New Ashcroft report show Lib Dems gaining ground in majority of seats polled

Lord Ashcroft has released some new polls in six Liberal Democrat/Conservative marginals and two Liberal Democrat/Labour marginals, including Nick Clegg’s seat.

In all but two of the seven Lib Dem held seats,  the Liberal Democrats are gaining ground. In Cambridge, Julian Huppert has pulled head of his Labour rival. He has gained ten points in six months to have a 9 point lead. There is absolutely no room for complacency, though.

Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall), Andrew George (St Ives), Adrian Sanders (Torbay) have slight leads and have gained ground since the previous polls.. Ashcroft emphasises that it’s all very much in the margin of error but it’s going in the right direction. In Sheffield Hallam, Nick Clegg has halved the gap between himself and Labour. What’s interesting is that Clegg’s vote has leapt up by 7 points – but Labour have gained 6 points as Greens and UKIP support has fallen. Even despite that fall in support of the smaller parties, Clegg has closed the gap to within the margin of error.

Ashcroft finds a movement to the Conservatives in both Nick Harvey’s North Devon seat and Stephen Gilbert’s St Austell and Newquay. In North Devon, our vote has actually gone up and in St Austell it’s stayed the same – but UKIP’s vote has melted back to the Conservatives.

In Camborne and Redruth, which Julia Goldsworthy is trying to win back, the news is not so good, with the Liberal Democrats having a bit of a mountain to climb as the Conservatives gain ground. Update: It’s worth incorporating this comment from someone who actually knows the area, Mathew McCarthy, into the main post:

Knowing Camborne, Redruth & Hayle as well as I do know (having been campaigning there pretty much full time since December 2013) this polling simply does not reflect the reality on the ground. We’ve been gaining serious ground in council by elections, winning one from 4th place last summer, and we know we’re in with a shout in May. We have an amazing candidate who is more well known than the current MP and is more popular amongst undecided voters.

We’re working absolutely flat out to deliver a great result in May, and I know Lib Dem teams across the whole country are doing the same. All I have to say to those Liberal Democrats campaigning flat out across Cornwall and South West England and indeed everywhere is thank you for the amazing effort you’re putting in.

Ashcroft directly tackles our criticism that he doesn’t name the candidates:

However, I have not gone so far as to name individual candidates, as the Lib Dems do in their own private polling. Doing so usually boosts the Lib Dem vote share (especially when, as in the Lib Dems’ research, the voting intention question is preceded by a warm-up question asking whether the respondent has a favourable opinion of the incumbent, of whose name they are reminded). Whether this produces a more accurate assessment of real voting intentions is a different question. Indeed I have coined the term “comfort polling” to describe the practice of parties conducting research in such a way as to maximise their own apparent vote share.

On balance I continue to think that when people are prompted to consider their own area and the local candidates, an MP’s personal reputation should be baked in to their voting decisions. This should be especially true a few weeks before an election, when people are inundated with literature adorned with images of the local hero’s beaming countenance.

I suspect that the voter on polling day will be more like the example in our poll, having had many, recent prompts about their local Lib Dem who’s been a great MP. In this election the party’s operation to get out the vote will be more important than ever. Given the closeness of these results, seats could be lost on the day. We can’t afford to screw this up.

Our campaigners on the ground know all this and they are clearly doing very effective work as we can see from the polls. The party knows how crucial polling day and the GOTV operation will be which is why they have run extra training to make sure that it’s all done properly.

Ashcroft’s polls bear out what every Liberal Democrat has been saying in tv and radio studios up and down the country – that where we can get our message across, we are doing much better than our national poll rating would suggest. Our key seats are most definitely winnable and our efforts over the next five weeks are crucial. The clear message from these polls must be: we can do this.

 

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

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20 Comments

  • The fear is that the UKIP vote will break further and predominately go to the Cons. Could then leave us with nothing in the West country. The Falmouth and Cambourne position is dire a drop of 24% since 2010 and no doubt replicates our problem of 600 constituencies nation wide..

  • I lean toward your analysis Caron. Name recognition will be a significant factor and I think Ashcroft ignores it at his peril (so to speak).

  • Everybody knows Nick Clegg’s name.

    This is not necessarily an advantage.

  • Labour are well ahead of their 2010 vote in all 8 seats, I think they will be reasonably happy with Ashdown’s poll.

  • Straws and clutching

  • Phil Beesley 1st Apr '15 - 8:14pm

    “Ashcroft emphasises that it’s all very much in the margin of error but it’s going in the right direction. ”

    “Ashcroft finds a movement to the Conservatives in both Nick Harvey’s North Devon seat and Stephen Gilbert’s St Austell and Newquay.”

    “Ashcroft directly tackles our criticism that he doesn’t name the candidates:”

    You know what. The more you read about Ashcroft, the less you understand Ashcroft’s role in UK politics.

  • I doubt the people of Sheffield Hallam need prompting into who their MP is,, does not say much for Clegg if people in the constituency do not know the deputy prime minister is their local MP.

    It would probably be the reverse in Nick Cleggs situation anyway and naming him would drop support.

    I wonder how many Tories are going to be cajoled into voting Nick Clegg tactically in order to keep out Labour?

