The Guardian has a new poll of Liberal Democrat target seats here. I think this is the first such study of these seats, which have suddenly become key to the election result. ICM polled the first 42 seats on this list, seats where the Liberal Democrats need a swing of up to 6% to win.

The share of the vote in these seats back in 2005 was CON 36%, LAB 23%, LDEM 35%. In ICM’s poll today they found support at CON 35%(-1), LAB 18%(-5), LDEM 39%(+4). That equates to a swing of 4.5% from Labour to the Lib Dems, and a swing of 2.5% from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems. This isn’t actually very good for them if you compare it to the national polls – the last ICM GB poll was showing the equivalent of a 7.5% swing from Labour to the Lib Dems, and a 3.5% swing from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems – in other words, the Lib Dems are doing worse in their target seats than nationally. On these figures, the Lib Dems would gain 10 seats from the Conservatives, and 11 from Labour.

It gets more interesting though if you look seperately at the Conservative-held LibDem targets, and the Labour-held LibDem targets. As Julian Glover rightly warns in his commentary, only 15 of these seats are Labour held so the sample size isn’t huge and some caution is necessary, but it appears to show that the Lib Dem advance in marginals is wholly concentrated in Labour held ones: taken separately, responses in Con-v-LD seats shows no discernable swing to the Liberal Democrats, but a swing of about 8 points in Lab-v-LD seats. That would result in the Lib Dems taking
about 28 or so seats from Labour, but few if any from the Conservatives. If this finding is at all accurate, it will be key to the result.


71 Responses to “ICM poll of Lib Dem target seats”

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  1. What remains of great significance though is that Con started this campaign needing to take a swathe of LD seats to secure their majority. That appears not to be happening.

  2. I think this is the key point though “They may also be able to squeeze the Labour vote in Con-Lib marginals to pick up seats even in places where the Tory vote is firm.”

    They may not need a swing from tory, just a big enough swing from labour to overtake the conservative vote

  3. This chimes with my view of what is likely. the newspaper lits of target seats rarely ties up with the Lib Dem actual target list.

    Clearly the Lib Dems entering the election with fewer hopes of gains from the Conservatives than Labour.

    Also local circumstances are very important

    Burnley (58 on the list) where the Lib Dems topped the poll in last years county and euro elections is far more likley to be a real target than the eqvilent Tory seat.

  4. @Anthony Wells

    I would be very interested to hear why the swing to the Lib Dems in the marginals has come almost exclusively from the Labour vote? The Tories’ average has dropped dramatically too, has it not, from 37-40%. Before any polling most people assumed that a Lib surge would come largely at the expense of the Tories?

  5. i know here in Eastbourne the LibDems are throwing everything they have to overturn the tory 755 majority, with all the orange diamonds on every main road into the town Eastbourne has truly become the sunshine coast

  6. If Brown’s gaffe further reduces the labour vote and this poll is right – then there is still the possibility of Cameron getting over the winning line of 326 seats.

  7. As a Lib Dem it’s obviously welcome news that we are doing well in these marginals but it doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story – I doubt I’m breaking any kind of secrecy If I say that the party is much more likely to be targeting seats lower down the list like Burnley, Newcastle North or Manchester Gorton than some of the Tory-held seats in the top 42. Somerset North? News to me!

    The other point that needs to be emphasised is that Lib Dem campaigning relies heavily on “the squeeze” – persuading third and fourth party supporters to vote Lib Dem tactically – rather than just trying to attract a direct “swing” from the main opponant. This will necessarily be a local phenomenon and not easy to extrapolate into national or multi-seat polling.

    Even so, 80 seats? I’ll take that!

  8. Very interesting poll. Eastbourne aside, it would imply that any LibDem gains from the Conservatives would come in seats with a substantial Labour vote to squeeze.

    But I suspect that there are still going to be some significant variations by both region and individual constituencies.

  9. Sorry but I have to say ……. your ‘seperately ‘is incorrect…. PLEASE….. separately!
    Fantastic web!

  10. Pretty good news for the Tories generally, but to win they are still going to have to offset the seats they won’t gain from the LibDems by gaining extra seats from Labour, above and beyond their targets. This is going to be hard if they’re heading for the same percentage of the vote nationally as in 2005.

    Labour on the other hand are not going to like the look of this at all. They can surely only be thinking damage limitation now. Anything above 240 seats would be a real result for them at this stage… and that’s not even taking into account bigoted women…

  11. I think the LDs are going to get huge swings against Labour in seats like the 3 Newcastle constituencies, City of Durham, Burnley, Manchester Withington, Leeds NW, Bristol West, Cambridge, etc. They won’t get much of a swing against the Tories as this poll suggests.

