So, we can be pretty confident now that there is a genuine surge in Lib Dems support. Apart from how long it lasts, and the affect on the narrative of the election, the other unknown is exactly who has shifted, and perhaps more importantly where. We will get a better idea of how things are moving when we get some polling of marginal seats, and when we get an updated version of YouGov’s weighted regional breaks. In the meantime, we can draw some very tentative conclusions on the info we have so far.

If we compare the crossbreaks in the two post-debate YouGov polls so far with the averages of the crossbreaks in the three YouGov polls before the Lib Dem manifesto launch, and we compare the ComRes poll with the averages of the crossbreaks in their polls from before the debate, we can get some idea of which groups have swung the most. We need to remember that even combined together these are small sample sizes and they are not internally weighted, so at best this can only give us a broad brush idea of what is going on, but there are some consistent trends.

We can be fairly confident in saying that young people have swung the most strongly towards the Liberal Democrats. In both YouGov’s post-debate polls they have had the Lib Dems in the 40s amongst under-35s, compared to the mid-20s prior to the debate, an average increase of 17 points. ComRes have a similar pattern. The Lib Dem boost amongst under 35s seems to be at least twice that amongst all older voters.

Secondly women may have swung to the Lib Dems more than men (more specifically, there’s been a swing from Conservative to Lib Dem amongst both sexes, but Labour’s vote has fallen much more amongst women). The contrast here is not as large as is it with age though, so I’m less confident this is a genuine pattern.

On social class there is no obvious pattern, YouGov seem to be showing a larger swing amongst C2DEs, but it is the other way round with ComRes. On regional breaks the evidence is also unclear, though both ComRes and YouGov seem to have the Lib Dems making the most progress in the North, and YouGov’s figures are striking for the almost complete lack of a Lib Dem boost in Scotland. On other hand, late respondents to YouGov’s new Scottish poll in the Scotland on Sunday today (whose fieldwork straddled the debate) did show swing towards the Lib Dems.

310 Responses to “Who is switching to the Liberal Democrats?”

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  1. @Pam F

    I could not agree more…… I’m just a teeny bit scared where they go with it!!!

    But if they have been inculcated by the likes of your good self then i am sure we won’t go too far wrong. :) :)

  2. Sorry AlJ – I do spout away don’t I? :-)

    It was merely pointing out that there was a brewing crisis with the volcano thing ( pleased to have stocked up on airfreighted high carbon footprint pineaples and bananas earlier in the week) and some reference about how GB handled crises.

    Or words to that effect…

  3. The point that just keeps returning over and over is that the “what’s the point in voting?” refrain has been largely true, however much some may disapprove of the sentiment, in the majority of seats for a very long time.

    Given that fact, it’s hardly surprising that young people have tended not to vote. If, on the other hand, they now begin to do so in greater numbers, and that helps us towards a voting system where there is every point in voting, I think that will be fantastic for democracy.

    Could even lead to …. um well, a big society maybe?

  4. My constituency was held by the Tories for years and was considered a safe seat up to 1997. Before then it became apparent that they were losing their grip, as in local elections the Lib Dems were putting great emphasis on local issues and were winning seats on the local council. Then when Labour won with a landslide, the Lib Dems won the seat and have increased the majority ever since, making it a Lib Dem safe seat. The Tories have pretty much given up and so have most of their supporters. Since the election was called, I have seen very few Tory campaign posters or leaflets. Presume Tory central office is not giving them any money, so they have to fund these purely from local donations.

    Even the local Tory members club, is in decline with very few members, even allowing for the cheap beer and pool table. It could be that the Tory members were from an older generation and without there being much in the way of active campaigning, they have given up. There have also been a lot of new houses built, with thousands of young familiies moving into the area. Most of these judging by the posters in windows, appear to be Lib Dems supporters.

    Also since 1997, the Lib Dems have been actively encouraging Labour voters to back them. This has worked ,as the Labour votes collapsed and have done at every election since. Tactical voting amongst Labour and Lib Dems supporters should not be underestimated. Younger voters are probably least likely to be loyal and will vote tactically. Whereas older Tory voters being more loyal, will continue to back them, whatever happens. The mortality rate must have something to do with their declining vote, as I don’t believe the Tories necessarily offer any policies which appeal to younger voters.

