There’s a fun little question over on PoliticsHome I haven’t seen before. They’ve asked each party’s voters how enthusiastic they are about their choice.

Conservative voters are by far the most enthusiastic, 47% say they are very enthusiastic about their choice, with a further 32% quite enthusiastic. Labour’s remaining voters are less enthusiastic – only 34% are very enthusiastic, with 31% quite enthusiastic. So most of the Tory vote isn’t holding its nose and forcing itself to vote Tory, it seem pretty happy about it.

Perhaps surprisingly, Liberal Democrat voters are least enthusiastic – only 24% are very enthusiastic, and 11% are “actively depressed but can’t see a better option” (the comparative numbers for Conservative and Labour voters is just 5%). My guess is that this is a reflection of the Liberal Democrats often being the natural benificiary of the “a plague on both their houses vote”.

63 Responses to “Tory voters are most enthusiastic”

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  1. Faced with consistently high poll scores for the Tories, many Labour supporters have argued that this is not genuine support for the Tories, but is people protesting against the government, and that these people will return to Labour at the election. This poll seems to prove that wrong and it will be interesting to see if this question is asked in future.

  2. Lib Dems— 11% are “actively depressed but can’t see a better option” —

    That’s the first time a poll has made me laugh out loud! What a question!

  3. Don’t suppose it mentions us?


  4. I’ve always wondered from my first days of doorknocking over 20 years ago – not for Labour as it happens – when I was surprised to get a lot of responses like “I’m not voting for you, you’ll let the other lot in” or “I’m voting for x because they are best placed to stop y getting in/to get z out”.

    Has there ever been any polling to establish how much of people’s voting intentions is positive – support for party y’s policies, or negative – opposition to party z’s policies?

    Of course for most people it is a mixture of both, so would need to be measured on a sliding scale say of 1 for “because I believe in my partys policies” to 5 for “because I dislike the policies of party x”.

    For some tactical voting will come into play because their favoured party stands no chance of winning locally, so they vote for the party that stands the best chance of defeating their least favoured party. Some will vote for their favoured party whatever the circumstance as a mark of faith or in the hope that it will help that party’s vote grow over time.

    And I suppose as “tribal” party loyalty erodes further and presidential style contests develop, for many the perceived merits of the leaders trumps loyalty/policy as well.

  5. This poll certainly seems to nail the claim that the Tories poll lead is “soft.”

    I always the 40-43% that say they will vote Conservative in most polls was very solid. The further 5% that took the Tories into the high 40s last summer was quite soft, but the Conservatives are now very solidly in the low 40% mark, where I would expect them still to be come the election, and from where I expect them to win an overall majority of between 20-40 seats.

  6. I think this is most important question actually: could not levels of political enthusiasm over a significant period of say 20 to 30 years tell us something about ourselves as social communities? I also wonder if Labour voters were more or less enthusiastic in the 1970s and 80s and how the emergence of New Labour affected that. Could it be that Old Labour voters are now unenthusiastic Lib Dems? And what actually makes you less or more enthusiastic about politics anyway? Just a thought.

  7. If you take the stanfings of the parties as Con 42 Lab 30 LD 18 then there are in fact more Conservatives not enthusiastic about their current party than LibDem
    viz 21% of 42% is 8.8% of the electorate . 34% of 18% is 6.1% of the electorate . The Labour figure is 10.5% of the electorate .
    These figures are not too dissimilar to those Andrew Cooper gave some months ago on voters who may change their voting intention .

  8. Anthony – Gallup polled US public opinion on climate change.

    Has someone done an equivalent for the UK?

  9. Phil’s D,

    The quote at the end is the key for me;

    “It is not clear whether the troubled economy has drawn attention away from the global warming message or whether other factors are at work.”

    I think that with the new president talking about taking real steps to tackle the problem and the republicans talking about it meaning higher taxes bigger government and lost jobs that people have decided more that these things are more important right hoe rather than that global warming isn’t.