  12. The Cleggmania bandwagon is going to help Labour voters in Conservative-LD margins make an easy decision for tactical voting. One reason for the Lib Dems doing well invisible from the polls is this tactical voting my Labour voters and Tory voters. Combine this with my post about how Labour and Tory have gone ‘dirty’ in the next 24/last 72 hours with their political broadcasts and general electioneering, which it is well known voters don’t like, and I see a 5-8 point resurgence in LD polling numbers over the next 72 hours and an invisible additional 5-10 points on election day.

  13. SouthLondoner,

    The swing shown is since the 2005 general election. The Tories have dropped since the start of the campaign but are now quite close to their national performance in 2005 of 33% On today’s figures the Tory % vote in many seats will reamin almost unchanged, with Lib Dems going up at teh expense of labour.

    I think this marginal poll is actually pretty dodgy because it includes seats of such radically different character. It actually includes Aberconmwy, which is an extrely tight lab-Con marginal where the Lib Dems are not fighting, by all accounts. It does not include seats like Bradford east, Newcastle North and Sheffield Central where the Lib dems are campaigning really hard. Unless things change from today’s polls, I expect the Lib Dems to gain at least 10 seats from Labour that are not on this list, but to fail to gain some of the ones that are… There will probably be handful of gains from the Tories and some surprise wins from third place as well

  14. @South Londoner

    FWIW, I would speculate that in Tory-held seats, the anti-Tory vote is probably out in as much force as it can reasonably muster already, thanks to tactical voting and an anti-Tory mood in previous elections. Short of demographic changes, they’re probably not likely to change colour.

    Such a situation wouldn’t apply to seats with a notional Labour majority.

    Just my opinion though. Take with as much salt as necessary.

  15. @David E. Jones

    I’ve run the numbers on some three-way-vote-share comparisons…

    And no, the Conservatives can’t take a majority on their current polling level, even if there’s a Lab/Lib center-left vote share split in their favour. They need to get above 37.5% vote share before they would have a chance of that, and it would still be a very slim margin of figures that would provide them such a result.

    This is *not* going to be a replay of 1983, and such comparisons are useless, but I expect to see lots of comments claims it is.

  16. Won’t LibDem marginals by definition be seats where they maximised their vote in 2005? Therefore it wouldn’t be surprising that the swings there are below their national average. ??

  17. Toby – it looks like the Tories are going to increase their vote slightly by at least 1 or 2%. Not wonderful for them but it does mean they will win a few more Labour seats than if their vote stood still.

  18. The reason why the LDs won’t win many Tory seats is because in many of their target seats the Labour vote is already very low and can’t go down much more, so if the Tory vote remains the same the LDs will find it hard to increase their vote.

  19. in the Con/ LD marginals there is very little to squeeze from the Labour Party most seem to be around 10% labour last time – im thinking the reported increase in the youth vote will be key in these marginals

  20. @ Keith & Andrew

    Thanks for your info. Like the both of you, I keep a close eye on all the polls, but there are occasionally things that baffle me. I still feel that the Lib Dem support is based, fairly significantly, upon the support of the young that didn’t vote in 2005 and therefore likely not to again.

    I have also noticed from the BBC’s Have Your Say website that the overwhelming number of people are coming out in either support of Brown or are not bothered by it. If the papers go too strongly for Brown tomorrow (which they will) I think people will feel sympathetic towards him again.

  21. @Jay

    1. I am aware of the ‘numbers’ and my point is that Gordon’s gaffe + this poll might result in Cameron achieving the required vote share.

    2. Peter Kellner said on Ch.4 news that there would be a YouGov poll, taken AFTER Gordon’s gaffe, coming out at 10 pm tonight.

    3. Gordon’s Gaffe – Quote of the day.
    John Prescott:
    ‘It’s all a plot got up by Murdoch’!!

  22. This poll comes at an interesting moment. Until recently I would have argued, as some people have already done, that there wasn’t much Labour vote left to squeeze in Con/LD marginals. However, with the latest Brown gaffe I’m not so sure. In previous elections there has been an anti-Tory vote in these seats but there has been enough Labour enthusiasm for some people to still want to cast a red ballot, in support of the government, even if they know it is wasted. In the current climate I’d say even die-hard Labour voters won’t be enthused and the only question is whether that 15% or so do switch to LD or just stay at home.

  23. @south londoner

    the young who didn’t vote in 2005 are not the young anmy more

    It’s a new young, who are used to x factor and now have postal votes

    Might be a bit different, but I wouldn’t think it wil make a huge difference. as has been said LIB DEMs have few tory seats with substantial 3rd position LAB votes to squeeze.

  24. Bigotgate is a game changer. It shows the disdain that Labour & Brown in particular, actually have for ordinary people. He tolerates people, he doesn’t embrace them. This is bigger than Kinnock’s over confident pre victory celebrations, which cost him the 1992 election. Also Labour have a disgraceful election broadcast tonight, which will also cost them.

