a large number of former Lib Dem voters are now disillusioned with politics and unlikely to vote in 2015 (let’s hope this is not true, but it can be assumed for the sake of the example) then their opinion would be overrepresented compared to what results actually would be if there were an election today.

  • Did Nate Silver die in vain 🙂

  • A Social Liberal 14th Jan '14 - 4:22pm

    Oh dear, oh dear!

    A Sunday Times/ YouGov poll done the day before tells a much different story. voting intention figures there were CON 31%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%.

  • The most recent polls are Populus on 12%, Yougov on 11% and ICM on 14%, which averaged out makes around 12%.

    I think this is probably about right. ICM is always unusually favourable to the Lib Dems because it allocates don’t knows to the different parties on the basis of past voting.

    Whatever one ICM poll says, we have a large chunk of 4-5% of the electorate who have gone to Don’t Know but haven’t defected to Labour. We need to give them positive things to vote for. If we can at least do that, we have a fighting chance of reaching the 16% mark, at which point things start looking halfway OK, as long as we really target our resources on constituencies we hold already.

    Whatever ICM shows, we still have an electoral mountain to climb and only just over a year in which to do it.

  • Joe Otten at first comment – it would be a repeat of Labour’s 2005 win – 55% of seats on 35% of vote.

  • I voted LibDem in 2010. Soon after the election I posted on this site that I would not be voting LibDem again. Several “Libdemmers” posted in reply that voters like me would surely return to the LDs come the next election. They were, and are wrong. A question for LibDem supporters; “who would you trust most regarding the NHS, Shirley Williams or Polly Toynbee?” I think the way things have turned out, Ms Toynbee just has the edge! Apparently, Baroness Williams wants patients to pay for GP consultations…….. And that from someone who was a Minister in the Party of Mr Aneurin Bevan. Do we really need to look of reasons why the electorate’s trust in politicians is at an all-time low.

  • @ A social Liberal
    Why choose that poll and not the most recent Yougov poll which shows us at 11%?
    Selective quoting of figures. Oh dear!

  • The Conservatives, at 32%, look as though they’re bumping along the ocean floor, holding on to their core vote with few switchers. Only the fractured opposition makes their position look anything other than hopeless. But there’s a fly in the ointment, and that’s UKIP. 32% may be substantially more than the Tories’ core vote, because a chunk of that vote has gone to UKIP. If, as seems likely, UKIP gets squeezed like a tube of toothpaste in 2015, how much of their current support is going to return to the Tories? All of it would put the Tories back where they were in 1983, 1987 and 1992. Half of it might still give them an overall majority. I don’t anticipate that the Tories will win many more seats from Labour. In order to get an outright majority, they have to ruthlessly target the 38 Liberal Democrat seats where they are second, and I fully expect them to do that. It would indeed be a tragic irony if the moderating influence of the Liberal Democrats made the Tories sufficiently electable to achieve an outright win.

  • DaveN wrote:

    “I voted LibDem in 2010. Soon after the election I posted on this site that I would not be voting LibDem again. Several “Libdemmers” posted in reply that voters like me would surely return to the LDs come the next election. They were, and are wrong.”

    Supposing you lived in one of the 38 constituencies held by the Lib Dems where the Tories are second. How would you feel if you withdrew your vote for the Lib Dems and the Tories won by one vote, and the Tories formed a government with a majority of one seat?

    I think you’ll concede that a majority Tory government would go a long way further down the road to privatisation of the Health Service than Baroness Williams would.

    Stopping the Tories means voting for the party best placed to beat the Tories. We cannot afford the luxury of doing anything else.

  • “ICM is always unusually favourable to the Lib Dems because it allocates don’t knows to the different parties on the basis of past voting.”

    Yes, that is obviously a significant difference between ICM and YouGov as far as the Lib Dem rating is concerned. And we just can’t tell on the basis of past history whether ICM’s methodology will remain valid when the Lib Dems have been in government. Clearly it could make a difference compared with past elections.

  • ICM has been rather up and down between about 11% and about 14% for some time now. 11% on YouGov is at the upper end of the range over the last year or two. There might be a flicker in an upward direction. It is becoming obvious (the broadsheets call this “differentiation” as we near the election) that Clegg and the leadership are making more comment favourable to the left-leaning elements in and out of the party, implicitly recognising, at long last, that that is the only way to get anywhere near a respectable vote share in 2015. It is, of course, too late now – most of that vote is not wooable while NC and colleagues are still in power, but it might give the party an extra 2 – 3%.

  • paul barker 14th Jan '14 - 9:16pm

    My objection to the use of VI Polls is that commentators often talk as if they were the only Polls, ignoring other Polls like those on Party Leaders or possible Governments which often give a very different picture.
    If we are going to look at VI Polls then obviously we shouldnt just be looking at 2 Polls. Steven quoted 2 Polls & I commented on them. For short term comparisons I normally use one of the Polling averages but they are no use for comparisons with 5 years ago because of the massive expansion of Yougov polling.
    Obviously its pointless to compare a Poll from one company with one from a different company, all subject the Raw Figures to massive manipulation, based on different assumptions.
    Libdem & UKIP figures typically vary by a factor of 2 or 3 between different Polling Organisations, completely swamping any shifts over time.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Jan '14 - 10:09pm


    The 12th Jan poll is the last one reported on Polling Report, which is why I didn’t refer to a later one

  • Peter Watson 14th Jan '14 - 10:28pm

    This graph shows ICM polling since 2005 (
    I would not call it at all encouraging.

