Lib Dems and Labour neck-and-neck on 28%, says voting study

Today’s Times publishes a study by Professor Colin Rallings and Professor Michael Thrasher of Plymouth University based on actual votes cast in the dozens of by-elections that take place for council seats each month. Here are the headline findings:

It shows that although David Cameron’s Conservatives have a 10-point lead over Labour as the year draws to a close, the gap has been narrowing since the summer. The by-election model, which has been reworked to take account of different patterns of competition between the parties, has the Tories on 38%, with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats on 28%.

The calculations for December are based on an analysis of voting patterns in 61 contests across the country over the past three months, in which nearly 85,000 votes were cast in total.

And how does this compare with the equivalent period in 1996, the year before Tony Blair came to power?

Rallings and Thrasher have compared the results now with the period a few months before the 1997 election. Then, Labour was on 43%, the Tories 31% and the Lib Dems 23%.

And how would such voting percentages translate into Parliamentary seats, according to Prof. Thrasher?

Translated across the country on the basis of the new constituency boundaries that come into force in 2010, such a result would certainly see David Cameron installed as prime minister but heading a minority government. The Tories would have won over 60 more seats than Labour, with Labour losing more than 100 constituencies — nearly one in three of its current complement of MPs. Cameron, however, with just 311 seats, would be 15 short of the 326 needed for an overall parliamentary majority.”

No Lib Dem figure is given, but if we assume ‘Others’ (Northern Ireland, SNP, Plaid et al) are at roughly 30-35, then Thrasher and Rawlings model appears to place the Lib Dems on c.50 seats. That would seem to me a little on the low side for a model showing a 10% swing from Labour to the Lib Dems since 1997, and only a minimal swing from the Lib Dems to Tories. We shall see.

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13 Comments

  • Silent Hunter 27th Dec '09 - 11:20am

    If the Lib Dems just came out and said that they would, “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES” support a minority Labour Government – I predict they could easily push this corrupt Labour Party into third place.

    I would be happy to vote for them if it wasn’t for fear of letting the appalling Labour Party back in via the back door.

  • Charlie Mansell 27th Dec '09 - 12:05pm

    What this shows very usefully is that the Lib Dem local government vote tends to run about 5-6% above its likely General Election result. The Rallings and Thrasher figures above and the County elections and General on the same day in 1997, 2001 and 2005 tend to show that. Thus what the figures above really show is a Lib Dem General Election figure of about 22%, Bearing in mind the current 19% the Lib Dems are in the polls, these figures seem to show that when real voting occurs and people vote tactically in the 100 or so seats where over half the Lib Dem membership is concentrated they should increase by about 3% during the campaign.

  • If the Lib Dems just came out and said that they would, “UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES” support a minority Tory Government – I predict they could easily push this corrupt Labour Party into third place.

    I would be happy to vote for them if it wasn’t for fear of letting the appalling Tory Party back in via the back door.

  • Oh, no, wait. Perhaps the Lib Dems should try to promote a Liberal Democrat agenda by working constructively with other parties, rather than descending into petty factionalism? We’ve already ruled out coalition, after all…

  • Andrew Suffield 27th Dec '09 - 3:29pm

    This ‘silent hunter’ appears to be yet another one of those people who post the same thing to every thread, ignoring all the ones who point out why they are being silly. Sigh.

  • David Blake 27th Dec '09 - 5:33pm

    Silent Hunter — there will be strange results all over the place this time and much will depend on where people live. Where do you live?

  • It will stay the same old party system until the voting system is changed. The main reason people will not vote Lib Dem is because they see it as a wasted vote.

    I would like to see 3 main parties formed,
    1 a Labour party that is made up from their left wing,
    2 a centre party of the Lab right wing, Tory left/Lib wing,and the Lib Dem party,
    3 and UKIP and the Tory right wing.

    The only way this will happen is if the voting system is changed.

    Then again it is nice to dream.

  • I am amused to see from Dane Clouston’s post that he thinks that the Liberal Party – evidently the Liberal Party to which he is a member (or has recently been a member), not the Liberal Democrat Party – is “beating about the bush [about its attitude to the EU] under its present leadership”. Does it not occur to him that if even his own party is not currently keen on EU withdrawal, it is he who is wrong about the EU and that the rest of the liberally minded portion of the electorate who want to stay in the EU are right ?

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