    Cameron will gain from this and so will Clegg as core voters will either switch or stay at home. Of course either of the other 2 could make a similar slip up but they will be doubly cautious now.

    I repeat my polling day forecast of 40/30/20 (Con/Lib/Labour). Brown is finished now. Down to the bookies methinks. Wonder what odds I will get?

  25. Just for interests sake, todays YouGov poll does not signify any change on their weekly average. Here are the numbers:

    Con Lab Lib Others
    2005 33.23 36.2 22.65 7.92
    Now 33.9 28.1 29.0 8.9
    Change 0.6 -8.1 6.4 0.9
    Swings
    Lab-Con 4.3
    Lab-Lib 7.2
    Con-Lib 2.9

    It does however effect the trend. We can now see that over the period on 10 days the Tories seem to be in fact increase their vote share albeit marginally. (an increase of 2%)

    Lab also increasing, but the increase is effectively so small we can easily call it a stabilization of their votes. (also an increase of 2% but with many bumps on the way which implies that the increase is not solid)

    The LibDem vote is more erratic, prone to wider increases and drops but over the same 10 day period it is showing a downward trend (a drop of 5%

  26. Important debate tomorrow night for the Lib Dems – what if Clegg wins tomorrows debate clearly again?

    That would put him as the winner of all 3 televised debates. (albeit the 2nd one was a lot closer)

    Could we then see a further Labour & Cons swing to the Lib Dems?

    So much can still happen in this campaign. I’m still flummoxed that the Lib Dems are up in 30’s.

  27. Of course, everyone here is so enamoured by numbers they’re forgetting that 30% or so have yet to make their mind up. More than ever, with this tight 3 way polling, these voters will make a huge difference to the end result, even if we say they all vote equally to LD, Con and Labour, that still makes LD 42% in those marginals instead of 39%!!!

  28. @AndyWilliams
    “the debt mountain behind it which will top £1TN by 2014 and we have no idea how to even begin paying it off”


    As against GDP of £1.4 TN – equivalent to a 75% loan-to-income mortgage.

  29. I think we can start to have a bit more certainty that GB will be gone fairly soon. IMHO the chances of an outright Labour majority are very slim now. I imagine a dip from today’s shambles, and with a week to go it may be too much to do.

    However, the Labour party must be feeling that if things go ok they could be in government later this year or early next. As long as they do enough to get that hung parliament.

    Most people would agree that the voters seem to have no desire for GB to remain PM but they are also totally unmoved by the leadership of David Cameron.

    How labour must be regretting their decision to stick with Brown (based on the ‘we’re certain to lose anyway’ assumption i think). But…..

    If there is a hung parliament. Brown would go, with labour trying to secure a deal with libs, and a leader such as Alan Johnson could surely (based on the lack of appetite for DC) get a majority in another election.

    Interesting times ahead. I’m sure labour strategists are only thinking about getting a good number of seats in a hung parl.

  30. “Down to the bookies methinks.”

    Good luck with that. I doubt you’ll be making a second visit to collect your winnings, though.

  31. All this just goes to show that I am right. NOBODY knows what the outcome of this election is going to be.

  32. These results really aren’t surprising; as an active member of the Lib Dems for some years, it’s clear that there is a lot less active going on in most of the LD v Con target seats this time than there were in 2005.

    There are in my view two very important points here:
    1. That there is a swing of 8% from Lab to LD in Lab v LD seats which IS better than that provided in the country as a whole; and
    2. The fact that this swing is only just shows that a very large part of the Lib Dem bounce here is coming from outside our normal battlegrounds – suggesting that there will be many more seats this time where the Lib Dems rise from 3rd to 2nd place, and that there is still the possibility of a suprise result.

  33. Robert In France -‘Bigotgate is a game changer’

    I totally agree. As a consequence I closed out my short against the Cons this evening. This kind of comment, which show Brown’s true colours, is exactly the kind of thing that all decent Brits really dislike. I would be surprised if the polls aren not predicting a Con majority by the w/e once this event’s impact has been absorbed.

  34. Am I the only person to think this is a rather silly poll? Comparing Con/Lib and Lab/Lib marginals and lumping the figures together is pretty meaningless.

    The other problem as already pointed out is that in general it depends what you mean by targets.

    If you mean those most likely to fall on swing these are them. Many of these seats have the third party (usually Labour) reduced to a minimum so there’s no more votes to come from them.

    In addition many voters who nationally are being persuaded to vote Lib Dem have already been persuaded in these seats. You can’t win them over twice.

    However the other concept of target seat is those where Lib Dems have been campaigning hard and usually making progress in local government. They have already convinced a lot of voters to come over to them since 2005, but there are still some third party/potential voters available. So strong campaigning in the constituency and/or a smaller national swing than would be necessary on paper will win them the seat.

