A look at the Euro polls to date

by Stephen Tall on May 18, 2009

We’re mid-way through the campaign for the European Parliament elections – though, as yet, discussion of Britain’s role in the EU has not been the, erm, dominant story. But, still, there have been five polls to date in May specifically asking for the public’s Euro voting intentions, so let’s check out what they’ve been saying:

Here they are in chronological order:

  • Con 36%, Lab 25%, Lib Dem 20%, Ukip 7%, Green 4%, BNP 4%, Nats 4% (YouGov all naming party, 10th May)
  • Con 37%, Lab 22%, Lib Dem 19%, Ukip 7%, Green 4%, BNP 4%, Nats 5% (YouGov certain to vote, 10th May)
  • Con 34%, Lab 25%, Lib Dem 20%, Ukip 6%, Green 5%, BNP 2% (Populus, 13th May)
  • Con 29%, Lab 20%, Lib Dem 19%, Ukip 15%, Green 6%, BNP 3%, Nats 4% (YouGov all naming party, 15th May)
  • Con 28%, Lab 19%, Lib Dem 19%, Ukip 19%, Green 6%, BNP 3% 9% (YouGov certain to vote, 15th May)
  • Con 28%, Lab 23%, Lib Dem 14%, Ukip 15%, Green 11%, BNP 4% (ComRes, 17th May)
  • Con 26%, Lab 21%, Lib Dem 14%, Ukip 16%, Green 7%, BNP ?% (YouGov, 18th May)
  • When I do the monthly LDV poll round-up, I usually give the average of the three main parties. It’s a little redundant for the Euro polls because there’s so much ‘noise’ in this data – both because MPs’ expenses has become the defining issue in the past 10 days, and also because it’s quite usual as the Euro campaign goes on for minor parties to gain at the expense of the major parties.

    Still for form’s sake, here are the averages (using YouGov’s ‘certain to vote’ data):

  • Con 31%, Lab 22%, Lib Dem 17%, Ukip 13%, Green 7%, BNP 3%, Nats 5%
  • And here’s what the actual vote shares were in the 2004 Euro polls:

  • Con 27%, Lab 23%, Lib Dem 15%, Ukip 16%, Green 6%, BNP 5%, Nats 2%
  • What to make of it so far? Well, first and most obviously, as the Euro campaign goes on, once again we see voters’ awareness of minor parties increase. The first poll of May showed figures for the main parties not so very different to the national Westminster poll ratings for the parties (Tories and Labour relatively under-performing a little, Ukip and the BNP relatively over-performing a little). The latest YouGov poll, though, shows Ukip edging out the Lib Dems for third place, and within the margin of error to overtake Labour.

    Against this, it should be remembered that the YouGov exit poll in 2004 significantly over-stated Ukip support (predicting 20% against an actual 16%) while under-stating Tory support (predicting 22% against an actual 27%) – though it was pretty much spot-on for both Labour and the Lib Dems.

    This might be because of sampling bias – YouGov’s critics have long argued an internet pollster cannot be wholly representative – though they have a generally impressive track record. Another factor might be that YouGov isn’t able to factor in the ability of the major parties to mount effective ‘get out the vote’ operations – this might account for Ukip’s past relative under-performance. The Euro poll also coincides with local elections in England, which will also have a hard-to-forecast impact on turn-out, both its level and the party preferences of those who do cast their ballots.

    The unknowable factor at this stage – it may become clearer in the next fortnight as we see more polls – is how far the MPs’ expenses row will actually change voters’ behaviour (as opposed to what they tell opinion pollsters). So far, the Euro opinion polls have not been significantly different to the eventual Euro results last time.

    What it does show, though, is two things. First, there is everything to play for. The Lib Dems are currently not so far behind Labour, and neck-and-neck with Ukip – which means we could finish either second or fourth.

    And, secondly, it shows the continuing decline in traditional voter loyalties. In 2004, barely 50% of those who voted chose to cast their vote for Labour or the Tories. It seems quite likely that in 2009 this figure will be below 50%. As tribal voters lose the habit of always voting Labour/Tory, the way is open for other parties to challenge the Westminster duopoly too. And that’s an opportunity for the Lib Dems – we are, after all, the best-placed challengers to the incumbent Labour/Tory MP in over 200 constituencies.

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    I have a nasty feeling about the out come of these euro-elections, not least with regards the future of PR as an electoral system.

    by jim on May 18, 2009 at 2:31 pm. Reply #

    Its a fair write up but a better comparison for the poling average would this point 5 years ago not the actual result. Key points being

    – the BNP managed to get 4% last time despite not registering much above 1% throughou the campaign. Now they are polling much better.

    – generally the “Others” shares are well in advance of what they were with 16 days to go last time.

    Stephen makes the very loyal point about it beng an opertunity for the Lib Dems but the figures are there for all to see and match the national voting intentions

    LAB/CON down, LD’s static, Others well up.

    Why this is needs analysis.

    by David Morton on May 18, 2009 at 4:35 pm. Reply #

    David: the BNP got 3/4% in the YouGov voting intention polling during the last Euro election campaign, not the 1% figure you mention. Also, the Lib Dems are up on their YouGov ratings; e.g. 13% on certain to vote tally last time and in the three polls this time it’s been higher on them all: 19, 19, 14.

    by Mark Pack on May 18, 2009 at 4:45 pm. Reply #

    ‘Jim its a PR system – but not as we know it’. Sorry I just had to do that Star Trek line!

    Anyway, I think it will take a few more days to let the last weeks events sink in to draw much other than general trends.
    A couple of good news stories ( & no cock ups ) for us & who knows – keep up the campaigning!

    by Greenfield on May 18, 2009 at 5:25 pm. Reply #

    Averaging polls is always dangerous – particularly when the support for the Westminster parties has dropped off a cliff due to their actions over expenses.

    What is clear is that UKIP and the Greens (and no doubt the BNP too) are benefitting from public disgust at MPs veniality.

    Given Tory support has slumped by 10% points, Labour by 4% points and the Lib Dems by 6% points in just eight days – who knows where the three ‘main parties’ are likely to end up?

    The shame is the most corrupt Euro party – the one that has seen one of its number jailed for fraud and another charged with expenses fiddling just three weeks ago – UKIP – is the one that people are flocking to.

    by Dan on May 18, 2009 at 7:59 pm. Reply #

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