The first poll of the year shows the Conservative gap narrowing, and a boost for the Liberal Democrats under their new leader. The Populus poll has topline figures, with changes from last month, of CON 37%(-3), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 19%(+3).

We had some contradictory polls last month, some showing the Tory lead narrowing, others showing it growing to record levels. This poll again shows Labour recovering slightly – the one point change is not itself significant, but the context of the ICM and YouGov polls last month that also showed them up, it appears that they have rallied somewhat from the disasters at the end of last year.

More significantly this is the first poll that can really show the Clegg effect – the other polls since he became leader were either done partially before the result, or in the case of the last YouGov poll, has a fieldwork period that hardly instilled confidence. It looks like the change of leadership has given them a long overdue boost, putting them up at 19%, the highest the Lib Dems have recorded in a Populus poll since April (and at the expense of the Conservatives).

A poll showing the Tory lead cut by 4 points should at first sight be a good poll for Brown, yet the Times headlines it “Fresh poll blow for Gordon Brown as David Cameron cements lead”. In one sense it’s a reflection of the media environment Gordon Brown has to operate within these days, a poll shows his party up and his opponent’s lead cut and it’s a “blow”. However, this isn’t going into UKPollingReport’s “crap media reporting of polls” hall of fame – while this poll certainly isn’t good for Cameron, it isn’t particularly good for Brown either, a one point recovery having dropped 5 points last month isn’t something for Labour to celebrate, and certainly isn’t as positive as the ICM and YouGov findings. More importantly, the Times headline refers not to bad news for Labour in the voting intention figures, but to poll findings about Brown himself, which are certainly a blow.

On having what it takes to be a good Prime Minister Brown now trails Cameron by 40% to 44%, where he lead Cameron by 9 points as recently as November. Brown’s reputation for strength, shattered by “chicken Saturday” has not recovered, he leads Cameron by only 6 points when he once dominated him with a 32 point margin.

Looking at the 1-10 scores that Populus ask people to rate party leaders upon, Brown has fallen to an average of 4.6, down from 5.79 in September, the lowest he has yet recorded and lower than nearly ever score that Tony Blair recorded – to put it in context, it’s the sort of figure Michael Howard and Ming Campbell used to record. David Cameron meanwhile was up to 5.07, but first time he’s popped back above the 5.0 mark since January last year. (Clegg is even lower than Brown, but a very large proportion of respondents said don’t know). It looks as though while Labour are rallying slightly, perceptions of Brown himself are still deteriorating.


75 Responses to “Clegg effect boosts Lib Dems in first poll of 2008”

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  1. Clegg is clearly enjoying the traditional ‘honeymoon effect’. But how long will it last? Labour still have all to play for. This is rather a less disastrous poll than those in November/early December. It will be interesting to see what effect the Prime Ministerial anoouncements of the last few days will have. Brown has received a not wholly unfavourable press and I am not sure that the public will appreciate the seemingly automatic rubbishing of his proposals emanating from the Conservatives.
    Thanks, Anthony, for a measured and thoughtful analysis.

  2. How do you reconcile that you say that LibDem boost is because Clegg has been voted leader, while his own personal rating is low because very few people have an opinion about him?
    Would it simply be that more people have been reminded about the LibDems existence because the candidates have been on telly a few times?

  3. I’m still sceptical about this – I don’t think the samples taken over the holidays are necessarily representative. However the Weighted Moving Average is 40:33:17. Recent Populus polls have consistently underestimated the C lead by an average of 4%, and so the latest deviation of 3% seems plausible. In the absence of disasters Brown may be slightly recovering, but the next disaster is just around the corner, I suspect.

  4. Pete – I don’t disagree with that. By a Clegg effect I don’t mean that people think Clegg is wonderful and are all voting for the Lib Dems because they think he’s ace, just that the boost is probably because of the appointment of a new leader. It’s probably largely publicity and coverage (though I expect it’s also partially just the perception created by his appointment that the party are ‘in the game’ again)

  5. This is a usual POLL from Populus – out of sync with the other Pollsters and in this case generous to the Liberals – just a glance at the previous POLLS shows Populus standing out in the crowd . I would have to agree with the “Times” on this one – especially on the personal ratings .

