The News of the World has a new ICM poll of marginal seats in tomorrow’s paper. ICM’s sample covered the 97 seats where Labour are in first place and the Conservatives in second place, and where the Conservatives need a swing between 4% and 10%. The implied assumption is that seats with a majority of less than 4% are going to be Conservative gains anyway on the current national polls and not worth looking at – instead these are the seats that span from a hung Parliament to a chunky Conservative majority.

The topline voting intention figures in these seats, with changes from the last electon, are CON 40%(+9.2), LAB 37%(-7.4), LDEM 14%(-3.8) – so a swing of 8.3% from Labour to the Conservatives. In contrast the last ICM national poll showed a national swing of 6.5%, so once again we find a slightly larger swing towards the Conservatives in the Con-Lab marginal seats they need to win. This has been pretty consistent in all polls of marginal seats in the last couple of years.

What it doesn’t tell us is how well the Conservatives are doing against the Liberal Democrats in their marginal seats. On these particular figures it isn’t critical – if there was a uniform swing amongst Lab vs Con marginal seats these figures would net the Tories around 124 extra seats, and added to the 214 seats they start with on the new boundaries that alone would be enough for David Cameron to win a small overall majority even if the Con vs LD battle was completely static.

However, for a healthier majority the Conservatives would also need to make some progress against the third party. There is much less evidence of what is happening in Con vs LD seats, and it is much harder to judge what it means when there is, since personal votes and tactical voting plays a larger part and we don’t know for sure how to factor that in.

Going back to the ICM poll, there was scant evidence that the larger Conservative swing in marginal seats came from out-campaigning Labour or having more money to throw about. 28% of respondents recalled having received party literature, been canvassed or seen other signs of campaigning by the Conservatives, not significantly more than the 24% who recalled seeing signs of Labour campaigningin their local area.

ICM also asked whether people trust Cameron or Brown more on various issues. Cameron led decisively on modernising the NHS, cutting crime, controlling immigration and improving standards in schools and united his party. Brown led on dealing with an emergency. On transport, Afghanistan, taxation, the recession and terrorism the two leaders were almost even.

Still to come tonight there is also a ComRes poll to come later on tonight.


36 Responses to “ICM/News of the World poll shows 8% swing in marginal seats”

  1. Is there a regional breakdown of the figures? My gut feeling is that something pretty strange is going on and it might partly explain the odd ComRes figure.

  2. AW – How does this compare to the situation in the last marginals poll? I seem to recall a projected swing of a broadly similar size, suggesting no real change.

  3. Alec – it’s very similar to the YouGov poll of Northern marginals last November (that showed a 8% swing in those seats at a time when YouGov were showing a 6.5% national swing) – but of course, this is a different group of marginal seats from across the whole country so we can’t compare too much.

    Before that the last marginals poll was the PoliticsHome one last September. ICM haven’t done one for quite a long time.

  4. Anthony – thanks. Accepting the caveats about the unknown Tory/LibDem marginals, I would think that there could be some minor alarm bells over this poll. If there is any tightening whatsover in the race in the marginals the race for a majority will get very tight.

  5. Where are the numbers polled, level of DK-WS-NV and the methodology for this one? Lack of this hampers evaluation of the importance or not of this. Also any work on squeezability of LDs in these? The old would you rather C or L for this crew could be illuminating. They have 14%. The margin between the real contestants is 3%. Plus it the usual +/- lots margin for error?

    Give us the footnotes, or expect us to shrug and say “who knows what that means then”?

  6. Anthony, for me it is the Labour v Conservative battle in Scotland which is most interesting. Most commentators have already written off the Scottish Tory Party but our vote is now so concentrated in 20 seats that the rise in the polls from 15.6% to the 18-22% range equates to an extra 70,000 to 130,000 votes piling up in the Target seats of which those currently occupied by Messrs Darling and Murphy are among the top targets.

  7. Chris, they’ll all be on ICM’s website in due course. Basically though –

    Methodology is all usual ICM methodology. Quoted margins of error figures are always based on the sample size – so with a 1000 sample size this is the usual +- 3% margin of error.

    WNV 10%
    Ref 7%
    D/K 23%

    Though as usual, ICM reallocated their don’t knows & refusals based on their vote at the last election, so those don’t knows and refusals were not ignored – ICM assume half of them vote for the parties they did last time. The unadjusted figures in this poll were CON 42%, LAB 36%, LDEM 13%. The re-allocation of don’t knows changed the final published figures to CON 40%, LAB 37%, LDEM 14%.

    39% of Lib Dem voters said they would consider voting tactically (though no doubt some of those saying Conservative and Labour are already Lib Dem supporters voting tactically), but they were not asked which way they would do so. The closest proxy from the questions asked is probably best PM, where Lib Dem voters split for Brown over Cameron by 43% to 36%.

