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.