New ICM poll: Do you want the okay-ish news or the bad news?

Let’s start with the okay-ish news… ICM, the ‘gold standard’ pollster, has the Lib Dems at 13% in the Guardian’s latest monthly survey. That wouldn’t usually be much to write home about – it is after all 10% lower than the party scored at the last general election – but after a string of polls showing the Lib Dems in single digits, there will be something of a sigh of relief from Great George Street.

icm poll - may 2014

In fact, there’s a second bit of okay-ish news, which I’ll come to in a minute. Let’s first note, though, that ICM show the Tories leading Labour. It’s only a slim lead, 2%, and the fact that both parties’ poll shares combined totals just 64% suggest a distinct lack of enthusiasm for either. But, still, a year from the general election a Tory lead is news. It would have been bigger news but for the fact that just a couple of hours earlier another poll conducted for Lord Ashcroft also showed a 2% Tory lead. For Labour to lose its two-year long poll lead once today might be considered a misfortune, but twice…

Right, that promised second slice of okay-ish news… More people think Nick Clegg is doing a good job (30%) than think Ed Miliband (26%) is doing a good job. Unfortunately 51% think they’re doing a bad job, though that does convert into Clegg enjoying a better (or less worse) net rating than Miliband, -21% compared with -25%. The two most popular politicians, though, are David Cameron and George Osborne. Anyone who’d bought stock in Osborne in September 2012 when (ahem) I recommended doing so would by now be sitting on a healthy profit.

icm poll leadership - may 2014

I can’t put it off any longer. There’s a big sting in the tail for the Lib Dems in the ICM poll… It shows the party languishing in fifth place for the European elections on just 7%, behind the Tories (27%), Ukip (26%), Labour (24%) and the Greens (10%). If this were reflected in the actual result it would be deeply disappointing for the Lib Dems, and would leave the Tories jubilant and Ukip a touch deflated. The only party that might be even more despondent than us would be Labour: trailing in third place would be a disaster for the official opposition.

I have to say, much as I’m inclined to trust ICM on Westminster voting intentions, I’m a little bit dubious about their Euro-polling – as I was last month, when they suggested Labour was massively out in front on 36%, with Ukip well back in third place. Low turn-out elections are hard to measure. It doesn’t ‘feel’ right to me, but we’ll see in less than a fortnight.

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

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Polls.


  • And if we go all the way back to yesterday, YouGov put Labour 7% ahead.

  • Andrew Suffield 12th May '14 - 9:52pm

    Euro elections that are simultaneous with other elections in some but not all parts of the country render polling data almost useless – the differential turnout is all over the damn place. Anything could happen.

    That poll isn’t a promising sign, but this election is set up for crazy results in the Euros. I expect to cringe at the results – not because they’re bad for us specifically, but because they’ll be bad for everybody, bearing little resemblance to popular opinion.

  • This poll has all the hallmarks of being a rogue one.

    Huge swings in a period when nothing of significance has happened is highly suspect. Sadly, we won’t know for sure until the next poll in 4 weeks time except of course, the elections will have taken place & ICM can be shown to be correct or not.

  • Peter Watson 12th May '14 - 11:34pm

    The Lib Dem 13% might be different from the 10% or less of other pollsters, but since the ICM range for Lib Dems has been 10-15% for more than two years then I doubt there will be any sighs of relief in Great George Street. The Labour lead may fluctuate and even disappear, but nothing appears to be moving Lib Dems’ out of the polldrums.

  • Peter Watson 12th May '14 - 11:37pm

    Oops – a quick mea culpa before RC pounces on that rogue apostrophe 😉

  • Eddie Sammon 12th May '14 - 11:43pm

    I’m optimistic for the Lib Dems because the EU reform agenda is being made clearer. The public want reform, UKIP would reduce UK influence, Labour wouldn’t reform and the Conservatives aren’t offering the middle way, but UKIP light. We should also push ALDE more and tie the other parties to PES and EPP. Greens would destroy the economy.

    The Lib Dems are the only party that can reform the EU, make immigration sustainable, tax the rich, stand up for local business, reform benefits and make the cuts necessary to have a credible economic argument.

    The biggest risk posing the party is a 1992 Black Wednesday scenario with capital flight as people get scared of the unsustainable monetary policy, or the public get sufficiently worried about housing and pensions ( its indirect effects).

    I’ll try to make a better contribution besides on here, but I think a balanced agenda that leads as well as listens to the public is what they want.