  8. So, basically we have 600 punters who actually express an opinion in 97 seats meaning an average of 6 and a bit per target constituency? Plus some farming out of the DK-WS-NVs.

    There will be serious to very serious over-reporting of voting at all last time as 80-90% is not where we were at turn out wise, plus confusion and mis-remembering of the ones who did actually vote.

    3% margin of error and 5-6% of possibly tactical LDs as well? In some seats I think a very large proportion – more than 39% – will actually go tactical. Seems to me these things are a very blunt instrument indeed.

    Doing quite a bit of phone iD for one of the parties, and face-to-face for one of the majors, not ICM, it beats me why anyone gets too excited by these things. Within the margin of error we have way way lower Tory gains cf ComRes, and we also have landslide territory.

    However this has been carried out there’s nowt as queer as folk. Happened to bump into a guy I polled 2 months ago 1 week ago in another context. He had told me v firmly in the interview that if there were a GE tomorrow he would vote for one of the big two. But when I saw him again, outwith an interview context, he was equally firm that he would in fact vote for the third party.

    And it wasn’t a change of heart. Just a change in candour.

  9. I wonder how many of those 97 seats this survey predicts Labour would hold given the results it shows.

  10. So if the seats polled start at 4% and finish at 10%, this is presumably those starting at Brentford & Isleworth and finishing at Slough but only including Lab in first place and Con in second place.

    I think Labour will probably be pessimistic as regards seats where the necessary swing is under 4% but I am a little surprised ICM start at this bar – essentially not considering those under 4% as marginal in the present psephological climate.

    My view is that in such seats there was obviously a lot of LibDems tactically voting Labour in 1997 and 2001, less so last time and this time I think Cameron may actually attain equal number of LD tactical votes as Brown.

  11. Peter Election Follower – it was from Eltham upwards, Brentford and Isleworth was the other side of the cut off.

  12. Just realised my question probably doesn’t apply to this poll since it probably wasn’t done by region, just one overall figure.

  13. EasterRoss

    “Anthony, for me it is the Labour v Conservative battle in Scotland which is most interesting.”

    Have you had your medication this morning?

  14. A truer marginal poll would be the 9/10 marginals in West Yorkshire, from Colne Valley to Morley and Outwood including Dewsbury and Wakefield. The area is typically labour but with boundary changes and top candidates, they are all liable to be turned over using the current “swingometer”.

  15. I still have serious doubts about this kind of regional polling. Sample sizes are going to always have problems, since even if you throw a lot of money at it, you can only squeeze so many respondents out of any constituency. And there’s the problem that sample correction that works on a national poll, might strongly distort a regional poll.

    Perhaps if we had regular polling of these marginals from several different polling outfits, we could work out if this means anything.

  16. Thank for the clarification, Anthony.

    I hope that if we do get a poll of LibDem/Con marginals in due course, the polling company either does not have a bar such that only those requiring a tiny swing from LibDem to Con are included or perhaps a small number of seats with low Con leads over LibDem are included as well.

  17. This poll shows why Labour should have replaced Brown with alan johnson. Brown’s numbers are still bad in england overall and even worse in england marginals.

    I think the swingometer will be off for this election because Brown won’t play nearly as well as blair in england marginals while in safe labour seats you might not see that much of a fall off at all.

  18. For a over 4% swing marginal where the to and thro between parties gets really hot provoking more people in the third party to vote tactically in the GE then Brown over Cameron as best PM as 43% to 36% ( quoted by Anthony above) becomes important.
    Con 40% and Lab 37% are awfully close numbers and must mask results even closer in some constitu and much further apart in others. Labour will lose the further apart ones. The closer ones can be greatly affected by labour by reminding people of new local schools etc.

  19. Maybe I’m being naive or clutching at straws but I don’t see an 8% swing as irreversible for Lab.

    Is 8% a huge swing & I’m just showing my ignorance?

  20. Amber – If it was repeated at a general election, then yes, an 8 swing would be *huge*. It would be the second largest swing since the war (after Labour in 1997)

  21. @Amber –
    Think you may be referring to my comment.
    An average 8% swing is huge. I merely pointed out that for an average of 8% there may be constitu. with 9,10,11,12% etc swings balanced by 4.1, 5, 6, 7% swings in others — maybe! From both labours and Tory point of view the ones much lower than the average are the ones to concentrate on. In these local issues can be important. The higher swing constit are in the bag for the Tory party. At GE the ones that are not the norm always provide food for thought. Both parties can gain from studying not the norm results which I am sure they try too.

  22. So 8% is a huge swing – in a historical context – but it seems quite small, mathematically speaking.

    And despite being a huge swing, it only gets Cameron a 38 seat majority (according to the NOW comentary). So if 20 CON MPs didn’t agree with a policy, it wouldn’t become law.