  6. A “measured and thoughtful analysis”, as my near namesake says – but I feel that Anthony (in common with a lot of the media commentators – and all Tory supporters) are writing Brown off far too soon. Not surprising that his ratings have gone down after a torrent of abuse – mostly based on some fairly minor “fiascos”, many of which were hardly the fault of either Brown or the government on any fair analysis – although who expects a fair analysis in political comment these days! Give it at least six more months before writing the obituaries.

  7. It may not be a “Clegg effect”.

    Polls move up and down.

    The Tories still have more to do to convince wavering voters, however, because we could be seeing clues that some of their lead has been due to bad news stories for the Government dominating the media.

  8. Have to agreee with JohnH. A number off respondents here have now dismissed the last four polls that show Labour improving and the Tories slipping as rogues/Xmas blips/out of sync etc. How many rogue polls make a trend? Perhaps it all depends on which party’s rose tinted specs you are wearing at the time.
    I think the key area to watch will be the personal ratings. It’s nip and tuck between DC and GB, which is much better for the Tories, but how those numbers move over the next few weeks will be as important if not more so than the headline numbers.

  9. Mike R – Just a glance at recent polls shows clearly that it is Yougov who are out of sync with the other pollsters not Populus . No other pollster has given Conservative a rating as high as Yougov’s 45% . The question is whether that was a rogue or caused by the inherent bias in their self selected panel of more COnservative older more affluent people than the population as a whole .
    I agree with JohnH , although it looks likely that Brown will not be able to recover , it is not impossible , Thatcher and the Conservatives were in an even worse position in the polls in late 1981 and at times in 1985/86 and still won the following general elections easily .

  10. JohnH –

    You read like a Labour version of Mike R! (No bad thing and respect to you both!)

    We’re still all waiting for the torrid times to subside and for a meaningful series of polls to set the scene. I find it healthy that there was no election in the Autumn, and that the battle of ideas will be joined on three sides over the next year or two and a half. I’d have been troubled by a Brown victory on the back of his honeymoon – he never deserved a five year term, never having fought for one.

    There’ll be no “honeymoon” effect on any side to distort matters. I’m relieved that Clegg has had a positive bounce like the other two leaders, and look forward to it subsiding like the others.

    Brown’s image – the bags under the eyes etc. – could go against him, or for him. His supporters would encourage him to “be himself”, even if that includes admitting he’s obsessive, intense and never sleeps (rather like Macbeth!). I suspect I’d be the same if I had his job.

    I can’t help wodering how many people would vote one way “to-morrow” but expect to vote another way when the time eventually comes.

  11. John TT , The problem is there will never be a non torrid time that will give a series of meaningful polls . The next couple of months polls will be influenced by the Clegg honeymoon , then it will be the influence of the May locals , then it will be the influence of summer holidays , then it is conference season and the associated wild swings we saw last year . then it will be Xmas again .

  12. Fair point!

    As a Londoner, I can see Boris and Ken providing some light relief on the one hand, but also throwing into relief the differences between Brown and Cameron.

    I’m not sure the conferences will provoke the wild spending spree by news organisations on pollsters that we saw last year – i suspect any election speculation will be dampened in advance, and I hope (rather than expect) that the atmosphere might be calmer.

  13. Can we say then that this, for the first time in living memory, is a bad poll for everyone?

    If it is I am sure it is well deserved by all 3.

    The alcohol and festive spirit has just worn off and the reality of paying the bills has now hitting home. Given these factors I am surprised anyone responded positively at all to any of the main stream party’s. Most of which are still basking in sunnier climes, at largely our expense.

  14. Well, Labour stuck on 33%, I don’t see much for Labour supporters to be happy about, quite honestly. Yes, the Tory lead has fallen somewhat, probably because of the new Liberal leader, but Labour are beginning to look suspiciously like they’re flatlining to me…

  15. GIN
    At least they aren’t flatlining at a level that would reasonably lead to a leadership challenge, which, given the lack of a challenge during the leadership “contest”, would signal the end for this Govt.

    I agree with Atlas that they should none of them be happy (but not that it’s a first – and aren’t they all back now anyway, getting their expenses forms in in time for their Xmas credit card bills to be paid?)

  16. Well, low 30’s is where Labour’s core support is. Just as it was with the Conservatives. If Labout stay stuck at 30-33% over the next few months, then they are flatlining at their core vote. The question then becomes, how high can the Tories go? Obviously they won’t go as high as Labour in the “glory years” of 94-97, but anything around 42-43% would be enough for the Tories if Labour remain at their core vote.

