ICM poll: No revival for two-party politics, even as Lib Dems drop to 10%

by Stephen Tall on June 18, 2014

State of the parties, 17 June 2014.The Guardian has published its latest ICM poll, the ‘gold standard’ survey most eagerly awaited alike by political junkies (because ICM has the best track record) and Lib Dems (because it tends to give the party higher ratings). It shows Labour on 32%, a nose ahead of the Tories (31%), with Ukip (16%) and the Lib Dems (10%) trailing in third and fourth.

Two points stand out. First, the combined Labour/Conservative shares, at 63%, are the lowest ever recorded by ICM using the phone method. No sign of a reversion to two-party politics.

Secondly, the Lib Dem share of 10% is also the lowest ever recorded by ICM using the phone method. As Anthony Wells notes, “ICM were responsible for the Lib Dems lowest ever score of 3% back in 1989, but this is the lowest ICM have ever shown for them since they switched to phone polling in the 1990s”.

All the party shares are within the margin of error from the May ICM poll, so we should be cautious about reading over-much into the shifts. That said, the Lib Dem dip is in line with other post-election polls showing support for the party down a notch – probably as a result of the bad publicity surrounding the poor Euro results and the subsequent leadership speculation. Whether this is polling ‘noise’ often associated with election-time, or the start of a trend where the Lib Dems struggle to reach double digits, we’ll see in future months.

On ICM’s leadership ratings, Nick Clegg may not know whether to laugh or cry. All party leaders see a fall, but it is Ed Miliband who’s suffered the worst damage: his net rating of -39% is lower than Clegg’s (-37%) once again.

All polls are of course snapshots, not predictions. Lib Dem ratings a year from polling day have not necessarily been good guides to actual results. With that in mind, YouGov’s Peter Kellner has produced an interesting analysis looking at the possible range of results for the Lib Dems, depending on whether the party suffers a real drubbing (polling 8%) or whether it recovers by May 2015 (to, say, 14%) and factoring in an incumbency boost.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, such a big difference would produce radically different outcomes for the party: it could be as bad as holding just 19 seats, or as (relatively) good as retaining 44 MPs. In either scenario, the Lib Dems fare slightly better if Labour is ahead of the Tories in the popular vote, as the Tories are the main challengers in two-thirds of the party’s held seats.

* 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.