  • That’s one poll out of four today:
    YouGov/Sun – CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 14%
    Populus – CON 35%, LAB 36%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%
    Ashcroft – CON 34%, LAB 32%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 15%
    ICM/Guardian – CON 33%, LAB 31%, LDEM 13%, UKIP 15%

    Lib Dems at 13% is, unfortunately, clearly an outlier. Labour and the Tories neck and neck is not.

  • It’s not really that much of a surprise, as Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has been steadily narrowing over the past month. What’s a little mysterious is where Labour’s votes have been going. They haven’t been going to the Tories, whose VI has remained steady. They certainly haven’t been going to the Lib Dems. They’re not even going to UKIP — at least, not more than about a point. They may be going to other parties, or perhaps to “don’t knows.”

  • Charles Rothwell 13th May '14 - 7:28am

    What I find encouraging in this poll is Lib Dems neck and neck with UKIP (unlike the Euro elections (the whole point of which under the current voting system I am coming ever more to doubt. It is clear as anything that millions of people across the whole of the EU now see these as an opportunity to ‘let off steam’/’get it out of their systems’ and that (as is always maintained about many referenda), how they vote has de facto relatively very little to do with what the elections are purportedly meant to be dealing with). Also encouraging is the -39% for Farage. Does this mean that others are coming to see Farage for the nasty piece of work he really is underneath the beer and fags/just one of the little people image and gurning in front of the cameras (as very many (especially women) have discovered who have worked closely with him over the years: In any case, although the Euro elections will probably be a disaster/on a par with when the Greens beat us, I am confident that, as Eddie Salmon says, there is a lot to feel confident about in the longer run.

  • Charles Rothwell 13th May '14 - 7:41am

    It is going to be VERY challenging but, to follow on from David-1’s posting and question, there is hardly any doubt as to where Labour’s “new voters” came from (after the tuition fees debacle) and, in my view, everything which can be done needs to be done to “bring them home again”. I presume it was thought the “IN” campaign would help to do this, but it appears much more is needed. This needs to be a primary issue in the coming year, starting with the post-Euro analysis and, in particular, being thrashed out in the Autumn Conference. I still think there are wide groups of voters to be won (ex-supporters who have dallied with Labour (and not been especially impressed with what they have seen), Tories who (amazingly) tend to pay more regard to what organisations like the CBI (in reports yesterday) have to say about the effect of all the anti-EU tirades on FDI than to Cameron’s dancing around on a pin-head, people who voted Green in the Euros but who know they have no chance in their constituency, people tempted by the Kippers in the Euros but who then get to have a closer look at their policies beyond “Vote for us to get out of Europe and instantly return to the paradise of 1950s Britain!” and do not at all like what they see (flat rate taxes etc))

  • Peter Watson 13th May '14 - 8:19am

    @David-1 “Lib Dems at 13% is, unfortunately, clearly an outlier.”
    @Charles Rothwell “What I find encouraging in this poll is Lib Dems neck and neck with UKIP”
    Neither of these are quite right. ICM have consistently reported higher voting intention figures for Lib Dems than UKIP, and the reversal in this poll is a little unusual and not a good thing for Lib Dems (but might simply reflect that voters are thinking about the imminent european election). Compared to other pollsters, ICM weight more heavily based upon the vote at the previous election, so their approach would benefit Lib Dems and Conservatives while penalising Labour and UKIP. Obviously ICM do this because they believe it is more accurate, not because of any bias, but it is important to consider polling figures “in the round” rather than read the runes we want to see in any single poll.

  • “Compared to other pollsters, ICM weight more heavily based upon the vote at the previous election, so their approach would benefit Lib Dems and Conservatives while penalising Labour and UKIP. Obviously ICM do this because they believe it is more accurate, not because of any bias, but it is important to consider polling figures “in the round” rather than read the runes we want to see in any single poll.”

    This is why it’s silly to refer to ICM as a “gold standard” based on past performance (and even that is not as clear-cut as ICM’s fans would have us believe). The difference in the Lib Dem rating between ICM and other pollsters reflects an assumption about “don’t knows” returning to their former parties. That may or may not be borne out, but an appeal to history isn’t adequate to justify it, given that the current political situation is unprecedented.

  • @ Peter
    “Oops – a quick mea culpa before RC pounces on that rogue apostrophe”

    The odd slip of the finger on the keyboard is excusable. Only persistent and flagrant apostrophe offenders incur my pedantic wrath.