  17. The more Labour and conservative policies converge – such as forcing disabled people back to work – the better for the LibDems. If Cameron wants to cut money he should expel any greedy councillors who vote themselves pay rises. Fair play to Brown on MP’s pay.

  18. The talk of core vote levels is interesting. One of the key changes from 1997 that I think has been underestimated is the role of the LDs. Althugh they are still very much the third party, we now really do have three party politics, but conversely this seems to have the impact of magnifying swings against the main parties and seems to enable majorities with smaller vote shares. I doubt that either Tories or Labour will get over 40% at the next election, and I suspect they will both be several points lower than this. I wonder how long it can go on having first past the post majorities on shrinking vote shares before some form of PR becomes widely popular?

  19. “The more Labour and conservative policies converge – such as forcing disabled people back to work – the better for the LibDems”

    All three parties seem to be in a bidding war as to how many benefit claimants they would get back to work over the weekend.As for the poll, and latest polls.Well, they won’t have Labour supporters cheering in the streets ,but, I recall several posters predicting that Labour’s slump in the polls in November would become a freefall, it hasn’t and probably won’t.All these polls show is it’s all to play for over the next 12 to 18 months.

  20. All that these recent polls demonstrate is that anyone who thinks that the result of the next election is certain, is either a moron or so politically biased that they cannot see the wood for the trees.

    A Tory lead of 37-33 even if you permit some error and call it 38-32 becomes a lead of nothing if just 3 in 100 voters switches sides on a net basis between now and next May (or 2010).

    My personal view is that there is much for each party to worry about here and some hope for all too. This is entirely to be expected. Brown’s task is to reestablish his competency in the eyes of the public and give the perception of freshness to his agenda. Cameron’s task is to add meat to the bones of his general promises (less state, more choice) without losing those voters who are worried about change to the NHS, schools and welfare. Clegg’s task is to have the Libs taken seriously again such that they pick up the anti Labour and anti Tory vote from those who don’t want to swap from red to blue and vice versa.

    It is quite possible that each leader may succeed or fail in their tasks and we can all advocate the case for why we think one will succeed and one will fail. Just remember that that is very different to what will in fact happen.

  21. I suspect that the fact that the last few polls have shown the Tory lead way down from the 12 points or so in mid-December will be an enormous relief to Labour even if it is clear it still has big problems.

    a 4 point Tory lead is unlikely to result in a Tory win unless there is alot of anti-Labour tactical voting and after the last few turbulent months that will give some comfort to Labour

  22. If the next months’ polls confirm a narrower lead, I wonder if that will put pressure on Cameron to be more radical, or less?

  23. I think Arnie is absolutely correct. Also worth bearing in mind that momentum is important. Now that we have a narrative of Labour in trouble, a narrowing of any Tory lead will be seen as pressure on Cameron, and John tt’s point comes into play. Politics works in odd ways.

  24. Parliament is shut, and the media is twiddling it’s thumbs. Brown’s “new politics” has surpassed Blair’s spin, with the former not only ignoring Parliament by [re-]announcing policies to his friends in the media, but showing contempt for his colleagues [sic] by doing their job for them. [Alan Johnson does what…?]

    None of the minefields of 2008 have been approached yet. Northern Rock may go bust due to falling house-prices despite £60billion in government support. Immigration-control is systemically non-existent. Detention-without-trial awaits, as does the EU Constitutional-Treaty. The possibility of Alastair Darling interfering in the energy markets coincides with media-reports that Tory-leaning areas may have to pay more for their energy supplies (which one assumes is purely just bad-timing).

    Christmas is over, but what have [they, the politicians] done? Another year of polling over, but a new one just begun!

  25. Four polls – holiday season or not – is enough to suggest that Labour is recovering. It was only a few weeks ago that many were saying Labour was in free-fall toward the mid-20s, and that the Tories were establishing an unassailable 10% lead and were above the 40% level that would result in a majority for Cameron.
    Labour is heading back to the mid 30s from where it won the 2005 election, with its’ vote firming up again, and the Tories are losing votes back to the Lib Dems as their boost in the polls from Nov/Dec is revealed to be entirely down to the Government’s bad press. The Tory vote is softer than the “Brown bounce” of last summer, and Cameron is not doing nearly enough to make the public feel positive about his Party.

