A look back at the polls (2/2): what a difference a year makes

by Stephen Tall on July 1, 2008

To celebrate the beginning of Gordon’s second (and last?) year as Prime Minister, what could be more cheering than to have a look at the parties’ polling averages over the last 12 months? Well, if you’re a Labour supporter, smearing yourself in slurry would probably be more comforting, but never mind:

June 2007 (Tony Blair’s last month in charge)
Tories: 36%, Labour: 36%, Lib Dems: 17%
Tory lead 0%

July 2007 (Gordon Brown’s first full month as PM)
Tories: 34%, Labour: 39%, Lib Dems: 16%
Tory lead -5%

August 2007 (Floods, terrorists and foot-and-mouth)
Tories: 34%, Labour: 39%, Lib Dems: 16%
Tory lead -5%

September 2007 (The honeymoon reaches its peak)
Tories: 33%, Labour: 41%, Lib Dems: 16%
Tory lead -8%

October 2007 (The election-that-never-was)
Tories: 40%, Labour: 38%, Lib Dems: 13%
Tory lead +2%

November 2007 (Vince Cables labels the PM as ‘Mr Bean’)
Tories: 40%, Labour: 33%, Lib Dems: 16%
Tory lead +7%

December 2007 (Nick Clegg elected Lib Dem leader)
Tories: 41%, Labour: 33%, Lib Dems: 16%
Tory lead +8%

January 2008 (Peter Hain gets into trouble over campaign donations)
Tories: 39%, Labour: 33%, Lib Dems: 17%
Tory lead +6%

February 2008 (Derek Conway forced to quit as Tory MP over sleaze)
Tories: 40%, Labour: 33%, Lib Dems: 17%
Tory lead +7%

March 2008 (Lib Dem splits over Lisbon Treaty referendum vote)
Tories: 41%, Labour: 31%, Lib Dems: 18%
Tory lead +10%

April 2008 (Gordon’s 10p tax-con comes back to bite him)
Tories: 41%, Labour: 30%, Lib Dems: 18%
Tory lead +11%

May 2008 (Local elections: Boris beats Ken and Lib Dems beat Labour)
Tories: 44%, Labour: 27%, Lib Dems: 18%
Tory lead +17%

June 2008 (By elections: Tories take Crewe and Labour finishes 5th in Henley)
Tories: 45%, Labour: 26%, Lib Dems: 18%
Tory lead +19%

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And your point is…?

by Diablo on July 2, 2008 at 12:14 am. Reply #

We were 11% behind the Tories at the last election. The polls now put us 27% behind. On the upside, we were 15% behind Labour and are now just 8% behind them.

The problem is that the first fact might imply a sizeable number of LibDem seats falling to the Tories, whereas I’m not sure the second fact implies very many Labour seats turning gold.

by Mark Littlewood on July 2, 2008 at 12:18 am. Reply #

Yes, it is a bit frustrating. But it needs to be remembered that the soft Labour votes from 2005 are all going, & while Camoron is picking up on this, it is only soft support for him. These people are soft in general 🙂 But they are certainly people of a liberal tendency, who will be dismayed to read, for example, the reactionary & bigoted views of the 2009 Tory “vintage”, as published on ConHome… a site which all floating voters should be forced to watch, with matches propping their eyes open, until they see the true face of the Tories 🙂

by asquith on July 2, 2008 at 5:35 am. Reply #

So we’re stuck on 18% then? Great.

by Liam Pennington on July 2, 2008 at 7:20 am. Reply #

‘Stuck’ isn’t the right word to describe it.

There is considerable shift and constant flux in opinion which shows how succesful we are at getting people to consider supporting us, but that we find it harder to maintain their consistent support.

I’d say this a consequence of the traditional narrative of wing-based oppositional politics, where everything from policy to philosophy is described in terms of ‘left’ or ‘right’.

I’m a LibDem because I think the only right way of going about politics is to reconcile different sides by creatively seeking agreement and practical cooperation rather than by setting people against each other in a way that destroys confidence, trust and good faith.

