Tag Archives: voting behaviour

What do the local elections tell us about Lib Dem prospects?

When it comes to local election results, punditry usually heads in one of two directions. Either the local elections will be held up as an ironclad prediction for the next general election result or they are an utter irrelevance which tells you nothing about how people will vote in national elections.

Strangely, which of the two positions punditry tends towards seems to be very much linked to whether the local elections have been bad or good for the party backed by the pundit in question.

As you might expect, of course, the truth lies somewhere in between – and the data can actually tell us something useful about Liberal Democrat prospects at the next general election, whenever that may be.

For decades various teams of political scientists have been working out National Equivalent Vote Shares (NEVS) based on local election results. That is, they take the raw figures and make adjustments to take account of the fact that local elections take place in different parts of the country each year (for instance, most of the councils which had elections in May this year won’t have elections again until 2022).

This means that the NEVS is, broadly speaking, a reliable snapshot of support for each party UK-wide at the time of the local elections.

However, this does not mean that a NEVS is the same thing as how the party will perform in a general election. In the case of the Lib Dems, we have routinely underperformed our NEVS from the previous year in a general election.

The table below shows the Lib Dem performance in each of the past six general elections as well as our NEVS in the year before’s local elections. As can be seen, typically the Lib Dem vote has dropped by 1 to 7 points between the local election and the general election – and the two general elections with the lowest drop were dominated by the Iraq War and Cleggmania respectively, making them fairly atypical.

GE Result Year Before’s NEVS Difference
1997 17% 24% -7
2001 19% 26% -7
2005 23% 27% -4
2010 24% 25% -1
2015 8% 13% -5
2017 7% 14% -7

 

So, given that the typical drop has been 6 or 7 points, what does this tell us about Lib Dem prospects at the next general election?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 20 Comments

Please stop saying people don’t vote against their economic interests. They do it quite deliberately, all the time.

I’m hearing the same argument uttered over and over again  – ironically by both sides  – in the Brexit debate.

Remain supporters keep saying ‘no-one in Britain voted to be worse off in the referendum campaign’, on the presumption that folk don’t vote against what they believe is in their economic interest.

Leavers, for the same reason, believe that they’ll get a great deal in their Brexit negotiations because ‘it’s in the remaining EU member countries’ economic interests to do so’

Both sides are of course wrong. People make quite deliberate decisions against their economic interest every day. The reason why political folk don’t realise this is because they are brought up in a culture of Fiscal and Monetary economics. The real world works rather more like Behavioural Economics.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 36 Comments
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