  26. Oh dear, a new year and already we’ve got the Tories (Mike Richardson) rubbishing polls that don’t give the Tories a 57% lead over Labour; and Lib Dems (Mark Senior) rubbishing polls that accurately measure the status of the Lib Dems in the low teens.

    Every single one of us can dismiss polls for no more substantive a reason than we don’t like what they tell us – but too bad: get over it – the more concerning issue is when a pollster (like CommRes or ICM) consistently overstates or understates a party’s position by using filters that are clearly dubious (see my earlier post about only considering the responses of 10 out of 10 certain to vote-rs).

    It’s a good thing ICM doesn’t poll in the US: on its absurd 10 out of 10 measure I suspect it would have been forecasting a landslide Hillary Clinton victory in Iowa because it would have excluded the first-timers and never-before-rs energised by Barack Obama.

    BTW, I suspect the LD “bounce” has nothing to do with their leadership irrelevance – just that when political coverage is turned down as it was over Christmas the anti-Government mood subsides and, given that most of the recent Tory advance has come from the LDs, that naturally expands their base a little.

  27. I think that a rise in the Lib Dem vote at the expence of the Tories here will probably slide back towards them come an election. If the next election is a genuine contest, these voters will be aware that they can choose the government. Given this,, then they will probably end up voting Conservative come polling day.

  28. Adam , ICM does NOT have a 10/10 filter on certainty to vote that is Ipsos Mori . ICM has a filter that counts those 7/10 or higher on certainty to vote . This is much more sensible than Yougov whose results are based on a turnout at the next GE of almost 80%

  29. Nothing newsworthy is happening at all in British politics atm, all news interest at the moment is on US politics as there is fascinating things going on across the pond. Domestically we’re still in the “holiday season”.

    My suspicion is that this doesn’t make these polls “rogue” but perhaps demonstrate what is at the moment the “core” support of each party when no news is going on. I think the levels we’re seeing now, is the basic levels for each party at the moment stripping away any news events, since there aren’t any.

    The only exception is the Lib-Dems who’re possibly experiencing a honeymoon bounce.

    —–

    As for who should be happy with these figures, I rather suspect nobody, but at a push (and expecting to be accused of Rose-Tinted Spectacles) the Tories can get some pleasure from it.

    Conservatives: Not an election winning lead, but to be clearly in the lead still (outside margin of error) is not a bad start when Brown has still been in the post less than a year. Will need to do better to get an overall majority, but there is at least a good platform to build on here.

    Labour: Something dramatic has to happen to get them above the low-thirties I suspect.

    Lib-Dems: To be in a “honeymoon” and below 20% is not a good sign. On the road to recovery, perhaps, or perhaps still in doldrums but experiencing a bounce. We’ll have to wait and see, but to just stay still they need to gain from here.

  30. Sorry for pools/polls spelling mistake, see below.

    Hard to know what to make of this poll. Another “holiday mood” poll or the Tory lead weakening?

    I’m still not convinced of any trends to any party either positive or negative until Westminster reopens and politics is back in full swing.

    When are the next polls due ?

  31. Last year January was:

    ICM/Guardian 21st
    YouGov/Telegraph 24th
    Ipsos-MORI/ 29th

  32. Thanks to the out of date “new” boundaries which will be operating at the next election, it’s very likely that the combination of a 19% Lib Dem result with a 33% Labour showing would be enough to stop the Tories winning an overall majority, so the Conservatives will be hoping that this particular poll is not repeated in the coming weeks and months.

  33. ANDY – I think Boundary changes at the next election favour the Tories but you’re right in the fact that Boundary changes in general take so long to happen that by the time they do they are out of date and further boundary changes should have been introduced.

    Hence Labour win a few smallish(It terms of total voters) inner city seats which, by the time of the next election, will probably have been put into a larger constituency.

  34. It might be worth mentioning that a month ago Populus had,

    Labour 32% (-5%)
    Conservative 40% (+4%)
    Lib Dem 16% (-)
    Others 11% (-)

    Given that these are pretty large swings it could be that if anything it was actually the early December poll that was the rouge and that it overemphasised the Tory lead at +9. November had

    Labour 37% (-3%)
    Conservative 36% (-2%)
    Lib Dem 16% (+4%)
    Others 11% (+1%)

    Which compared to now would be

    Labour 33% (-4%)
    Conservative 40% (-4%)
    Lib Dem 19% (+3%)
    Others 8% (+1%)

    That would suggest a LibDem recover at the expense of everyone including the “Others”, or just that all polls are currently erratic.