  • ICM almost always gives us a better score, so there is nothing exceptional in the 13%. I suspect that the 7% Euro rating is an outlier, with 9% or so from other polls being the real figure. This is still in deep danger territory for the Lib Dems for both the locals and the Euros.

    Rather than clutching at straws, we should be out there fighting to keep some of our MEPs. Many are doing a good job and if you explain on the doorstep what they are doing in parliament, people actually respond quite positively. They just don’t know anything about what is at stake and who their MEPs are. It’s a lack of information and communication apart from our dreadful “Party of in” slogan that is holding us back.

  • Heading for disaster in 10 days?

  • John Roffey 13th May '14 - 9:03am

    There is plenty of ammunition here for the Party to stage a recovery for the GE – however, as I have previously posted – it will have to support a referendum on our membership of the EU to be given much chance by the electorate – because one is seen as long overdue from a democratic point of view:

    The list in the article shows why it is necessary for the Party to survive [still very much in doubt], but what is needed is an EU neutral, left of centre party to fill the gap.

  • ‘A “rogue poll” – a poll whose results you don’t agree with’

    A “gold standard” – a poll whose results you agree with but which contradicts all the other polls from the last couple of weeks and the flat long term average over the last three and a half years.

  • Will Barter 13th May '14 - 9:17am

    One real problem for pollsters at the moment is that about 30% of the public currently recall voting for us in 2010. This creates issues – about a quarter of these people had in fact voted labour. This group are now largely responding to pollsters as labour voters, but because of their false recall of 2010 they will show up to most pollsters as a massive lib-> lab swing.

    We should instead look at the vote we get in local elections. We seem to have got about 14-16% in recent years. Given that turnout from govt supporters is supressed in local elections, and given how our support tends to go up in a GE campaign, we could/should do better in 2015.

    Am I overly optimistic? Probably.

  • Drowning men clutch at straws. Compared to the other recent polls which have us at around 8%-9%, the ICM poll is within the margin of error, and still represents a terrible number compared to 2010.

    Only if you’re blindly optimistic could you see any evidence here that would boost Project Clegg.

  • John Roffey 13th May '14 - 9:46am

    @ Will Mann

    I had presumed that the Party would take the opportunity to kick out Clegg as leader if the Party does fail, as expected, at the EU elections.

    Although I must admit – during my stints in the Party – I was never left with any confidence that the blindly obviously necessary action would necessarily be taken.

  • @ John Roffey

    “I had presumed that the Party would take the opportunity to kick out Clegg as leader if the Party does fail, as expected, at the EU elections.”

    And replace with? Who do you want for our leader? Maybe you’d rather not have one, but really it’s time to stop simply slamming Clegg and come up with some positive ideas for a good, convincing replacement.

    To date, I haven’t seen any.

  • Always be cautious about any poll showing a sharp change in movement. If a poll is completely atypical of other data, then assume it is a rogue unless other polling data backs it up.

    Anthony Wells, UKPR

  • RC
    IAnd replace with? Who do you want for our leader? Maybe you’d rather not have one, but really it’s time to stop simply slamming Clegg and come up with some positive ideas for a good, convincing replacement.

    To date, I haven’t seen any.

    Seen this argument a lot. What does it say about the future of a party where there is no obvious leadership candidate other than the current leader?

  • “An alternative explanation is that ICM’s weighting poll figures by past voting intentions makes their polls less of a snapshot, more of a forecast. (Eg, there is at least some likelihood that a 2010 Lib Dem voter currently saying ‘Don’t Know’ will end up voting Lib Dem in 2015.)”

    No doubt, but the question is whether ICM is overestimating that likelihood – in other words, is a former Lib Dem “don’t know” less likely to return to the Lib Dems today than in the past? That is quite possible, given the unprecedented situation we’re in.

    Of course, the other bad news for the Lib Dems in that Westminster poll is that ICM is showing them in fourth place behind UKIP. Except on – I think – one occasion, ICM has hitherto been the only pollster still showing the Lib Dems in third place.

  • @ RC

    ‘And replace with? Who do you want for our leader?’

    Keeping in mind that John Major did win an election after replacing Thatcher, I would have thought integrity [at least apparent] was the essential quality that the next Party leader should possess – that and policies that appeal to the electorate.

    I would have thought that Tim Farron would be a more than adequate replacement in that context. Also, if the Party did return to left of centre, the main adversary would be Ed Miliband – so the challenge would not be too great.