    As the economy has moved to the top of the agenda so everything else has moved down. Equally the data shows quite clearly that where as the number saying Gw is an issue has fallen in actual fact it is republicans who have turned strongly against it in big numbers to create the overall down turn.

    With the right wing of the republican party smarting from defeat and portraying Obama as a godless socialist I think this reflects a political schism in the US and economic conditions more than a real growth of climate scepticism.

    I would be interested in Anthony’s comments but for me this is a classic case of a good poll by a reputable pollster being poorly and narrowly interpreted by the media.


  10. In a slightly different interpretation to Mark Senior:-

    Given 42/30/18

    Very + Quite Enthusiastic = Core Vote

    Not Very+Not Enthusiastic = Floaters

    Depressed etc= OldTory/Old Labour/ Proper Liberals

  11. Is it me or suddenly are pollsters asking a lot more vague / ‘off the wall’ questions?

    “actively depressed but can’t see a better option”

    Sounds like they need the services of a shrink, not a ballot box! (lol)

  12. Colin,

    I agree your interpretation makes more sense than Mark’s, but actually, I think that maybe one should confine the “core” vote to just those who are very entusiastic. These will be those who will vote for that party come hell or high water.

    Then the figures come out at:-
    C: 47% of 42% = 19.75%
    L: 34% of 30% = 10.2%
    LD: 24% of 18% = 4.3%

    Note however that these figures would be for the electorate as a whole, so if we assume a 66% turnout they then translate upwards to:
    C: 29.6%
    L: 15.3%
    LD: 6.5%

    It then comes down to what proportion of the enthusiastic / floating elements actually turn out. (The depressives will most probably sit the election out).

  13. Paul HJ-thanks-yes that’s another approach-not sure I understand your third para.

    I think you can argue 30%ish as Cons Core support-thats what Anthony’s 1997-2001 graph indicates after they got back up of the canvas.

  14. It’s been said many times before but it’s still very worrying to see the UKPR poll average Tory lead of 12% only leading to a majority of 56 seats. Roughly the same lead gave Blair a 179 majority in 1997. A 56 majority sounds quite a lot, but of course it only means getting 28 seats more than the winning post of 326, and 20 seats that are expected to go to one party can easily go back to the other party as a result of a tiny shift in votes on election day itself.

  15. Colin,

    It depends on how one would define “core” vote.

    (a) Is it those people who would always vote for the party, come what may ?
    (b) Those who would never vote for another party – but might not vote if they were unhappy ?
    (c) Or a floor below which the party is unlikely to drop in any given election ?

    If we mean by “core” the people in (a), then we are referring to those with a higher propensity to vote. Thus, while they may be a lower proportion of the electorate, they will be a higher percentage of those who actually voted. – which thus translates into a higher figure at (c). (Hence my third para)

    It might appear semantics, but it matters in that elections are not usually won on changing the minds of a few thousand voters in a small number of seats – i.e getting “floating” voters in marginals to switch – but by enthusing one’s natural and potential supporters to get out and vote. Yes there will be floaters who switch, and they are important. But seismic changes happen because either one party has failed to motivate its key supporters or another party has inspired its peripheral support to actively vote for it.

    I believe that if one analyses the pattern over the past decades, then one can see that both Labour and the Conservatives each have a bed-rock of about 20-25%
    with a further 5-10% of “core” support. This means that either party has to be at the nadir of its popularity to drop below 30%, but both now need to reach outside their core vote to rise above 35%.

    There is some evidence to suggest that the level of core vote has eroded over the past fifty years, and that, since the 1970s, the rate of erosion has been greater for Labour than Conservative. Thus there have been instances where we have seen Labour drop below 30% in a general election, and below 25% in European and Council elections, whereas the Tories have not slipped below 30% in a general election, and never fallen below 25% in any nationwide election – not even in 1993.

    The position of the LDs is quite different. Their true core probably is as low as 4-5%, but there may be up to 25% of the electorate who may be willing to “lend” them their vote in any given election if they are not a core supporter of Lab or Con.