    Peter.

  35. Sorry “Others should be (-3%)

    Peter.

  36. With the last boundary review, the seats were based on February 1991 electorates and were first fought in May 1997, so there was only a 6 year gap. The previous changes to that were based on 1976 data, and were first fought in 1983, a 7 year gap in that case.

    With the present boundary review, the seats are based on February 2000 electorates. So if the election is in May 2010, they will be more than 10 years out of date. Even if the election is in May 2009, they will still be a lot more out of date than the previous reviews, at nearly 9 and a half years.

  37. Encouraged by my correct poll prediction that for once Populus would swing into line with ICM and YouGov let me go on to make another which is that it won’t last long. Clearly however there has been a contraction in the Tory lead and whilst this may be no more than a holiday blip it should nevertheless serve as a reminder to those Tories like Mike Richardson who seem to think that it is all plain sailing between now and the General Election.
    It is difficult to know if Clegg is giving the Lib Dems a bounce or not. Neither he nor Cameron have had much publicity lately and in Clegg’s case it is probably unfair to make an assessment of his impact until he does get a bit of coverage.

    The Populus poll puts others at 11% which I am certain is too high. Yes the SNP vote may very well increase at the next GE but there is no indication that Plaid Cmyru, the BNP or UKIP are on the up rather the reverse. More to the point many of those people who say they are going to vote for these parties may not even have a candidate standing in their constituency. Generally I have to say that I do not believe that the vote for others will exceed 8% at the next GE.

  38. Not sure what the Lib Dem figure indicates yet-time will tell I suppose.

    It seems to me that as Brown’s policies move rightward and-as has been said above-converge with Conservative policies, the electorate is left with very little ideological difference to ponder.
    The two recent announcements on Welfare to Work are an example. Both parties have the same ( perfectly sensible ) objectives-neither party is criticising the other on principle.
    Labour say the Tories approach is not cost effective. Conservatives say the Labour approach is not comprehensive.

    So the voter has either to get right into the detail proposed by each party in order to make a judgement-or fall back on judgements about the leaders’ managerial competence.
    And in that context Brown must be concerned about this Poll & the Tories pleased with it.

    However at some point the Conservatives must persuade the voters to make that transition from increasingly believing in Cameron’s greater competency to believing wholeheartedly in the Conservatives as a Government. They don’t seem to have made that leap yet.

    Anthony’s observations about The Times’ reporting of the Poll is interesting.Today’s Cartoon, , The political Sketchwriter-and the Leader are all very uncomplementary about Brown’s NHS speech.He must be concerned as to how he can retrieve the confidence he once enjoyed by the Press ( well The Times anyway!)

  39. NICK KEENE / MARK SENIOR / JOHN TT / ADAM :-

    Thank you so much for the responses to my 4.5 line POLL comment – much appreciated , i obviously have a great influence on your thinking & i have a few worried about my past and current predictions .

    NICK KEENE :- i have to respond to you saying that at a glance YouGov POLLS are more out of sync than Populus – i would have to disagree – going back as far as august last year – i see Populus POLLS out of sync on 9/12 , 4/11 , 6/10 , 5/10 , 28/8 & YouGov only out of sync on 28/8 & 10/8 .

    I have to agree with a few on here that the Clegg boost should be higher – i predicted a high of 18 to 19% – this will go up and down till the next election but won’t ever finish at a general election above about 17% maximum.

    I also agree with a few on here that Labour are very close to their core vote – but as we have seen back in the 80’s under Michael Foot & recently under the final days of Blair – Labours core vote can drop as low as 27% – whereas the Tory core vote tends to be in the low 30’s.

    Yes Brown has been protected over the Xmas season from bad media coverage – as has Cameron and Clegg from good media coverage – so a bit of a holiday feeling in everyone till (as someone said earlier) the bills start coming in at the end of the month. The late january early February POLLS will paint a truer picture of the electorates feelings .

    I don’t think it’s time for any handclapping yet from any party followers – time will tell and the May elections are’nt far away – the POLLS will get very exciting till then as will the media headhunt .

