We still haven’t seen a post-election Populus voting intention poll (though to answer Mike Smithson’s question here, I understand they are still doing them, they are just having a quiet period following the election), but Lord Ashcroft has commissioned them to do some polling in marginal seats, with some interesting findings.

Firstly, in Conservative -vs- Labour marginals the Conservative vote is largely unchanged from the general election, but the Liberal Democrat vote has dropped to the benefit of Labour, this means on a uniform swing Labour would gain about 28 seats from the Conservatives (though these would be seats that the Conservatives gained at the last election, so in practice the Tories would be helped by the incumbency bonus of the new MPs).

In Conservative -vs- Lib Dem marginals the Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed towards the Labour party, presumably partially as Labour voters who previously voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats cease to do so (thought it would be interested to know how the questions were worded, since unless prompted people don’t necessarily consider the tactical situation in their own constitency when answering voting intention polls). On a uniform swing, this would give the Conservatives about 30 seats from the Lib Dems. The poll did not cover Lab -vs- Lib Dem marginals.

Populus then asked how people would vote under AV. Exactly how they asked this is unclear from Lord Ashcroft’s report, but the ultimate effect is that the Conservatives hold onto an extra 12 seats in Con -v- Lab marginals (implying that Lib Dems and others’ second preferences broke in the Conservatives favour), and the Lib Dems hold onto an extra 11 seats in Con -v- LD marginals. Once again, we have no indication of what would happen in LD -v- Lab seats.

UPDATE: The full tables are now available on Lord Ashcroft’s website (see the links at the bottom of this document). A few things worth pointing out. First, the AV questions were done in much the same way as the YouGov polls on it – people had AV explained briefly to them, then asked how they would cast their first and second preferences under that system (as opposed to making the often false assumption that people would cast their first prefences under AV in the same way as their vote in FPTP).

Secondly, this is the first AV polling I’ve seen that asked about third preferences. So far only 32% of respondents actually give a third preference (and a third of those were to minor parties who it is unlikely to benefit). At present of course it really isn’t comething respondents will have given any thought to, so it won’t necessarily bear any relation to how people would actually cast their other preferences, but it’s something that would need to be taken into account if AV did come to pass.

Thirdly, the voting intention questions for FPTP were just the standard Populus VI question. That should be okay in the Labour -v- Con seats, but as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how good marginal seat polls in Lib Dem marginals they. Even when the Lib Dems are riding high in the polls they tend to show the Lib Dems doing badly and Labour gaining, probably because some people give their voting intention as their real first preference, rather than their local tactical one. My suspicion is that the FPTP position in those Con -v- LD seats may be unduly negative.

278 Responses to “Populus poll of marginals”

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  1. If we had simple Left/Right politics, life would be uncomplicated, by introducing a middle party we compromise on every issue, the American, Republican/Democrat system enables the population to polarise, we need polarity, fence sitting, middle of the road politics only serves to muddy the waters. Hopefully the current, ridiculous, scenario will serve to remind the electorate of its tribal instincts and we can get back to a proper political discourse.

  2. I understand that the younger millipede has been endorsed by a big union. Has this finished Balls off? is it now a two-horse race between the brothers?

  3. Are there 2 Kens?

  4. @ BILLY BOB…JULIAN…………Sorry, it’s late.

  5. I interperate the marked decrease in Lib Dem support as the start of a return road to two party politics, the centre and right of the lib’s alligning with the Conservatives, the harder left with Labour. The electorate generally use the centre as a datum, and indeed it is the Conservatives are now closest to the centre ground, hence they have my support. Labour are, in my opinion, gravitating further to the Left. One only has to consider Gordon Brown, (who’s political beleifs almost bordered on communism) and the hard left stance of the majority of the current leadership contenders, where aspirational socialism is put far in front of the aspirations of our country. During the 70s, 80s and 90s, Labour were closest to the centre as a centre-left party and represented my interests better than the tories did back at the time- the Thatcher era when the Conservative party sat firmly to the right, hence Labour had my support then- how times do change!!

  6. @Ken -“Sorry, it’s late.”
    Just one last question. You don’t approve of the coalition then?