  5. I haven’t consulted the oracle but the Tory ‘heavy weights’ who want strategy based on their own preferences ie anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-public sector must be angling for the Ukippers & BNP to swell the Tory ranks.

    The votes Tory lost to LD – going by the demographics of yoof & women – are not anti-EU, anti-immigration or anti-public sector.

    No way is a traditional Tory platform going to win them back.

  6. @kyle – don’t think Brown will go for Clegg – not in his interest. He is continuing to focus on Cameron, and rightly so.

    Ash crisis – Cobra meeting tonight at 5pm. Adonis saying use of armed forces to get people home and bail outs for airlines not discounted. [Perhaps a bailout for BA with attached agreement to negotiate end of industrial dispute?]. Never underestimate the ability of a positive crisis response to give an incumbent a short term boost. If he gets it right , ideal for Gordon ‘Mr Substance’ Brown.

    [Can imagine the briefings when the RAF goes in – don’t worry people – we’ll have you back home soon – well before May 6th]

  7. @RHuckle
    “I don’t believe the Tories necessarily offer any policies which appeal to younger voters.”

    … and what a strategic error not to have more youth-friendly policies.

    I posted a couple of days ago.

    “New Green policy announced: 2 Youth Parliament resolutions to be debated each year in Westminster Party.

    Green result 5 seats :-)”

    or words to that effect. You need to read what is written meaningfully.

  8. @GreenGrass

    lol I was sifting through all the posts & thought it was some interesting ecological insight or some splendid thesis you’d prepared on volcanic eruptions. I was really looking forward to it lol ;-)

    But thanks anyway for the lol ;-) Where’s Paul Croft ? -I can’t get it out of my head that he doesn’t like me lol’ing

  9. EOIN/GREENGRASS – Dopo quattro anni in vicino alle due, sono bellisimo, si, ma totalmente pazzo.

    Kyle – I too see no reason at all for Brown to attack Clegg. Let Mandy do a tiny bit of underhand briefing to make sure he doesn’t get TOO carried away, then sit back smiling that rather endearing rictus grin. If I can work this out, you can bet Mandy can too. He’s probably several steps ahead of me.

    Also I think this wave of popularity has little to do with LibDem policies and where Tories think attacking them might help, I wonder if it might not just make Clegg more popular.

  10. @Alec
    [Can imagine the briefings when the RAF goes in – don’t worry people – we’ll have you back home soon – well before May 6th]

    :-) – good to see you using paragraph breaks again BTW. I like your posts but they do occasionally turn into a Joycean stream and I lose the will to go on reading half-way through.

  11. lib dem bounce wont last still think tories will win easy

  12. The youth is not one homogenous entity. I think it owuld be wrong to dismiss a strong pro-Tory element among them.

  13. @James Ludlow

    “I’m reading all this excited discussion but I don’t really see how it’s possible to draw any meaningful conclusions this early into the surge”

    I have to agree though as we are all geeks on here it is not surprising :-)

    We need several things:

    1) Observe where the polls go between now and debate two.

    2) Gauge Cameron V Clegg (primarily) in debate two = who wins that contest.

    3) We *desperately* need marginals polling that is surveyed in conjunction with a national poll in order to gauge UNS V marginal premium ACCURATELY

    4) ditto any regional (english) polling such as London or the midlands and NW marginals HAS to be in conjunction with a national poll for an accutarate projection

    If after 1-4 are answered we are still looking at 30-30-30 +/- 3% this time next week (Sunday 25th)……then all bets really are off and this election is likely going to be remembered for decades.

  14. Amber
    Your post rang true -but – what lost them in the first place then – that’s what i canot figure out, but then i am a man. Iraq, Afghans, (fine young boys being killed every night on TV I can quite believe). Problems with grandma and home care? But what ever made them think the tories would improve on these matters? that’s what i can’t understand.

  15. Tee Hee (I know, I know) I just got a campaign update from Mandy. It is exactly as I thought. Some questioning of certain LibDem policies, but no attack – that is all saved for Dave. For instance:

    “Or dallying with the Lib Dems, whatever they might stand for.”