  40. It was interesting to note that while The Times was not good for Brown today, The Sun was OK. Murdoch’s son is now at the helm and reportedly not a Brown fan but is Cameron friendly. He claims he does pull some sway with the Sun, but stays out of the Times. In those circumstances, you might have expected the position of the papers to be reversed.
    I understand Miss Wade herself is more inclined to the left[?]. I suspect The Sun is hedging it’s bets. Come closer to an election, I doubt the paper will be allowed much latitude. The Times will be more consistent. If he loses them, he will have lost both by the next election. Reporters on Sky News’s seem to have cooled. They took the same angle as The Times on the Populus poll.

  41. Sorry. Shouldn’t type with a forty pound dog on your lap.
    Peter’s comments about the last Populus poll were interesting

  42. Agree with Colin’s comments. In the absence of ideology we’re left with managerial competance – in these circumstances government slip ups are damaging. However, as I’ve said many times before, people have not really bought in to Cameron the leader, and after two years in post I doubt they will. This makes things hard to predict, and Clegg’s next twelve months critical.

  43. It will be interesting to see the full tables when they are up, to see if there has been any recovery in Scotland, although I have to say that a combination of volatillity and very small sample size makes recent Populus figures for Scotland little short of whacko.

    The last few months figures for Scotland have been,

    Dec. Labour 31%, SNP 35%, Tories 20%, Libdems 7%…..( Yeah 7%).
    Nov. Labour 32%, SNP 43%, Tories 14%, Libdems 7%
    Oct. Labour 60%, SNP 17%, Tories 14%, Libdems 5%

    Given that 40% of LibDem votes are in only 20% of Scottish constituencies it’s easy to see how on a sample of less than 100 a few calls can throw the whole thing out of kilter.

    As to Labour going from 60% to 32% while the SNP climbs from 17% to 43%, what is that about.

    Peter.

  44. “Labours core vote can drop as low as 27% – whereas the Tory core vote tends to be in the low 30’s.”

    Apples and pears.Labour hasn’t dropped beneath it’s core vote as yet in any opinion poll during the past 11 years of government.I can well remember the Tories polling in the mid 20%s, and once dropping below 20%, during their spell in office.While ‘weighting’ has done a great deal to stabilise polling I don’t think Labour are in the sort of mid term melt down we’ve previously witnessed under Thatcher’s and Major’s governments- Labour are currently somewhere between 2% to 5% below their 2005 general election figure.Something that was pointed out to several over excited Tory supporters before Xmas.As it stands,Labour’s position is recoverable, it doesn’t mean they will recover, of course. Everything to play for.

  45. “As to Labour going from 60% to 32% while the SNP climbs from 17% to 43%, what is that about.”

    Peter Cairns (SNP)

    Maybe we should get Steve Buckner, Mark Benson and Ricky Ponting to clarify the outcome…?;)

  46. Maybe we should all take a lesson from New Hampshire where the voters have just made idiots of the opinion polls on a scale I haven’t seen since at least 1992 in the UK.If the voters either side of the Atlantic are in a contrary mood for whatever reason or none then predictions based on polls alone are best avoided. Roll on the May local elections! That might be a better guide right now.

  47. Yes Nick , as I have consistently maintained ( and been ridiculed for saying ) real votes are of far more importance and a truer guide to what people are thinking than opinion polls .

  48. Nick,

    Pollsters have problems dealing with hype be it Brown’s honeymoon or Obama. If those they interview suddenly start telling them that they have changed who they are voting for they have to accept that even if it turns our to be as reliable as a Hain submission to the Electoral Commission.

    Mark,

    All I’ve ever done (and never using ridicule) is to point out the many flaws in doing that. How do local issues like for example a candidate running an erotic story website tell you anything about the national scene?

  49. The political sophistication of those who vote in these council by elections is also very high I would imagine= genereally those who make it to the polling station when there are very low turnouts are likely to be more politically aware, and I suspect that favours Lib Dems and Conservatives more than Labour- that being the case because the later tends to take more votes from poorer people (in opinion polls and general elections) who may not follow politics as closely and are harder to attract to the polling station.

  50. Mark, the issue is that real votes occur once every 4-5 years. Of just once a year in some of the country every May if you want to take Local Elections at a push. Local by-elections are not comparable to real votes any more than school board elections are comparable to Presidential ones.

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