  7. @ JULIAN………..Only according to my wife, and she agrees with you. :-)

    I agree with you that whichever party wins the centre ground will be the winner, and that DC has moved the Tories very successfully to the centre since the election.
    I don’t agree that Labour is moving to the left though. It will also fight for the same centre ground. Which is why the next election will be a thriller!

  9. @JULIAN…………..Our posts crossed. No I don’t approve of the coalition, Blue or Red does it for me, I support Chelsea by the way. :-)

  10. @George Gardner
    “During the 70s, 80s and 90s, Labour were closest to the centre as a centre-left party”

    Really? This included the era when Foot was leader and Militant Tendency dominated Labour. I don’t know anyone who considered them to be centre-left, unless you define centre-left as halfway between Pol Pot and Lenin.

  11. @KEN
    Blue or red it is. I’m Liverpool.
    We came out of the recent business dealings better off than you did. IMO

  12. Nick Clegg is about to become the invisible man of the coalition.

    His gaffe today, whether intentional or not, will have the Tories fuming. Any future appearances would be filled with Labour MPs asking: Who are we speaking to here? The Deputy PM representing the government? The Leader of the LibDems? Or Nick Clegg making a personal statement.

    IMO, Clegg will now be benched indefinitely. 8-)

  13. @ JULIAN………….I have to agree, Joe is a hero of mine, I’ll never understand why he couldn’t re-create his ‘ammer’s form at the Bridge. Mind you, Roy can spot ’em. :-)

  14. @ Amber…………….We have a category of employee called fence sitters, um’in’ and ah’rin; as a James Brown fan, I like people who say, ‘I feeeeel good !!’ Red or Blue, the only way forward. :-)

  15. @ KEN

    You are a happy camper tonight ;-)


    “I interperate the marked decrease in Lib Dem support as the start of a return road to two party politics, the centre and right of the lib’s alligning with the Conservatives,”

    That seems to be it.

    If DC can keep Cons near the centre, the result of polarisation should be good for them.

    Presumably what is left of the LibDem support will be “Liberal” rather than Soc Dem. This group would seem to be more natural allies for Cons than for an authoritarian Ed M. lead Labour.

    If this splintering of LibDems indicates that UK voters like the simplicity & certainty of polarised politics, it would appear to spell the end of any attempt at PR in UK. It might mean that even AV will be seen as too “complicated” by voters.

  17. Pete B – I like Mllipede, made me chuckle. Wasn’t it a wise millipede in Alice in Wonderland smoking a pipe? I always said DM should smoke a pipe, it would add gravitas to that pause he does before he talks. Could be filled with the pup-pup-pup of a little puff on his pipe. Also add a welcome dash of eccentricity back into bland and blander.

  18. @ Ken
    I too dislike the pull to the centre, that the 3 party system produces. I argued on another thread that the solution is not to go to two party system, but to go to PR. PR would likelly to produce more than 3 parties giving a party to the left of labour and one to the right of the Tories. This mean that both parties would be pulled from both sides keeping them more away from the centre.

  19. Think we should all be a little cautious over what current polls mean.
    @marjory – you view of the situation is clearly pro Labour but while most people would agree that the Tories will probabaly show falling support in the months ahead, beyond that you should count chickens.

    @Amber Star – re Clegg being ‘benched’ after his gaffe – it can’t happen, because of coalition dynamics. We’re beginning to see inter coalition jockeying on things like tuition fees. Once a single party government is unpopular this kind of thing is destabilising, but ina coalition it’s unavoidable.

    @Colin – DC keeping Cons near the centre must be his target, but if/when the government popularity falls, Labour will also be near the centre, possibly meaning big shifts can happen quickly. I also suspect the Lib Dems to rise a little as things get tougher and Tories come under poll pressure, but let’s be frank – none of us really know what’s going to happen.

  20. How is DC near the centre? I may have missed it, but I haven’t seen any evidence of centre politics, if anything a breathtaking lurch to the right?

  21. I thought it was great to hear Nick Clegg not once but twice declare the Iraq War as illegal from the Despatch Box – and for him to congratulate a Labour member for his consistency over his opposition to the war in Afghanistan. Don’t think it would have happened in Maggie’s day!

  22. Yougov
    Con- 44
    Lab 35
    Lib dem 13(!)

  23. @ Julian Gilbert – “DC has moved the Tories very successfully to the centre since the election.”
    Before the election, maybe in terms of public perception. Since the election, he (or rather GO, for DC is more the frontman) has moved th LDs to the right of Thatcher.