    That’s why it didn’t seem huge to me. It doesn’t get the CONS a big majority.

    Thanks for making it clear to me that it is a huge swing :-)

  23. What was John Major’s majority in 1992? I recall it being about 30 but it certainly was’nt enough. Can anyone enlighten me?

    ps. How does one make a ‘smiley face’?
    Valerie

  24. @ VALERIE

    Smiley is colon hyphen close bracket :-)
    Winking is semi-colon hypen close bracket ;-)

  25. It was 21 I think at the end. Major’s majority.

  26. Thanks Amber
    :-)

  27. It was 21 which is the same thing as saying he only won 10 more seats than needed for a majority – 336 with a target of 326 out of 651 seats – but he lost 7 by-elections I think and there were 3 defections during the parliament, which together wiped out his majority just before the 1997 election. At the time of the 1992 election most commentators said 21 would be enough to get through the parliament but that wasn’t quite true.

  28. “Going back to the ICM poll, there was scant evidence that the larger Conservative swing in marginal seats came from out-campaigning Labour or having more money to throw about. 28% of respondents recalled having received party literature, been canvassed or seen other signs of campaigning by the Conservatives, not significantly more than the 24% who recalled seeing signs of Labour campaigningin their local area.”

    But that is the wrong analysis. Most people should recall some activity from their sitting MP, surely? Even though I have never received anything from my local Labour MP I still recall campaigning activity by him through the local paper.

    However, any non-incumbant candidate of any party has a much higher bar to climb over to get to noticed by the local electorate. So if the Conservatives are scoring higher in terms of recall, I would say that is a definite sign of the Conservatives out-campaigning the Labour Party in these marginal seats.

  29. Dr Paul Buckley – that’s a very good point.

    The question did ask specifically about personal experience of campaigning activity, prompting them with party literature, canvassing or billboard advertising – so on a literal reading of the question would have excluded the normal constituency activity of an MP (or reading about them in the paper), but of course people don’t necessary answer questions in the way intended.

  30. Majority of 38 would really be majority of 43 because Sinn Fein’s 5 mp’s don’t vote. Sinn Fein didn’t have any seats from 1992-1997.

  31. Jason – that’s true in practice but if the Tories end up with say 323 seats I think most media outlets will still declare it a hung parliament because the official target is 326 as you know. I suppose that’s the sensible thing to do since Sinn Fein could always change their policy on Westminster if they wanted to. I know it’s unlikely.

  32. Easterross

    “our vote is now so concentrated in 20 seats that the rise in the polls from 15.6% to the 18-22% range equates to an extra 70,000 to 130,000 votes piling up in the Target seats”

    I’ve seen you make that claim several times. What evidence do you have that your support is rising in your target seats, while presumably falling elsewhere?

  33. Oldnat,

    I don’t know of any evidence but its not to far fetched to suggest that if the Tory vote does rise it will be more likely in areas where they have a chance of winning and where they think they can scalp a big fish ( Thats a bit of a mixed metaphor, like clipping a dogs wings…..)

    Theres an interesting breakdown here;

    http://www.scottishaffairs.org/onlinepub/sa/denver_sa53_aut05.html

    What is worth noting is that the biggest Tory rise was in the South of Scotland (+6.9%) coincided with a big SNP drop (-7.3%). Given that he SNP are currently up I wonder where any new Tory votes their would come from.

    Things might be better in Edinburgh where Murphy and Darling are targets because the LibDems made the big gains in 2005 (+8.9%) with everyone else down. With the Libdem vote halved across Scotland we could see a Tory surprise.

    I think PB’s article on decapitation suggested a disproportionate number of Tory Poster sites in Murphy and Darlings sites. The Tories no their limits in Scotland so it would make sense for them to pretty much concentrate their limited firepower on Edinburgh…

    Having said that and given the Tories all that advise and credence… I still hate them.

    Peter.

  34. “97 seats where Labour are in first place and the Conservatives in second place, and where the Conservatives need a swing between 4% and 10%. The implied assumption is that seats with a majority of less than 4% are going to be Conservative gains anyway”

    If the lower swing needed is 4% then the implied assumption is that seats with a majority of less than 8% are going to be Conservative anyway. Which is it?

  35. Sorry to quibble councillor Peter, but Murphy’s seat is in the suburbs of Glasgow.

    There are a small number of Labour-Conservative marginals in Scotland – D&G, East Ren, Edinburgh S, Edinburgh SW, and at a stretch Stirling. Don’t think Scotland is where the election will be won and lost though.

  36. Oh, and, by my calculations an 8% swing would give a Conservative majority of 76 not 38.