YouGov Euro poll: Lib Dems at 15%

by Stephen Tall on January 11, 2009

Today’s Telegraph publishes the result of a YouGov opinion showing the current state of public voting intentions for this June’s elections to the European Parliament. The figures in brackets are changes from actual 2004 result:

Con 35% (+8)
Lab 29% (+6)
LD 15% (n/c)
UKIP 9% (-7)
Grn 5% (-1)
BNP 4% (-1)
Nats 4% (+2)

All opinion polls come with health warnings, and LDV flags them up loud-and-clear. This is all the more so for Euro polls because (i) we don’t have any other pollsters’ surveys to compare these figures to, and (ii) the general record of opinion polls for predicting Euro and local election national vote shares is very patchy.

An illustration of this is that – as LDV’s sharp-witted readers will already have noticed – the figures in brackets above come to a net +7. That’s because last time other parties scored 7%, but do not feature in this poll; it would be surprising if they were not to take votes from the three major parties come polling day.

It’s also worth noting YouGov’s record on predicting the results of Euro elections. They had two polls at the end of the Euro elections in 2004: one just before polling day, and an exit poll. Both underestimated the actual Conservative vote share (by 1% and 5% respectively) and also slightly underestimated the Liberal Democrat vote share (by 2% and 1% respectively). The exit poll also over-estimated UKIP’s support by 4%.

Those caveats inserted, what to make of it? Well, in one sense 15% is not such a bad score for the Lib Dems on two counts. First, it shows the party holding steady at our 2004 total – given that in 2004 the party was at probably the peak of its post-Iraq war popularity, and given all that has happened within the last three years, that’s alright. It’s also perhaps surprising that YouGov is currently giving us 15% both for the Euro poll, and our current national rating – Lib Dems generally poll below our national rating when it comes to Europe.

However, two other points need to be borne in mind. First, both Labour and the Tories’ ratings are considerably up in this poll compared to 2004; the Lib Dems have stayed static, which equates to a net slipping of our position. Secondly, I’d be surprised if non-mainstream parties didn’t improve on their support in the next few months, as the Euro campaigning intensifies. It’s easy to imagine both UKIP and the BNP benefiting from protest votes, drawing support from all three of the major UK-wide parties.

Question 4 of my ’10 key Lib Dem questions for 2009′ asked, “Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?” On the evidence of this poll, the answer is yes; but I suspect we’re going to have to work even harder over the next five months if we want to beat that baseline target.

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There is a Typo. It should be UKIP on 7 down 9 not on 9 down 7. also your comment about bracketed figures will be come plus 5 not plus 7.

by David Morton on January 11, 2009 at 3:11 pm. Reply #

“Lib Dems generally poll below our national rating when it comes to Europe.”

This is because a proportion of LibDem voters are Eurosceptic and we lose them in Euro elections.

The best way to overcome this is not to duck the issue (i.e. not mention Europe for fear of offending Eurosceptic LibDem voters), but rather to have the courage of our convictions and in doing so attract pro-Europeans from the other parties.

The Eurosceptic space in British politics is already overcrowded. The pro-European space (which, according to opinion polls represents the views of 30-35% of the UK public) is wide open.

by Dinti Batstone on January 11, 2009 at 4:19 pm. Reply #

It’s largely irrevalent having a national poll of voting intentions as the seats are calculated on a region basis. If any of the polling companies bother to do any region polling it would be much more reliable and interesting.

by jim on January 11, 2009 at 5:21 pm. Reply #

It often seems as if we can’t get the balance right on Europe… If we stay quiet we let our opponents define us (deceptively). But when candidates or activists campaign on Europe, there can be a tendency to act as press officers for the European Union. We should be defending an internationalist ideal, yes, but not the flawed and fallen reality of secrecy, bureaucracy and dodgy accounting. “Let’s make Europe work properly” should be the mantra — and we should be campaigning to clean up waste and corruption just as we would in Westminster. I’m amazed how statist and establishment-sympathetic some activists can be over Europe. We’re radicals and liberals, damn it!

by Richard on January 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm. Reply #

““Will the Lib Dems finish at least third, and poll at or above 15%, in the European elections in June 2009?””

Well, don’t forget that polling 15% last time meant you came fourth……

by Tim Worstall on January 11, 2009 at 5:35 pm. Reply #

Given the subsequent (predictable) self-destruction of the UKIP MEP group, the Lib Dems were very quickly restored to being the 3rd largest group of British MEPs. I expect that to continue at this next Euro election.

by Mark Wright on January 11, 2009 at 6:47 pm. Reply #

A big difference over 2004 is that this year in London (and I assume in at least some other regions) there is going to be a proper campaign. That should mean we accrue votes as the weeks and months go by. Moreover, if, as seems quite likely, the smaller parties shrink, it means that UKIP (and maybe even the Greens) will lose seats, which changes the electoral arithmetic considerably under the (rather weird) De Hondt system of PR.

by Jonathan Fryer on January 11, 2009 at 6:53 pm. Reply #

Richard, I agree with you.

Being pro-European doesn’t mean thinking the EU is perfect. But surely people who have a constructive approach to the EU are much better placed to reform it than Europhobes who want nothing to do with it… Just look at our record in the European Parliament vs that of UKIP (or indeed the Tories and Labour).

by Dinti Batstone on January 11, 2009 at 7:23 pm. Reply #

Liberal Democrats should regard the European Elections as more important than any other contest in the electoral cycle.

It is an election where we can (and do)win power (we hold the balance in Brussels) and Lib Dem initiatives often become law.

It was said during the Lisbon debates in Westminster that 80% of legislation is decided in Brussels. In that case, we need to make sure Brtain elects good MEPs.

In the South East, where I am a candidate, we will be fighting a positive campaign on the difference that European action can make to people’s lives. Our campaign is far better funded than it ever has been before.

by Antony Hook on January 11, 2009 at 8:49 pm. Reply #

Antony makes an interesting point about the importance of our nrole in the European Parliament – but of course there is a big difference between what Lib Dems’should’ do and the reality.

We also have to be realistic about what motivated many of the people who do the work at local level and design our campaign to make the most of that.

There are encouraging signs that we have learnt quite a lot about how to do this over the last two campaigns.

As far as how we campaign goes, I have always taken the view that we should approach European Elections in the same way we approach others – more about identifying how voting for the Liberal Democrats will benefit the people we seek to represent and less about the institution itself.

Our MEPs should be campaigning on issues that are relevant to people in the regions to show that they are active and worth voting for.

We should be telling people, in simple terms, that their lib Dem MEP has support things that they support.

I also think we should not be afraid of identifying specific proposals to make the EU work better – such as the one seat campaign – as this is in line with the above but also defends us from being portrayed as starry eyed euro loons.

by Liberal Neil on January 12, 2009 at 10:48 am. Reply #

One way we could help ourselves in relation to Europe is to be honest about the flaws of the current EU structure: its lack of (especially Financial) accountability, and its over-centralizing tendencies.

We should set out clearly the case for reform, many aspects of which adress Eurosceptic arguments, and have the advantage of being (i) right and (ii) not slavishly pro-EU (right or wrong).

by Tabman on January 12, 2009 at 11:40 am. Reply #

It’s not really you know, much that happened was avoidable in my view and has cost us dear. The parliamentary party has a lot of making up to do ;o)

by john on January 12, 2009 at 8:42 pm. Reply #

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