    @Sue Marsh – “DM should smoke a pipe”
    Perhaps a pair of 1950s thick rimmed spectacles? Have been studying pics of Micael Foot from that period and there *is* a definite resemblance. DM has the same energy, but a more nuanced approach towards the electorate?

    @Amber Star – “Who are we speaking to here?”
    One of my neighbours has added a wooden Pinnochio to the Lego sculptures in the front window; words fail me, he really is an extraordinary character.

  24. @ Sue Marsh

    if anything a breathtaking lurch to the right?

    On Economics you may well be correct.

    On civil liberties, prisons etc he is somewhere to the LEFT of the last labour govt. IMO

  25. Economically is everything John as every last bean has to go through the “economically” first. The two things you quote conveniently save a bit of cash, too.

  26. For the moment at least, DC has moved the Tories to the centre in the public perception. Rightly or wrongly, cuts are seen by most people in the centre as necessary. Maybe when the cuts start to bite, it will be a different story. If Labour doesn’t understand this, we are doomed.

  27. Julian – Wise words

  28. I think it is very hard to categorise parties or political positions on a one-dimensional left right scale. Where DC has shifted the tories to a more liberal stance is in social poolicy, very much more pro-homosexual rights for instance. Where he has shifted the party to the right is in economic and educational policy. the last of these and probably the former is very much to the right of even Thatcher. I guess you could say he is very liberal in all areas. I still think the public are at a point where they are unsure of what DC quite stands for.

  29. I understand that public borrowing has increased in the first three months of the new financial year – it is above the same period last year. Don’t think anyone in any party has any real alternative to cuts.

  30. @Sue

    I agree that the economics is everything. However the lurch to the right on civil liberties by the former govt occurred in a much rosier economic climate so they had no excuse.

  31. I don’t buy the idea that Osborne is to the right of Thatcher – not even convinced that he is much to the right of Blair. He is simply Chancellor in a very different situation as Aleksandar suggests.

    I see incidentally from an article in the Telegraph that family incomes are about to receive the worst squeeze since the mid 1970’s – real incomes fell by almost 3pc in 1976-1977. This squeeze could be worse.
    At that time of course we had a Labour Government – it was the real end of the post-war consensus which led to industrial disputes and to Thatcherism.
    Interestingly it was also the time of the Lib-Lab pact. The Liberals certainly chose their moments well.

  32. @johnty – “I understand that public borrowing has increased in the first three months of the new financial year”

    No it hasn’t. Borrowing is falling year on year and up until last month has come in well below analysts expectations – last much was slightly higher than expectations but still below last year. The reasons for the lower than expected debt levels has been much stronger tax receipts – mainly income tax, NI and corporation tax.

    The argument against over reliance on spending cuts in this regard is pretty strong. The real reason for the huge deficit is not that spending is too high – this is a contributing factor that needs some adjusting, but not the overriding reason for the collapse in public finances. The most signifiacnt reason was the total collapse in tax revenues. Under Darling’s plan these were coming back much stronger than expected even while GDP growth was slight. Over hasty cuts risk reversing this trend, and the evidence suggests that the government rhetoric is already harming consumer and business confidence.

    The other key issue is the structural deficit. This is a pretty nebulous affair, and Osborne and the BoE have taken an overly pessimistic view of what constitutes the structural element of the current deficit. The trouble is, by doing this he takes it upon himself to eliminate a structural deficit that doesn’t exist – much of it would disappear with rising tax revenues and isn’t structural.

    The excess cuts will reduce GDP and by losing more jobs and depressing the general economic activity levels lead to further company failures and long term loss of capacity. This in itself will increase the structural element of the deficit.

    Look to Ireland – they did everything the markets told them and slashed public sector spending. The markets have now reduced their credit rating as economic growth is too low.

    There is no bible scripted by the gods on this – it’s an ideological belief thing. There is no reason why we need to attempt to define a pessimistic structural deficit level and then try to eliminate it within 4 years, other than party politics.

  33. @Alec

    Some wise words of caution. You seem to be speaking a lot more sense than many here.

  34. I see the former Con leader with a bit of the night about him has spoken out against Ken Clarke’s plan to reduce the prison population.