  • Looking at the BBC electoral calculator map putting in these figures, I only see a handful of seats left where we are ‘fighting Labour’. Actually, defecting votes to Labour are more likely to deliver Tories seats in Lib Dem/Tory marginals of which there are far more if we have roughly these vote shares.

  • Sesenco. Thank you for the constituency data that you supplied, I am aware of what you are saying. The reason for my not voting LibDem again is not one of a tactical numbers game. It is simply that I do not trust the Liberal Democrats to implement (or even attempt to implement) policies that they claim to believe in. For example, I believe that the leadership of your party is now headlong in favour of commercialising the NHS – hence my reference to the “fraças by newspaper” between Baroness Williams and Ms Toynbee. I studied both ladies’ arguments and after a little research I came to the conclusion that Polly Toynbee was correct in just about every respect. There is no doubt that Mr Clegg and Mrs Williams were doing Mr Lansley’s work for him, “……no top down reorganisation of the NHS……”. If you are saying that it would have been worse if the LibDems hadn’t been in government, I disagree.

  • I think a slight uptick over the coming months is likely for various reasons: a sense out there that the economy is finally picking up; Clegg on good form recently/currently; more differentiation and us appearing the more moderate/reasonable party in each case; greater discipline recently in terms of sticking to a simple proposition (“strong economy, fairer society”); Tories moving to the right and turning on each other; especially over Europe; Labour not offering much of an alternative; and the centre ground therefore becoming more available. This would also explain the uptick in membership? I don’t think it’s cause for breaking out the champagne yet but wouldn’t be surprised to see us up around 16-17% by the end of the year.

  • Jonathan Brown 15th Jan '14 - 11:46pm

    @DaveN – I haven’t read the Toynbee/Williams articles so can’t comment on them, but I’d like to make two points.

    Firstly is that Polly Toynbee was able to ‘put a clothes peg on her nose’ and vote for Labour despite PFI, despite ID cards, attempted 90 day detentions without trial, the increasing of income tax on the poorest workers and, of course – the illegal Iraq war which killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, hundreds of British casualties and cost a fortune.

    I’m not criticising you for voting on principle and abandoning a party you believe has abandoned its values, but it’s hardly fair to compare shifts in messaging, policy (and even, dare I say it, principle?) by Lib Dems in coalition with a nasty party 5 times our size with the awful things Labour did in power with huge majorities. (And no, it wasn’t all bad, but then I suspect you’re not accusing Lib Dems of being all bad either.)

    Secondly, on the NHS. As uncomfortable as I am to admit it, I think it may be true that some of the top Lib Dems are more compfortable with a partially privatised / insurance based model for the NHS than most of us members want. It’s also completely fair to accuse Lib Dems of handling the NHS issue badly, and of having made mistakes. But it is NOT fair to say that we’re just ‘privatising the NHS for the Tories’. Really, if Clegg, Laws and others were closet Tories, they’d have joined the Conservatives and taken the safe seats and prospect of real power that doing so would have entailed, rather than sticking with a party destined until a fluke of television, hard work and circumstances put the tiny Lib Dems in to (sort of) power. We have fought long and hard for the NHS. We’ve had bruising battles at conference over the approach to take. After party rebellions at the direction things were going, there was a year ‘pause’ in which many things were changed. People like Paul Burstow and Norman Lamb have worked tirelessly on these issues (and I’m sure others too, but I’m somewhat more aware of these two examples). We haven’t ended up with something perfect. Even if we’d implemented Lib Dem policy in full, I’m sure it wouldn’t be perfect. But as with so many other issues in this parliament, we’re stuck trying to make the best of being between the extreme Tories and a Labour party who’s certainly been willing in the past to do most things they accuse the Tories (and us) of – privatising health services, cutting benefits, etc.

    So I hope you will consider voting Lib Dem again. No, we’re absolutely not perfect. No, we don’t make the right judgement calls every time. But this party is full of people trying to bring their experience (and experiences) to the benefit of the country, and we’re doing so at a time when politically and economically we’ve been since 2010 between one hell of a rock and a hard place.

  • But doesn’t ICM allocate a big % of the Don’t Know’s to the party they voted for in 2010 ?
    Which will of course flatter the Lib Dem vote.

    In other polling recently –
    YouGov/Sunday Times at the weekend Lib Dems 9%
    YouGov 14th Jan Lib Dems 10%. Last night 10%

    Still as they say, the real poll is on election day. We shall see what the voters decide.

  • Bill Chapman 16th Jan '14 - 10:25am

    The latest poll on voting intentions for the Euro-elections put the Liberal Democrats on 9% for the Euro-elections (with a prediction of no seats at all) and 10% for the Westminster elections. Nothing “mildly encouraging” here. I won’t mention the Chris Rennard fiasco, which could bring the LibDem share even lower.

  • nvelope2003 16th Jan '14 - 3:11pm

    Maybe the reason why the Conservatives polled less votes than Labour in the 1951 General Election but still won it was that they did not contest every seat while the Labour Party did, at least in Great Britain. There were some straight fights between Liberals and Labour. I believe that 1951 was the first general election when Labour contested every seat.

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