    Just the supportive but sneering tone I suggested Cameron ought to take earlier.

    Much talk of it being wide open, an understanding of why the Libs could be doing well etc. It’s all terribly exciting.

  16. Eoin

    You mean the young farmers, who want fox hunting to return.

    I don’t see too many of these living on the local housing estates. Country estates may be.

    I do see it as a bit of an own goal for the Tories not to have gone for the votes of the under 30’s . The Lib Dems policy not to levy income tax on the first £10k, must be a vote winner. Does it matter whether the sums add up.

  17. Surely the much lower increase in Lib Dem immediately following the debate was down to the fact that it was primarily focused on domestic affairs.

    Most domestic issues are now dealt with in the nations by the devolved administrations and parliaments/assemblies. So many Scots may not have even watched the debate.

  18. Howard: I’m sure the women posting on this site will speak for themselves, but I can’t help wondering if all the Conservative “Big Society” stuff sounded like “do more work and don’t get paid for it”.

    A concept women tell me thay are well acquainted with.

  19. Al J:

    My LOL’ing comments were just gentle jokes – not my usual, vicious “savagery” [LOL !!!!]

    So, please be my guest.[smirk]

    I can’t do smilies tho’ ……It’s not that I have a pathological hatred of them – I simply can’t do them. [encore un LOL !!!]

    Anyway you’ll definitely be redfaced on May 7th – probaly because you’ve daubed red paint on to celebrate lol !!!!

    [Do the French do that sort of capital letter stuff by the way?]

  20. @Eoin- from other thread as missed it:


    Would NC have run a manfiesto on putting up taxes?

    Charlie was legendary…..”

    In 2005 at the height of credit boom?

    I can’t see why not.

    I also can’t see the current LD manifesto being that much different if Charlie was still in charge- just a lot less slick presentation of it and the LD’s still at 18-20% in the polls…. ;-)

  21. Keith:

    Excellent post: still working my way through it’s main points.

  22. Roger mexico

    Women volunteers. Indeed. I gave my evidence a week ago on that and you are right.

    But my question was about how they ended up toying with blue in the first place. (If they did, i am not convinced that the % shift is not caused by movements among the other groups -remember that the polls are precentages not absolute numbers).

    We are only talking about 3 women in a hundred aren’t we?

  23. There seem to be a few on here who are presuming a lot of Lib Dem supporting young people are Conservatively inclined naturally. Or at least, that appears to be the general impression from reading one or two of the posts.

    In traditional Labour seats at least that I know of in the north west young Lib Dem supporters have always tended to be more to the left of Labour, anti war, and more closely alligned with the Greens or Labour than the Conservatives. Look at some of the anti war protests as an example, a lot of the young student protesters were Greens/Lib Dems/Socialist.

    There appears to be evidence of “others” support dropping a small amount. Which would support this theory.

    I think naturally leaning young conservatives will be far more common in the south than the north.

    I’m sure southerners not familiar with the north would disagree however. I’m sure they’d never have imagined Manchester Withington either ;)

  24. R Huckle (4.45)

    Excellent post which IMHO I believe sums up the current situation perfectly. Many posters have suggested that the changed situation is purely down to the debate. I think it was Sue who earlier referred to a “tipping point” and I would suggest that the debate was just that.

    The momentum has been with the LDs since the election was called if not a few weeks before and the Pax interview (if it was watched by many), manifesto launch and then the debate built up the pressure until on Thursday night the tipping point ws reached. The hard work by LD volunteers over many fruitless years has now bourne fruit.

  25. Sue Marsh – When I heard PM was returning to work with GB my hopes soared. So far, he hasn’t disappointed.

  26. @ Greengrass

    I dontthink it’s a secret that Lanour have tended to do well with younger voters or that Tories do well with older voters. Students are happy hunting grounds for the Greens. The recent Age Comcern poll showed the Tories doing better as people got older IIRC.

    Of course it could be that Libs are taking the fickle youngsters who were actually leaning for Cameron.

