Only 3% swing to Tories in key Con/Lib Dem marginals

The detailed polling by Lord Ashcroft published today on ConservativeHome brings some encouraging news for the Liberal Democrats. In a set of key marginals held by the Conservatives and where the Liberal Democrats were second in 2010, there has only been a modest swing to the Conservatives since May 2010.

In the eight seats polled, the Conservative Party has a lead of 8% compared to an actual lead in May 2010 of 2%. This swing of 3% is much smaller than national opinion polls show. The vote share figures are:

Conservative 39% (-2% on May 2010)
Liberal Democrat 31% (-8%)
Labour 19% (+6%)

Con lead 8% (+6%)

Points to consider when interpreting these figures:

  • The seats polled were Camborne & Redruth, Harrogate & Knaresborough, Montgomeryshire, Newton Abbot, Oxford West & Abingdon, St Albans, Truro & Falmouth, Watford.
  • In the party’s internal polling during previous Parliaments, the level of support in held and target seats has often fallen significantly during the Parliament before recovering sharply as the next polling day nears. On that basis, these figures are comparable with previous situations the party has been in.
  • A major part of the story previously has been squeezing the third-party vote as polling  day nears. Looking at these figures there is plenty of scope for squeezing the Labour Party vote, but that may be harder in 2015 than it has been in any other general election fought by the Liberal Democrats.
  • In seven out of the eight seats, the Conservatives gained the seat in 2010. Therefore their new MPs should be building up personal votes based on incumbency. That makes the 2% fall look very poor for the Conservatives as their vote share has been heading in the wrong direction. However, it also means there may be more scope for the Conservative vote to increase during the rest of this Parliament.
  • Despite this incumbency advantage, across the seats people reported consistently having had more campaigning contact with the Liberal Democrats than the Tories in “the last few months” (polling was carried out in August). For example, 21% had been door-knocked by the Lib Dems compared to 16% by the Conservatives and on leafleting the Lib Dems lead 54% – 47%.
  • I have taken for the voting figures the question “Thinking about your own constituency and the parties and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election?” as, on past experience that is a better guide to marginal seats than the generalised “if there was a general election tomorrow… ” voting question. On that question the voting figures were Con 41%, Lab 26%, Lib Dem 18%.
For more on the poll, see ConservativeHome.
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This entry was posted in News and Polls.


  • At the local elections last year, all the LD councillors standing for re-election in Reading lost their seats.

  • The snag with this is that the poll shows people switching tactically to the Lib Dems in these seats when they are asked to take local factors into account – but before that tactical switch Labour actually has MORE support in these seats than the Lib Dems. (The initial question shows Lib Dem support having dropped by 21 percentage points in these seats since last year.)

    Relying on tactical support in a situation where you are intrinsically in third place is not a happy situation to be in.

  • The real question we all want the answer to is “How will you vote in May 2015 ?” As far as I know no Pollster has ever asked a question in that form & probably half the answers would be “Dont Know” if they did.
    We dont know if Voters simply havent made their mind up, if they have but dont know they have or just dont want to say. We do know that ordinary Voting Intention polls are pretty useless, even ICM. Some people who have studied this area think The “Leader Approval” Polls are the best forward indicator & they mostly suggest the gap between us & Labour narrowing next time.

  • Facts are facts the polls suggest a return to 2 party politics. The LIb Dems lost more votes than they gained and are still losing them. The Tory marginal seats will rally in a general election. This is a coalition with a Party with huge press support that regularly criticises The Conservatives Lib Dem Partners. In the run up to an actual general election every single one of those papers will dump on Clegg. and if we’re honest The party will be pretty much fighting a leadership battle on top of it.

  • “That makes the 2% fall look very poor for the Conservatives as their vote share has been heading in the wrong direction.”

    Pfft. While the government is making spending cuts that attract hysteria from certain media and political quarters a 2% fall is far from very poor, in seats that are traditionally left wing it’s actually a good performance. Also consider that being in coalition restrains them on policies that cause a swing to UKIP, which is more likely to impact long term voting intention than the short term snap election voting intention.

  • Don Lawrence 3rd Oct '11 - 9:42am

    Sorry Mark, another triumph of spin over substance. I think in every one of those seats we lost councillors in the last elections and may well lose more before 2015 unless we drastically change what we are doing. Messages like your headline “Only 3% swing to Tories in key Con/Lib Dem marginals” and lines like “encouraging news for the Liberal Democrats” only make those in the leadership whose long haul mantra is “We are doing everything fine, there is no need to change.” more conceited with even less contact with reality to help them wake up.

    I never thought I would say this, but you are in danger of becoming part of the establishment problem rather than the activist solution.

  • Don Lawrence 20th Oct '11 - 8:46am

    Sorry Mark, we all know there is little substance in polling figures at the best of times. You mention the fact that the swing is very small when compared to previous parliaments, but do you have Ashcroft figures for the previous Parliament? If not how can you compare the results from the question “Thinking about your own constituency and the parties and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election?” with the question most opinion polls ask?

    You ask “Where’s the spin in reporting figures fully and comparing them with the past?”, but to be honest I don’t see you doing this in this case. I may be wrong, but I would need to see a much more rounded picture than just this to reassure me.

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