PollWatch: For which other parties would LibDem voters consider voting?

by Stephen Tall on November 18, 2012

There’s an interesting poll conducted by ComRes and published today. There’s no surprise in its headline voting intention figures, below — they’re in line with other surveys and indeed with what ‘Super Thursday’s elections found:

    Conservative 31% (-2)
    Labour 43% (+2)
    Lib Dem 10% (0)
    UKIP 8% (-1)
    Others 8% (+1)

But what is new is that ComRes has asked the following question: ‘Which, if any, of these parties would you seriously consider voting for at a General Election if it were held tomorrow? Please indicate all that apply.’

So much political punditry is predicated on the (false) assumption that voters answering a hypothetical voting question half-way through a Parliament are to one degree or another certain about who they actually will cast their vote for. Yet we know that mid-term polling is an abysmal predictor of real elections. This form of question is helpful in getting us closer to understanding who voters might switch to and therefore the range of potential support within which parties are operating.

(One of the most useful questions I’ve always found when canvassing someone who refuses to be drawn on which way they’ll vote is to ask, ‘Who would you definitely not vote for?’ Most, though by no means all, voters have an answer to that one.)

Anyway, here’s the ComRes table in full:

Which, if any, of these parties would you seriously consider voting for at a General Election if it were held tomorrow? Please indicate all that apply. Currently intending to vote Conservative Labour Lib Dem
Conservative 5% 31%
Labour 7% 24%
Lib Dem 18% 13
Green 7% 18% 29%
UKIP 26% 13% 10%
BNP 3% 5% 3%
Pirate Party 2% 2% 5%
Respect Party 1% 4% 5%
SNP * 3% 1%
Plaid Cymru * 3% 2%
None of these 41% 40% 26%
Don’t know 7% 8% 4%

The big worry for the Lib Dems will be that — even at our reduced standing in the polls — so many of our current voters are open to voting for the Tories (31%), Labour (24%) or Green (29%). This may simply reflect the natural tendency of liberal-inclined voters to float and be non-partisan. Still, it shows how small our core vote actually is: just 26% of Lib Dem voters wouldn’t consider voting for any other party, compared with 4-in-10 for both Labour and Tories. It’s also troubling that relatively few current Tory or Labour voters would seriously consider voting Lib Dem: 18% and 13% respectively. (Though it would be interesting to know how much higher those figures would be in seats where there is a Lib Dem MP.)

Right-wing Tories might perhaps be given pause for thought by the finding that only 26% of their current voters would consider voting Ukip. Sure, that’s more than a quarter of the party’s voters — but it’s not actually very much more than the 18% of Tory voters who would consider voting Lib Dem. Of course, the Tories’ issue with Ukip would have been much reduced if they supported a preferential voting system, but their short-sighted opposition to electoral reform is their look-out.

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.