by Stephen Tall on May 22, 2014
A staggering 25 opinion polls have been published in May for the European elections. I say staggering because, if past form is any guide, two-thirds of the public won’t turn out to vote today. Nor do many people expect the result today to have much bearing on the general election in a year’s time. Still, here are all 25:
The average vote shares in May for the five main parties are:
Ukip – 29%
Labour – 27%
Conservatives – 22%
Lib Dems – 8%
Greens – 7%
Those figures would likely result in Ukip and Labour each having 24 MEPs elected, the Tories 16 – and the Lib Dems just 1 MEP remaining, behind the Greens on 2.
Small wonder, then, that the party is, according to today’s Guardian front page, “braced for a complete wipeout in the European parliamentary elections”. I’m assured, by the way, that this leaked internal Liberal Democrat document is not in any way, shape or form a part of the expectations management that all parties undertake before polling day, preparing the media for the worst so that we can say either it’s what we expected or (fingers crossed) better than expected.
For all the media obsession with Ukip, the Greens’ rise has been almost as dramatic, as YouGov’s Peter Kellner notes in his final Euro commentary today, comparing May’s polls with April’s:
… the biggest change has been a marked increase in support for the Greens, up from 7% to 10%. If our figures are exactly right, they have now overtaken the Lib Dems. It’s not because Nick Clegg’s party has lost support during the course of the campaign: their losses and gains almost exactly cancel each other out. Rather, the Greens have gained three votes for every one they have lost since late April. Those gains have come from every part of the political spectrum, but with slightly more from Labour and those who made up their minds late, than from other parties. The battle for fourth place is too close to call with certainty; but when the votes are counted on Sunday night, the performance of the Greens may be one to watch.
That said, the Greens won 9% of the vote in 2009, but (like Ukip) slipped back considerably by the 2010 general election.
One person who isn’t playing the expectations management game is Nigel Farage. The Ukip leader has predicted his party will come first, which means anything less than that will be a disappointment (think the SDP/Liberal Alliance not quite beating Labour in 1983).
Way back in December I made the following prediction: “I think Ukip will edge the popular vote, but that Labour may still win most seats. Let’s say Ukip 26 per cent (24 seats), Labour 25 per cent (25 seats).” For the sake of consistency I’ll stick with that. It all turns on whether Ukip voters’ motivation to turn out for the Euros is trumped by Labour’s get-out-the-vote machine in the local elections. Either way, both Farage and Ed Miliband will be the party leaders celebrating extra MEPs being elected; both the Tories and Lib Dems are resigned to significant losses.
* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.