A look back at the polls (1/2): June

by Stephen Tall on July 1, 2008

We tend not to be too poll-obsessed here at LDV – of course we look at them, as do all other politico-geeks, but viewed in isolation no one poll will tell you very much beyond what you want to read into it. Looked at over a reasonable time-span and, if there are enough polls, you can see some trends.

Here, in chronological order, are the results of the eight polls published in June:

Tories 42%, Labour 26%, Lib Dems 21% – ICM/Sunday Telegraph (8th June)
Tories 45%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 20% – Populus/Times (10th June)
Tories 45%, Labour 28%, Lib Dems 16% – MORI, unpublished (13th June)
Tories 43%, Labour 26%, Lib Dems 19% – ComRes/Independent (15th June)
Tories 47%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 18% – YouGov/Sunday Times (15th June)
Tories 45%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 20% – ICM/Guardian (25th June)
Tories 46%, Labour 28%, Lib Dems 15% – YouGov/Telegraph (27th June)
Tories 46%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 18% – ComRes/Independent (28th June)

Which gives us an average rating for the parties in June as follows, compared with May’s averages:

Tories 45% (+1%), Labour 26% (-1%), Lib Dems 18% (n/c)

Perhaps the most notable feature of June’s polling is how it re-inforces the message which has been starting to emerge: the Tories comfortably in the mid-40%s, and Labour stuck in the 25-28% range. The smallest lead the Tories had over Labour in June was 16% (ICM); the largest was 22% (YouGov).

The picture is a little more mixed for the Lib Dems, owing yet again to the disparity in polling methodologies between the competing companies – with ICM, as is traditional, giving the party its best ratings, of 20-21%, with YouGov and Mori showing the party at 15-18%.

As there’s been quite a lot of self-abuse on the pages of Lib Dem Voice in the aftermath of the Henley by-election, I thought it would be worth looking at Lib Dem performances in June of years gone by to provide a direct comparison. Here goes:

June 1992: 15%
June 1993: 24%
June 1994: 21%
June 1995: 15%
June 1996: 15%
June 1997: 13%
June 1998: 14%
June 1999: 16%
June 2000: 15%
June 2001: 19%
June 2002: 20%
June 2003: 20%
June 2004: 20%
June 2005: 21%
June 2006: 19%
June 2007: 17%
June 2008: 18%

I’ve highlighted in bold those years which are in the equivalent stage of the electoral cycle to where we are now (ie, three years after a general election). Looked at over this range, the Lib Dems are doing better in 2008 than the party was prior to the 1997 and 2001 general elections; a little down on where we were before 2005.

Of course this approach averages out a lot of variables, not the least of which is that the Tories are currently polling higher than they previously have during the 1992-2008 period – and most Lib Dem seats have to be defended against the Tories. Still, looking at the party’s historical polling average does help contextualise some of the doom-mongering currently being put about by worried supporters and delighted foes alike.

One hypothetical, tangential thought to conclude… If there had been a blogosphere in 1994-95, in the aftermath of Mr Blair’s election as Labour leader when Lib Dem support slumped from high-20%s to mid-teens, what would have been the reaction? Would Paddy Ashdown have been given the time and space to lead the party into the ’97 election and double our number of MPs? Or would there have been a tumult of blog/media-inspired panic? As I say, just a thought.