  • g. that is the argument always put up to defend the indefensible, there is no alternative. Of course there is, if someone walks in front of a bus tomorrow a new leader is appointed, it is the same in politics, industry and life in general. No one is that privileged that they cannot be replaced. Anyone with any sense of reality also knows there are 3 or 4 who could do the job including a couple who are untainted with the Tuition Fees disaster.

  • Michael Berridge 13th May '14 - 12:06pm

    John Roffey wrote of his past experience within the Party:
    “I was never left with any confidence that the blindly obviously necessary action would necessarily be taken.”
    As nobody else has picked it up, let me correct this to: I was never left with any confidence that the action that was necessary (as was blindingly obvious) would in fact be taken.
    (I would have refrained from comment, but if Apostrophe Watch is on duty …)

  • @ Michael Berridge

    Much appreciated. I post on a number of forums – sometimes I forget that no editing is possible on LDV once a posting is made – unlike the majority.

  • The reason I would find these figures the opposite of reassuring – if I were a Lib Dem MP defending a seat against the Conservatives – is that while the movements in the Tory and Lib Dem votes since 2010 only equate to a 3.5% swing from the Lib Dems to the Tories, there is also a whopping 12-point increase in support for UKIP.

    There has to be a strong possibility that the UKIP vote will be squeezed in a general election. It may not all have come from the Conservatives, but Nick Clegg’s strategy of presenting the Lib Dems as the champions of EU membership has done excellent groundwork in preparation for Tory attempts to enlist the tactical backing of UKIP supporters against Lib Dem candidates next year. If the Conservatives could attract anything like half of those UKIP supporters, the ICM figures would allow them to cut a huge swath through the Lib Dems’ current parliamentary representation. And if ICM is overestimating Lib Dem support, so much the worse.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th May '14 - 1:47pm

    @ RC,
    It does not fill me with confidence that you seem to think the pool of talent in the Lib Dems is so small, you have no alternative candidate for leader than Nick Clegg.

  • @ John Roffey

    I agree that Tim Farron might be a possibility, and he’s from the North of England, which is a plus, rather than appearing as a Cameron-alike southerner. However, I find him a bit too jokey and possibly lightweight at times, although God knows we’re going to need someone with a great sense of humour in the next year. I’m just not sure he’d stand up to the vicious press slamming he’s going to get if he replaces Clegg. He’s also got a huge majority in a Tory-facing constituency, so he’s pretty secure.

    So, you seem, I’m not an immutable Clegg fan. I just think we need to be realistic about blaming him for all our troubles. After all, it was the party that voted for our tuition fees policy, without thinking how we could deliver it.

  • “So, you see, I’m not an immutable Clegg fan.”

    (please give us an edit function)

  • @ RC ‘And replace with? Who do you want for our leader?’

    Vince is still the best option, probably on an interim basis. He would be succeeded by a younger (sorry Vince) candidate during the next parliament. Farron certainly commands poll position at present, and would be seen as a clean break with the Clegg era. But I share your concerns about him being lightweight, and there is his religious viewpoint too.

    On the right of the party, Browne and possibly Laws offer a bit more intellectual beef but I think most of the base will want to move the leadership left after 2015 (if not before).

    This is being discussed on the forum currently:

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th May '14 - 4:11pm

    As an outsider, I think that the person with the charisma and popular appeal needed to make a new start is Charles Kennedy. If the party is democratic , the leader is just a figurehead for the party, the main spokesman for it values and policies.

    I am afraid that Vince and Tim Farron are too associated with the party that many people no longer trust. Charles Kennedy seems to be free of that ‘guilt by association’ phenomenon.

    I would have loved to see him debate Farage on Europe. I think there may well have been a different outcome, and no I am not a relative.

  • John Roffey 13th May '14 - 4:39pm


    As you say, the Party will need to accept a great deal of criticism if it is to be restored to public favour – TF could do this in good spirit. If he had VC as his deputy, Vince could support him if greater gravitas were required.

    @ Will Mann

    Is having a religious faith really such a disadvantage at a time when there is so much distrust of politicians and of their ability to tell the truth?

  • The most surprising candidates can reveal themselves when the game is ‘on’ and leaders do ‘grow’ into their role. Everyone thought Margaret Thatcher was a bit of a lightweight at the time and Tony Blair was called ‘Bambi’ if I recall. I’m sure no-one would have expected John Major to replace Thatcher or to win an election. We can overthink things sometimes.