Our challenge is two-fold – to stand up for the positive and stand against the negative – we can and do do both, but we need to get better at doing both at the same time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the next threshold of 25% in opinion polls (or 100 MPs) will mark a considerable achievement in our growth and development as a party – it will be an achievement which simply cannot be discounted or avoided. To do it we need to continue to make slight adjustments and improvements across the board and not lose our resolve, because we are getting there even if some of us fail to recognise the progress we are making.

by Oranjepan on July 2, 2008 at 7:46 am. Reply #

Yes, Oranjepan. The days when the two main parties stitched it up between them are well & truly over. Behind our’ opponents’ sneers, we can see the fear of a world in which they don’t dominate. A world of alliances, where people join together on one issue & part company on another, with constant giving & taking. A liberal future 🙂

by asquith on July 2, 2008 at 8:43 am. Reply #

Lib Dem poll-age solid throughout – averaging 17% of so – but as Mark has pointed out the important differential between LD and Tory has soared.

If you had also included the previous six or 12 months you would have been able to confirm – as we all know – that polls can go up as well as down.

And you might also track the level of don’t knows and also not-certain-to-votes among the total as these are I understand at record levels. Approaching 50% of those that expressed a preference in a recent ipsos MORI poll NOT being certain to vote. Plus the dunnos.

With don’t knows and may not votes having a clear majority there is as they say all to play for.

It is also worth noting that the total sample sizes tend to range between 2000 and 5000 which is three to eight people per constituency. Or one-and-a-half to four when it comes to those committed to voting.

Yes, the polls are poor for Brown and Labour and the election that wasn’t appears to be the main trigger for that, but they are NOT good for the Lib Dems and the last five by-elections haven’t been barn burners for you either.

by Chris Paul on July 2, 2008 at 8:56 am. Reply #

Chris Paul – ‘good’ and ‘not good’ are also broad brush descriptions which fail the test of providing additional insight.

If that’s the type of analysis and politics you desire then you are only ever going to be disappointed – reality is variable and all statistics recieve a mixed reception because they can be interpreted differently according to whether one concentrates on the selective focus or tries to impute the larger picture from it.

The poll figures provide reason for concern on all sides, but only Labour is given a reason to panic by them.

by Oranjepan on July 2, 2008 at 9:08 am. Reply #

A lot of it depends whether our vote is concentrating where it will help us – if it is, the 100 seats threshold may not be that hard to breach.

I suspect too that the fact that the SNP is riding so high in the polls in scotland is holding back our UK-wide position by 1-2% overall?

by johninpenarth on July 2, 2008 at 9:43 pm. Reply #

johninpenarth….I don’t wish to sound like a doom-monger…truly I don’t, but I’d like the misplaced optimism of some LibDems to be challenged and corrected BEFORE polling day.

You’re right that the fact that our poll ratings in Scotland show our vote halving since 2005 will have an impact on the national polls (of about 1% at most)

BUT….(a) a disproprtionate number of our seats are in Scotland, meaning losing votes there could be particularly bad and (b) many of the other seats we are defending are against the resurgent Tories in southern England.

If anything, the polling evidence suggests our vote may be concentrated precisely where we DON’T need it as per the 1970s. (I think the Liberal Party got about 19% of the vote in the 1974 elections and won only about a dozen seats).

On the basis of the present data, the “100 seat threshold” is a total fantasy.

by Mark Littlewood on July 3, 2008 at 12:09 am. Reply #

Mark, which is why Glasgow East could provide a much needed morale boost for the party north of the border.

I think that with Nicol Stephen stepping back from the leadership, now is the perfect time to decouple our record in coalition with Labour while highlighting our positive achievements during our time in government.

This by-election will provide a great opportunity to reestablish our independent credentials and build upon our many popular policies.

Furthermore 100 seats is not fantasy if we can be confident in our ability to spread our *actually rather good* messages.

We are a substantial party already and our positions actually prove very popular when they are explained and understood – conventional wisdom said invading Iraq was the right thing to do, conventional wisdom said Guantanamo was necessary, conventional wisdom said LibDems can’t be trusted with the economy, conventional wisdom says we couldn’t maintain law and order, conventional wisdom says ID cards and 42 days are expedient, conventional wisdom says the LibDems are a declining force.

The truth is we have never been more relevant than we are now and the reality is that 100 seats is more than realistic.

by Oranjepan on July 3, 2008 at 9:12 am. Reply #

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