    Great move by Gordon to hold a meeting about the volcano issue. He always polls well during times of crisis.
    I know I’m generalising but I

  27. Amber showed that DKs had reduced by 4% so perhaps they were mostly women?

    You gather i’m puzzled. I could imagine Tory women being upset by the deaths of the young men and thinking there was more chance of getting away from there with LD (?). Since it is a NATO commitment they may be disappointed.

  28. @EoinClarke
    “The youth is not one homogenous entity. I think it owuld be wrong to dismiss a strong pro-Tory element among them.”

    Agree, but those that have swung already…

  29. @SueMarsh
    “sono bellisimo, si, ma totalmente pazzo.”

    I was in both last year and found Firenze much deteriorated after a 20 year interval. (Where isn’t ?- though Bologna manages to keep McDonalds and retail multiples hidden out of sight).

    Even my junior Italian forebears don’t call me back there to claim it as my spiritual home (the Celtic call is stronger) though I shall never desist in my quest for the holy grail of wonderful risotti, funghi and Tartufo.

  30. The ease with which Clegg has tapped into the ‘Vote for Change’ feeling within the country should worry all Labour supporters. The Lib Dems have taken as many votes from the Tories as they can possibly take over the last 3 elections. It could be that Labour is as vulnerable to the ‘Vote for Change’ mood as the Tories were in 1997 and people will vote tactically to kick them out. Tories will vote Lib Dem in seats where the Tories have no chance & new converts to the Lib Dems will end up voting Tory on election day because in so many Lab/Con marginals a Lib Dem vote is wasted.

  31. @ HOWARD

    If you are asking, why did these categories of voter leave Labour & become soft Tories.

    Youth – Lost due to:
    1. The anti-Brown media & blogging campaign.
    2. Perception that Labour were pro-establishment ie on the side of big business, banks etc.
    3. Perception that youth will pay for the boom that the over-40’s enjoyed (soaring property prices, high levels of public spending etc).

    Women – Lost due to:
    1. The perception that the Tories would keep all the good things Labour had done for women & families (& note Cameron made this his first statement in the debate)
    2. On top of all this, the Tories would ADD choice & localism
    3. The Tories could do all this & save money too, without anybody (except quangocrats) losing their jobs as a consequence.

    A lot of the above was unravelling anyway – & Dave’s failure to seal the deal supports me in this conclusion.

    However, the Tories had been successful in making these voters Labour averse. Having ‘rumbled’ the Tories, they were still unsure about voting Labour.

    Up pops the LD manifesto & attendent publicity – & suddenly these demographics have a credible choice :-)

  32. Women also hate war …

  33. Actual Scottish figures from the SoS poll (I had to go and buy the damn paper to get them!) with the changes since the previous YouGov for the Sun – as opposed to Curtice’s piece that Anthony linked to.

    Lab 40% (nc) : SNP 20% (-1) : LD 19% (1) : Con 16% (-1)

    Even with some movement apparently post debate to the LDs it looks like little change here.

  34. Howard – I may be risking my life here with the women posters on this site, but here goes:

    Traditionally women have tended to vote slightly more in proportion for the Conservatives (and quite a lot more for the Lib Dems). I also suspect a lot of them have been finding the rather aggressive Brown style and the assiduously promoted rumours putting them off Labour recently. But they’re still a bit dubious about the Conservatives, especially in areas that matter more to women such as education, health etc.

    Now that the Lib Dems have come along looking like that have a chance, they have decided to go for them.

  35. On the Politics Home website right now their headline picture has David Cameron addressing a crowd, with the picture cropped so that a woman’s breast – the left one – appears behind Cameron. I couldn’t help thinking that, presumably, he’s the right t*t.

  36. I noticed anthony didn’t actually say the surge in Lib Dem suppourt was at the expense of the conservatives more than Labour…
    Is that not fair to say??

  37. @Amber
    “A lot of the above was unravelling anyway”

    “They did not listen – they did not know how – perhaps they’ll listen now.”

    Vincent by Don McLean

  38. Alec – that’s wicked!

  39. YG prediction

    Tories 34%
    Labour 30%
    LD 27%

    Either Tonight or tomorrow will show the inevitable shift in the polls back to normality. LD will probably have gained 2-3 % permanent shift.