  • David Evans 13th May '14 - 5:58pm

    RC – When the party voted on tuition fees, we knew how we would fund it. It’s wrong to pretend we didn’t.

  • Another disquieting statistic – this time from the Ashcroft poll – is that while people might hope that at 9% the party is down to its “core” support, that support is actually softer than the support for the other parties. 61% of that 9% said they might not end up supporting the Lib Dems – compared with 52% of Conservative supporters and 47% of Labour and UKIP. On that basis the really solid “core” of Lib Dem support is only about 3.5%

  • RC I have answered your question about naming alternative leaders and why it is not a good idea at this stage. Isn’t it about time you answered my question about why you keep doing such a politically inflammatory and premature thing, or better still, just stop it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th May '14 - 11:28am


    So, you seem, I’m not an immutable Clegg fan. I just think we need to be realistic about blaming him for all our troubles.

    I have not just “blamed Clegg”. For four years I’ve been spelling out in detail what he’s done wrong and what he should have done instead.

    I agree with you on Tim Farron. I don’t know why he gets written up as the “candidate of the left”. He has always seemed to me to be a Clegg cheerleader, enthusiastically joining in with Clegg’s disastrous approach of exaggerating our strength in the coalition and painting the sort of sorry little compromises that we’ve had to agree to as if they were major triumphs and what we wanted in the first place. Farron was an enthusiastic backer, and I think even the main promoter of that line “75% of our manifesto implemented”. It may have disappeared when another back-of-an-envelope calculation changed that figure to 40%, but there was never any apology for it. Most people read it (wrongly, but most people in this country don’t have much in the way of maths skills) as implying 75% of what this five-sixths Tory government is doing is what we would do. All this sort of thing has simply given the impression that we were far more like the Tories than we let on before we became a “party of government” and has just bolstered the attacks made against us. Farron was extremely naive just to have taken the 75% figure without questioning it and not to have seen how promoting it would damage us. No-one who was really to the left of the party and had a functioning political brain would have done this – we can very much see how far this government is from our ideal, and the ugly thing it is doing that are so against what anyone who is slightly leftish in politics would do, and even if we tolerate the coalition as a necessary compromise given the Parliamentary balance, we don’t have to sing its praises as if being one-sixth of an otherwise Tory government was the height of our ambition.

  • While we are on bad news for Parties, Labours average over the last 8 Polls is 34%, thats 9% down in the last 15 Months. Project that forward to next May & we get Labour on 27%, in line with much of the “Deep Polling” on questions about The Economy, The next PM & so on.
    Some will want to know when we can expect to benefit in the Polls so I will give the answer Ive given before; next spring.

  • “Labours average over the last 8 Polls is 34%, thats 9% down in the last 15 Months. Project that forward to next May & we get Labour on 27% …”

    Project it forward to 2020 and we get Labour on -9%. Wow.

  • Although long-term members will probably tell me why this isn’t so – I think there is a potential ‘Lib/Dem super-hero’ leader waiting in the shadows! So good the Mail cannot even admit he is a Lib/Dem!

  • I don’t understand why so many people who blame Nick Clegg for the tuition fees fiasco want to replace him with Vince Cable. After all, he is the Secretary of State who abandoned our commitment to not increase tuition fees, and forced Nick Clegg to defend his decision. Both Tim Farron and Charles Kennedy by contrast kept their pledges and voted against.

  • Ah yes Vince Cable. A very slippery character indeed. I have a lot of time for Charles Kennedy. I think if he had still been leader, we might have seen AV introduced.

  • Both Tim and Charles would make far better leaders and we weren’t given the choice to vote for either in the last leadership election.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Alex Macfie
    Tactical voting does happen; why else would the Labour vote in Richmond Park be 5.2%? Obviously it takes a lot of hard work locally to keep the Labour vote that...
  • Nick Collins
    @ Tom Arms & Mary Fulton II think another quote, again from Edmund Burke I believe, is also apposite "No-one made a bigger mistake than the man (toda...
  • Martin Gray
    @Martin... 'Liberal Democracies' have embraced globalisation & neoliberal economics . No fundamental change for those at the bottom just perpetual struggle....
  • Slamdac
    The checks and balances are there to ensure that there are no rash decisions just because one party or group have a majority. If a settled majority want som...
  • Peter Davies
    Though none of the articles actually confirms the headlines, they do suggest that these rags are still trying to defend Brexit and with increasing desperation....