    The pool of genuinely floating voters is probably around 20-25% at most. i.e. those who have no real preference, and can be swayed in any direction in response to what they may perceive as their personal interest (“hip-pocket” issues), a strong leader, or the prevailing wind. Many of these have probably voted LD at some stage, but would not describe themselves as such. They are also likely to be the group most prone to “false recall” which distorts pollsters attempts to weight their samples.

  16. Andy – I would personally expect a lead that large to result in a bigger majority. It would be a truly massive swing, and it is unrealistic to think that public opinion could move so much, but patterns of things like tactical voting remain the same.

    Equally, Its hard to imagine there being that degree of swing in hardcore Labour heartlands – let’s be honest, if there was a 8 point swing to the Tories nationwide, there wouldn’t be an 8 point swing in the Welsh valleys, or Merseyside, Glasgow, most of South Yorkshire, Newcastle, etc. There probably wouldn’t in Con/LD seats either where the incentive to kick out the government would be watered down. The effect of that would be to skew the vote distribution slightly back towards the Tories.

    But of course, none of this is quantifiable, and I couldn’t do a model without making entirely arbitary guesses…. so I use uniform swing because that’s the best we’ve got. But if the election has a massive swing, I would expect the Conservatives to outperform it in terms of seats (against Labour that is, not the LDs).

  17. I think the core issue for Labour remains the same; has anyone actually met a committed ‘New Labour’ supporter? Someone who joined / swung to the Labour party because of Blairite ‘vision’? Or have we mainly met labour supporters who continue to vote labour despite new Labour policies?

    Now, obviously I am suggesting an extreme to make a point but I think the Labour party is a confused party with parliamentary policies not really matching its members aspirations but often meeting the aspirations of the tabl;oid press, (bar occasionally). This would explain Labour member’s attitudes….

  18. Jack think your entirely correct re Labour people. This poll tells us what we already know. The Tory lead in part is down to Labour people not being enthusiastic about voting. Those pollsters that weight by likelihood to vote show that very clearly i believe.

    On a personal note as someone who suffers from depression I was very amused by the concept of “actively depressed” but thats just my odd sense of humour.

  19. A slight stereotype, but my guess is that the Conservative core vote is dying off.

  20. Josh,

    Except with people living longer and an ageing population maybe the grey vote is the key, especially as they are more likely to vote than the young.


  21. Jack and Peter

    I take it you are both referring to the stereotype that young people are more likely to vote Labour, and older people are more likely to vote Tory?

    I think I saw a poll a few years ago which showed that this wasn’t particularly true, or was less true than it used to be. Sorry, don’t have the reference.

    It’s an interesting subject. I wonder if it is really that the young are generally more radical and rebellious, and therefore more likely to vote against the current government (of whatever hue) than are older people? If my theory is correct, then I would expect to see Tory support amongst the young higher now than for Labour, or at least higher than it was in the days of a Tory government.

  22. Nope, age didn’t enter my head, nor my argument.

    My argument is (restated); that Labour has one (old) version which appealed to many core voters )of all ages, but has a different version which went down well with the tabloid press. And that the two version are not reconciled in the membership.

    Nor, more particularly, in the electorate.

    The only thing I agree with about age is that more people are likely to vote as they get older. ( I suspect there is a tendency to be somewhat more ‘radical / community minded’ when one is young; one has less hip pocket nerve / less mortgage / no children etc.)

    I might also add that I suspect there is an increasing tendency to vote against the current govt. by all ages; one only has to look at the swings covered here. I would argue that committed voters by all parties have markedly lessened – Anthony could fill in.

    I would accept the idea that Tory vote amongst the young may be higher than late 1990s, but anything would be…

  23. Jack – apologies, my previous post was aimed at Josh and Peter (my mistake), but thanks for the interesting reply anyway.