    The useful polling to have would be in potential three way marginal, where Lib Dems are third or not far ahead in second place.

    I’ve been predicting all along that the Lib Dems would get 90 – 100 seats even if their vote share fell to 23% – 25%. It’s whether they can get the seats they will be close to on a UNS of about 30% is now the interesting question.

  35. @greengrass

    “As against GDP of £1.4 TN – equivalent to a 75% loan-to-income mortgage”

    Well thats OK then! + unfunded pension schemes + PFI debt

    A bit like the Northern Crock’s 100%+ mortgage – no problem!

  36. @UK_JOHN raises the key question, IMO.

    The 30% undecideds are key. It’s unlikely that many at this stage will break for Labour because incumbents rarely win undecideds in the last week of any campaign. So, the $64,000 question becomes – will they vote CON, LIB or just not show up on the day? Know the answer to that and you have the result of the election….

  37. Am I the only one that thinks this a really badly designed poll? Why, oh why, lump Lib-Con and Lib-Lab marginals together in this way, when it is absolutely clear in advance that they will be subject to vastly different behaviour?

    The sample size in each subset renders the Lib-Con findings to a margin of error around +- 3.75% and those in the Lib-Lab around +-5.3%.

    Pull your socks up ICM!

  38. Past studies have tended to show that undecideds in the main either don’t vote, or if they do don’t break decisively for one side or the other.

    (Past performance is no guarantee of future performance ;))

  39. If these are the averages for 42 seats which the Lib Dems are targeting, some of the one at the bottom of the list will have fair Con majorities. If the LDs are ahead overall, some of the more marginal ones (especially ones with a big student vote like Guildford) are extremely likely to fall. My educated guess is that they will take 10 – 15 seats off the Conservatives and probably lose very few (if any at all).

    But I suspect they will take selected seats from Labour well beyond this list if they have a university in them.

    (I deal with a lot of students and they seem predominently to be voting Lib Dem.)

  40. Chris A – there aren’t actually any voting intention polls showing 30% don’t know. It tends to be 15%-18%, and those people also tend to say they are less likely to vote at all.

    Evidence of past elections is that they will tend to break in favour of how they voted at the previous election. ICM and Populus already factor that into their results. Other companies like MORI or ComRes use “squeeze” questions, asking don’t knows which party they are most likely to vote for.

  41. @MRSB

    A relation of MRSA?

  42. One thing should be borne in mind at all times – in order to have any real leverage in the event of a hung parliament the Libdems absolutely require to have at least enough seats to go into coalition with Labour. Realistically this means they need over 100 seats, and I very much doubt they will get that.

    If Labour and the Libdems do not have enough seats between them for a majority then the sensible thing for GB to do would be resign without even bothering to try to form a coalition. Then it will be DC’s turn, and he is very unlikely to be in any mood to do a deal with the Libdems under these conditions.

    Actually my view is that the Tories will be fairly close to securing a majority. Either way, Nick Clegg’s arrogance and “list of demands” will be looking pretty foolish on May 7th.

  43. I don’t understand AWs comments at all, can anyone help explain how he gets to armageddon for Lab and nothing bad for Con?
    (Not doubting them, just genuinely don’t understand what you’re all saying about this poll)

  44. @ItsMyMoney
    “A bit like the Northern Crock’s 100%+ mortgage – no problem!”


    That’s 100%+ loan to asset value – not the same thing. Loan-to-income of 250% has always been considered prudent and we’re only talking 75% here.

  45. @Robert in France
    @ James D

    “Game changer” – could well be!

    Would be odd if Clegg could change the game by turning up for the first debate, whilst the PM’s unprovoked attack on a pensioner and life long labour voter for eloquently voicing genuine concerns of so many ordinery people has none.

  46. Are the Ashcroft millions being poured into the marginals the Tories are defending, or just their targets?

  47. @greengrass

    “That’s 100%+ loan to asset value – not the same thing. Loan-to-income of 250% has always been considered prudent and we’re only talking 75% here”

    Sorry not really, even GB hasnt worked out how to take the whole of GDP in tax yet – still give him another 5 years and he just might!

  48. @ItsMyMoney
    “Sorry not really, even GB hasnt worked out how to take the whole of GDP in tax yet”

    And banks haven’t worked out how to take the whole of income in mortgage repayments – except for Lemming Brothers et al.

  49. @ Sue

    Read my comment above. In the Con/Lib marginals there’s very little left for the Lib Dems to get – especially as these are marginals when things have been bad for the Tories.

    In contrast in the Lab/Lib marginals there’s loads of suitable voters to win over.

  50. @underblog

    I would suspect they’ve been spent on their targets. It would have been inconsiderable a month ago that they should put some aside to protect the marginals they hold instead of spending it on full attack.

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