    I see it has been suggested that the Conservatives thus far do not seem to be putting up much of a campaign in Sheffield Hallam only 13% of those polled had received literature from the Conservatives.

  • Philip Rolle 1st Apr '15 - 8:32pm

    It would be a truly appalling result were North Devon to be lost. A Conservative council has closed care homes there and one would have thought the Conservative candidate would have been adversely impacted by that, as well as by the significant UKIP vote.

  • Mathew McCarthy 1st Apr '15 - 9:13pm

    Knowing Camborne, Redruth & Hayle as well as I do know (having been campaigning there pretty much full time since December 2013) this polling simply does not reflect the reality on the ground. We’ve been gaining serious ground in council by elections, winning one from 4th place last summer, and we know we’re in with a shout in May. We have an amazing candidate who is more well known than the current MP and is more popular amongst undecided voters.

    We’re working absolutely flat out to deliver a great result in May, and I know Lib Dem teams across the whole country are doing the same. All I have to say to those Liberal Democrats campaigning flat out across Cornwall and South West England and indeed everywhere is thank you for the amazing effort you’re putting in.

  • Philip Thomas 1st Apr '15 - 10:19pm

    @malc. Ashcroft and Ashdown are different people, even though I’ve never seen them in the same room
    Yes, I thought this was good polling for us, it suggests we might keep some seats in Devon and Cornwall. UKIP seems to have got off to an even slower start than the Tories…

  • The Sheffield Hallam poll is the most successful April Fool’s joke of the day. Prior to 1997, Sheffield Hallam was a safe Tory seat. It has never been Labour, or come anywhere close to being Labour. Even in the Blair landslide years of 1997 and 2001, Labour came third. Labour will come third again on 7th May. The only thing that could stop Nick Clegg coming first is people believing that Labour can win.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 1st Apr '15 - 11:25pm

    @Mathew Thanks from that local insight. I’ve copied your comment into the main post because I thought it was relevant.

  • Sesenco

    Since it’s not even one of Labours target seats and with it’s past voting history, I agree it’s is unlikely the LibDems will lose Sheffield Hallam. However, Labour have been ahead in the only four polls I’ve seen this year, so we might just be underestimating how unpopular Nick Clegg really is.

  • Given that Ashcroft’s constituency polls are a new phenomena, and we have no past methodologies to compare them against it’s perfectly possible that they have an inbuilt bias we are unaware of. Certainly his national polls swing about much more wildly than those from other companies suggesting they are prone to distortion. However, it’s plausible that Clegg is a lightening rod for criticism of the coalition in his constituency and the polls are correct.

    Are the Lib Dems preparing for this possibility? Who would lead coalition negotiations were Clegg to lose his seat? Further to this, to aid the voters of Sheffield Hallam, who do the Lib Dems prefer as coalition partners, Labour or the Conservatives?

  • I saw Nick Clegg and Norman Lamb give a press conference about Health policy including improved funding for Mental Health treatment. I was very impressed by their knowledge and commitment to the issue. I am sure the good people of Sheffield Hallam will re-elect Nick to represent them in the future.

  • Philip Thomas 2nd Apr '15 - 12:52pm

    Could it be this is a cunning ruse to divert Labour and Liberal Democrat resources away from Tory-facing seats?
    Even if it isn’t deliberate, that is a likely effect!

    As for preferred coalition partner- Simon is right we don’t have one. Simon’s position I believe is we ought not to enter coalition at all, but you don’t have to be that dogmatic to see that there’s no point picking a coalition partner in advance of the result (Although apparently this happens in Danish elections, at least if you believe TV Drama shows).

  • The historic demographics of Cambourne and Redruth, particularly the Labour vote, probably play a part there. What we should be wary of is speaking up polls that are helpful to us and downgrading those that are not. There is line of reality.
    Truro and Falmouth has, in my view, a better Lib Dem demographic. When polled 6 months or so ago Ashcroft had it Cons 33, UKIP 22, Labour 18, ourselves 16%. Given the apparent overall movement in Devon and Cornwall of a falling UKIP vote it is probable that Cons have moved up and Lib Dems are now second. If the Labour vote there can be heavily squeezed it could again be reasonably close but with the Conservative still probably ahead..

  • The only seat where the Lib Dems have gained ground in these polls is Cambridge. Fantastic news as Julian is an excellent Lib Dem. We are now 7% behind in North Devon compared to 1% behind in November, 24% behind in Camborne and Redruth compared to 15% previously, and 6% behind in St Austell compared to 1% in September.
    St Ives, North Cornwall, Torbay and Sheffield Hallam are essentially unchanged as neck and neck between Lib Dem and their nearest rivals.

    As for the relatives merits of sampling 1000 electors in Camborne or taking the view of a key Lib Dem activist, its rather too sad to have to point out which one is more accurate.

    If after 6 months of targeting activity we are not doing better I expect 38 degrees will be onto us for a more accurate headline – after all we are sticklers for accuracy ? Support being slightly up is not the same as gaining ground.

  • SIMON BANKS 2nd Apr '15 - 10:27pm

    “In Cambridge, Julian Huppert has pulled head of his Labour rival”. That’s good news. I assume the word “the” has gone missing before “head”.

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