    I wonder about your idea that people are more likely to vote as they get older. It may be true that in current polls older people say they are more likely to vote, but this could be because they are from a generation that has always been motivated to vote. In other words, they were as committed when they were young as they are now, but the current crop of youngsters are less likely to vote (and to remain so) for whatever reason.

  24. Anthony – thanks for that explanation.

    There’s not much doubt that the core votes of both major parties are declining steadily over time as tribal instincts become less entrenched. However it’s possible that the LD core vote is slightly higher now than before. The MORI post-election statistics continued to show a much smaller proportion of older voters over 65 voting LD compared to the average which is in line with the fact that before the 1970s the Liberals had a very small share of the vote most of the time.

  25. In all 3 English council byelections last night as in all those last week , the Conservative support fell not only below last year but below the votes thwy were getting in 2003 and 2004 . Their support expressed in opinion polls is soft and at the moment not transferring into real votes .

  26. Mark interesting can i ask where the by elections were?

  27. Oh for goodness sake Mark, haven’t we been over this by election stuff a million times? This straw you keep clutching at is getting really, really tedious now.

  28. Likelihood to vote? I think it’s indisputable that more people vote as they get older and various research across countries support this idea. For example

    ‘Table 19 also shows a common feature – the association between age and… voting. Older people are three times more likely than younger people to vote… or at least claim to have done so…’
    p 109 N. Rao Reviving local democracy

    When googling this issue I was interested that it’s not a direct correlation. First time voters are quite strong, probably because they are at home with parents or wanting to mark being an adult and voting is being an adult. One USA study was very strong on this idea. They then argued it’s really the 23 – 29 year olds who are least likely to vote (out of parental influence, but not committed to any of the big issues as probably renting. Why renting you ask? The US study correlated likely voting with types of housing as well. Renters were least likely to vote, irrespective of age. Interesting idea for a study for someone’s thesis.

    Hey it’s a neat idea to play with…

  29. #

    These are actual votes cast in actual elections. They can’t be dismissed out of hand, simply because they don’t happen to favour the Tories, as you would like. The fact that there has been a shift in direction in terms of local by-election results away from the Tories (they have suffered a net loss in councillors so far this year) must say something about their electability and voters’ thinking generally.

  30. No, they say;

    1. Local elections, local issues.

    2. The Tories have reached a peak in local government from where the only way they can go is down.

    3. There is no evidence that people vote in these local by elections on the national standings of the parties.

    4. Fact is, Mark has been harping on about local by elections and how they prove the Tories are underperforming their poll ratings, on this blog and others, for as long as I’ve been posting here – Including last year when the Tories reached reached their local government peak.

  31. Anthony did some reasearch on this subject;

    His conclussion was that local by elections were of very little use in predicting future general elections. That really should be the end of this particular subject. Local by elections are interesting in their own right, but they really mean very little overall.

  32. I think it became fashionable in the last few elections for young people not to vote not particularly because they weren’t interested in politics as such but because it became a symbol of the young person being an individualist only interested in his or her own personal matters and not easily swayed by the things that wider society wanted him or her to be interested in. Maybe that way of thinking is starting to run out of steam a bit now and therefore the turnout of young people will hopefully rise at the next election.

  33. Mark and Robert,

    According to the full list of results here;

    The Tories have pretty well held their own this year after holding/ winning OVER HALF the seats up for grabs last year!

    Sorry but “Their support expressed in opinion polls is soft and at the moment not transferring into real votes” is just make believe.

  34. It’s possible local elections could be a useful signpost for individual seats (for example, IIRC the Lib Dems were doing very well in Solihull at a local level prior to the general election result that surprised many people – but I expect they were also doing well in lots of seats they didn’t have a big breakthrough in, so I’m wary of cherry picking examples), but as GIN said – I’ve tried and failed to find any reliable link between local by-elections and general election performance.

    It would be great if there was, as we’d have more stuff to analyse, but sadly there doesn’t seem to be. Certainly at times when they can be tested against general elections, opinion polls are vastly, vastly better at predicting outcomes than any calculation based on local by-elections.