    Am still amazed at the hysteria on this site , after one media frenzy driven poll rise

  40. For those referring to Manchester Withington I think you need to be careful for suggesting it was a simple youth vote/left vote swing against Labour. I think it falling to the Lib Dems was due to a very specific combination of factors rather than any one explanation. In addition to the war (that alienated the urban intellectual type Labour voter who in Manchester are congregated in Withington) there was simple demographic shift (the area has gentrified) and the local reaction to the cancellation of the areas new Metrolink line. I would expect the seat to stay Lib Dem, but I wouldn’t expect swings of that magnitude in other comparable seats.

    As an educated young northern voter I would agree with the comments that say that northern young people are far less likely to vote Tory than those in the south.

  41. @Alec
    “I couldn’t help thinking that, presumably, he’s the right t*t.”

    Didn’t like that one though. Maybe I shouldn’t have encouraged you.

  42. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this yet, but over on PB (my first visit there by the way) Mike Smithson says that Clegg may win the election because he is the tallest candidate. Well, obviously…

    He also hints that the Tories will attack on immigration.

  43. @Paul Croft

    Thanks for your response.

    **Anyway you’ll definitely be redfaced on May 7th – probaly because you’ve daubed red paint on to celebrate lol !!!!**

    I do hope you’re right. My friends are coming over at 9.00pm election night -all ready for the exit poll at 10.00pm. It’ll be a very tense moment. :-)

    **[Do the French do that sort of capital letter stuff by the way?]**

    ehh? I’ve missed the joke -sorry.

    If you want to do a smiey – use a semi colon,then dash (next to zero) then the close bracket (same key as zero) . No spaces. ;-) Hope I’ve explained it right.

  44. Are any polls expected to be released tonight?

  45. If Brown attacks Clegg, I will eat my desk.

    Brown will smile & say, “I agree with Nick, our policies are very similar; & Labour experience is what’s needed to get these policies implemented.”

    He will leave it to Nick to point out the differences:
    the Euro, Trident & past issues i.e. Iraq.

    Brown will gently point out that entering the Euro would’ve got us into recession faster & out of it more slowly.

    He will express regret for lives lost in Iraq & the lack of a post-invasion plan that had US backing.

    He will draw attention to Obabama & the international community trying to negotiate multi-lateral disarmament; & until that is achieved, it is wisest to keep Trident in Britain’s plans but under review.

    As I say, if Brown takes a different approach, I will eat my desk (I am on the phone ordering a chocolate desk as I type this; it’s always good to have a cunning plan).

  46. @simon – you hit a very important point as to what lies behind the surge and whether it is frothy or solid. My view is that the issue for Cameron is less the actual surge itself, but more the fact that there is a question mark about who is the change. I think he will struggle to reassert any kind of dominance in the campaign now and while there may be a backwash to the Tories, equally they could struggle to hold on to what they have or see labour claw back some of their losses while they themselves stand still.

  47. The trouble with being in the present is that you keep on coming across people who say things that have been said in the past (often by me). Think I’ll take the Tardis back in time again and off that lawn I had landed on – forget who it was but thanks for your hospitality.

  48. Interesting prediction Simon-produces seats of 251/286/81

    Just a small move to 35/29/27 gives UNS seats of

    35 seems like a a key number for Cons -if LD surge sustains , and Lab can be held at 30 or under.

    What an informative, relevant , and apparently un-partisan post . You get better & better.

  49. Old Nat – From the poll you quote from above re Scotland very few seats would change hands. I think Labour will probably only lose 5 seats in Scotland – Dumfries & Galloway will return to the Tories. Edinburgh will continue its steady incease in votes to the Lib Dems with Edinburgh South and Edinburgh North & Leith going to them. East Renfrewshire will decide its had enough of Jim Murphy and will be a narrow Tory gain. Lastly the SNP will gain Ochill. I cannot see many other seats changing at all. Possible that the Tories could get Berwickshire.

  50. @Amber Star

    “As I say, if Brown takes a different approach, I will eat my desk (I am on the phone ordering a chocolate desk as I type this; it’s always good to have a cunning plan).”

    And Amber loses the debate with that last paragraph ;) Such a promising career which like many others foundered on cocoa.

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