  35. Not to mention that at each of the last four general elections there were local elections on the same date, and you could not necessarily correlate the results from the two in the same seat !

    Local elections really are local.

  36. Josh – actually, it doesn’t seem to work in terms of cohorts (i.e, there is a band of very Tory people aged 65+ who will die off and be replaced by today’s 45-65 year olds who are less Tory). Rather it seems to be that people get more Conservative as they get older.

    In October 1974, MORI’s post-election analysis showed

    Amongst 18 to 24 year olds a Labour lead of 18 points
    Amongst 25 to 34 year olds a Labour lead of 5 points
    Amongst 35 to 54 year olds a Labour lead of 8 points
    Amongst over 55s a Conservative lead of 2 points

    So in theory, the Toriest groups would be the first to die, being replaced by ever more Labour supporters. 34 years later most of those over 55s should be dead, and those heavily Labour under 25s would have made up 2005’s 49-55 year olds. Looking at MORI’s post-election data from 2005…

    Amongst 18 to 24 year olds a Labour lead of 10 points
    Amongst 25 to 34 year olds a Labour lead of 13 points
    Amongst 35 to 44 year olds a Labour lead of 14 points
    Amongst 45 to 54 year olds a Labour lead of 4 points
    Amongst 55 to 64 year olds a Conservative lead of 8 points
    Amongst over 65s a Conservative lead of 6 points

    So actually, that very Labour cohort of under 25s in 1974, have mellowed into a comparatively Toryish cohort of 45-54 years olds by 2005. The Labour supporting 35 to 55 year olds of 1974, are now Tory supporting over 65s.

  37. I just found an old tape with the BBCs coverage of the 2004 Euro Elections which included Peter Snow demonstrating the swingometer using 4 available measures of voting intentions at that time: the Euro Elections, the local elections, the London elections, and the opinion polls. The first 3 showed swings to the Tories of somewhere between 7 and 10 per cent. The opinion polls were showing a swing of 2.5%. The actual swing at the general election 11 months later was of course 3%.

    Rallings and Thrasher used to have some confidence in local by-elections predicting general elections to a certain extent (or they used to at least) since articles on that subject used to appear regularly in the Sunday Times but I haven’t seen any for a while.

  38. IIRC Rallings and Thrasher succesfully managed to predict the 1997 election using local by-elections, but in 2001 it grossly overestimated the Lib Dems, and didn’t really work in 2005 even with an adjustment to dampen the Lib Dems down. They had more success at predicting local elections using it, though even then from memory the last few years haven’t be ace (though granted, in 2007 Labour support collapsed in April, so their predictions were really superceded).

    I think the reason it has disappeared though is that they used to use only local by-elections with just the three main parties in contention, and these days there is nearly always at least one fringe party.

  39. Anthony I hope you will not mind my repeating the question.

    Gallup polled US public opinion on climate change.

    Has someone done an equivalent for the UK?

    (Peter – your analysis may well be right but I would still like to see if the same has happened here)

  40. Phil’s Dad – not a nice regular tracker of opinion towards climate change like that, though if you look about there will be various polls on attitudes towards climate change – this one from MORI seems pretty good.

  41. Anthony,

    Not quite the same as your Labour v Confidence graph, but I saw this on politicalbetting;

    What if you could get them would a graph of government support to house prices look like for the marginal poll.

    Although individual seat samples would be small it would be interesting if the Labour fall was higher where the housing market had taken the biggest dip, particularly in respect of the possibility that the Tories are consolidating support amongst the C2’s a group that could be suffering worst from negative equity.


  42. It is a common mythe rhat local elections are local and do not reflect national politics . In fact it is very rare that a local election is dominated by local issues and has an unusual result . Portsmouth Copnor and the fire station issue is the last one I can recall that was significant .
    GIN is correct that we can expect a small falling back in the Conservative support from 2007/2008 but the fact that they are now consistently performing worse than in 2003/2004 prior to them losing the 2006 GE should be a worry to them . As a LibDem I am pleased to see he is so complacent about this .
    Labour are showing a small recovery in support from 2007/2008 but it is generally the LibDems and BNP who are benefitting from the weakness of the Labour and Conservatives compared to 2003/2004 . Greens and UKIP are both falling back heavily .

  43. Anthony – Interesting figures to show that between those two elections at least, voters became more Tory as they got older. As we expect to have an aging population, the logical extension would be that the Conservatives should become stronger and stronger as time goes on. This obviously doesn’t mean that they will win every election, as any government is capable of alienating the population!
    But it might mean that their core vote continues to grow.

    More contentiously (and I’m ducking in advance), as people are supposed to get wiser as they get older, does this mean that Conservative is the wise choice? There you are, I’ve even given them a free slogan! BTW I have not decided which way to vote at the next election yet, just in case I’m accused of being partisan.

  44. Well Mark I don’t belong to the Tory Party or speak for them, so what I think – Whether I’m complacent or not – Will not effect anything really.

    You say Lib-Dems are benefiting from this Labour/Conservative weakness, but as Anthony has showed Lib-Dems ALWAYS do better in local by elections, which NEVER translate to GE performance.

  45. GIN , Anthony has said nothing of the sort – see his comments re Solihull in this thread and I could give other examples .
    It is correct to say that Labour ALWAYS underperform in local elections compared to a GE because of differential turnout and the LibDems perform around 4-6 % better in local elections held on the same day as a GE . Strangely , perhaps, having local elections on the same day as a GE lowers the LibDem GE vote by around 1% as some voters take the opportunity to split their vote between the 2 types of election .

  46. Mark Senior

    So once again you are trying to talk up the Lib Dem performances in the local council by elections and /or the polls . If I recall correctly the last time you did this you came a cropper when the national local elections came around and I would have thought that once bitten was twice shy but no here you are again.
    Ok Mark if you still feel that a couple of by election gains herald a new dawn for the Lib Dems and that the Tory vote is so flaky what are your predictions for the English local council elections on June 4th? Or to be more precise how many seats do the Lib Dems have to lose to the Tories before you will concede that it is a less than brilliant result?

  47. Mark, in this thread (which you never commented on)

    Anthonys final conclussion was;

    Tthe simple fact is that Liberal Democrats always do better in local government by-elections than elsewhere, Labour always do worse, but the amount Labour do worse and the Lib Dems do better isn’t constant, rendering them of very little use in predicting general election support… unless you know better…”

  48. Nick , I did not come a cropper in last year’s local elections re LibDem gains I was almost spot on ( though I did underestimate Labour losses because of their fall in support in March/April last year ) . My forecast for this year’s locals is on record in the competition .
    What are your predictions ? there are some Conservatives predicting Labour will lose more seats to the Conservatives than they are actually defending – now that is talking up your party through your ar*e .

  49. Peter,

    Its true older people are more likely to vote, however people who are ‘old’ are not always more likely to vote Conservative.

    Since ’97 the number of people over 65 who vote Tory has been decreasing. The Conservatives still however, get more votes from that age group than any other party.

    An interesting survey I saw that reinforced that point was one that surveyed people who first voted in ’64. People who were now in their late 60s. In 1964 a large number of them had voted Labour. Most of those who had voted Labour in 1964 had also voted Labour in 2005.

    From that survey it would appear to me that unless the Conservatives can make a large number of converts in the older age band their core vote amongst the elderly is dying off and Labour is the party benefiting.

    Interestingly amongst the under 75s the people who are most likely to vote Tory are now those who came of age in the period ’70-76.

  50. The fact that in 2005 turnout was 37% amongst 18-24 year olds and 75% amongst those ages 65 and older was also pretty important in holding up the Conservative vote in addition to their natural strength amongst that older age group. If turnout had been equal between all age groups Blair may well have won another majority of 100+.

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