    Great fun!

  35. Latest Yougov figures: Con 44, Lab 35, Lib 13

    Shift since general election

    Con +7
    Lab +5
    Lib – 11

    Swing from Libs to Cons now outstrips Lib->Lab swing. Either former Lib voters are streaming to the tories out of disgust a the libdems left wing policies (the mirror image of the supposed explanation for their loss to labour ) or something more complicated is going on.

    I think the public is viewing the government as a tory government when they are answering the opinion polls, so saying tory if they approve of what the government is up to, even though the policies they are approving of are a mix of tory/libdem policies. Tories are getting all the credit and lib dems are getting squeezed.

    Coalition 57
    Lab 35

    Please Please by all thats Holy, dont start this idiotic class thing. You dont have to have been born in a dog kennel to recognise a Labrador. Ask Mandy and Harriet and the Millibands and all the others from very nice middle and upper class backgrounds.

    All this “my mother had to work on the streets, my father was a drunk whose spirit had been crushed by the Tories and I went to school in a sandwhich board”
    has become so bloody boring.

  37. @John Fletcher AND Sue.
    The move right is very much on the economic front, as John says, it certainly isn’t on the social front. The cost saving right wing policies are not necessarily from choice but necessity.

  38. @ STEPHEN W
    “I think the public is viewing the government as a tory government when they are answering the opinion polls, so saying tory if they approve of what the government is up to, even though the policies they are approving of are a mix of tory/libdem policies. Tories are getting all the credit and lib dems are getting squeezed.”

    I think this is spot on. The question then becomes whether when a real campaign actually starts the Libs can successfully make an argument about what they’ve achieved on their side through the coalition. Personally, I think AV is a bit of red-herring on this score and by the time the next general election rolls around what they will be focussing on is the raise of the tax threshold and possibly the reform of the Lords (which could be a far more important constitutional change than AV). Will they be successful – probably partially. An early prediction (and I don’t think we’ll have an election before 2015) is that they will poll 18-20% and get around 40 seats, but this will be a dip not the start of a decline.

    Talk of a return to two-party politics is misplaced. The reason, there are still far too many voters who are disenchanted with both the big parties. The current figures are more because they are also now disenchanted with the Libs as well. As the Tories popularity falls (as it will), more people will either drift back to the Libs or to other alternatives.

  39. @ Sue, Roland et Al on Civil Liberties/Lurch to right Economicaly.


    Very few people get really incensed about any Governments economic policy unless it affects them truely dramatically e.g. loosing civil service job.

    The populus seem to resigned to the fact that they will get taxed more and more and receive less and less.

    However they do get amazingly stressed about the loss of their freedoms particularly when it is caused by “nanny statisum” and overbearing health and saftey. e.g. Car clamping, Litres isntead of Pints, taxis not allowed to fly flag etc. For some reason the last Govt seemed addicted to implementing as many freedom sapping laws as it possibly could.

    IMO this Govt is on a winner restoring as many freedoms as possible and getting rid of as many intrusive laws and initiatives as possible. They will be thanked for it

  40. @Roland – “Please ….. dont start this idiotic class thing” and “The move right is very much on the economic front, as John says, it certainly isn’t on the social front”

    Quite agree on both fronts. ‘Class’ is a nebulous concept at the best of times and while it might become an issue at some level in due course I feel its an overstated issue in politics in the UK.

    On the ‘Cameron, left or right’ question, their moves on the crime and justice side are striking. Labour did terrible things with democratic rights in response to a completely false analysis of the terror threat. We managed to defeat/fight to a stalemate* a very substantial IRA terror threat with mainland UK laws that still permitted normal liberties. The reaction to 9/11 and claims of a war on terror was ridiculous and Labour needs to recognise that. To his credit, Cameron has seen this, and while in opposition he was careful not to be painted as soft on terror he is now acting on the issue in a much more reasoned manner and we will all be better off for that.

    [*delete according to political perference]

  41. Lot of assumptions being made here on one poll. If that’s the case, I’ll stick to the 40/37 thanks ;)

    Anyone that doesn’t buy that Osborne is to the right on Thatcher doesn’t want to. He has made his choices about cuts – the timing of them, the SCALE of them (enormously more than Labour) and where they will fall. If it walks like a duck….. etc etc.

  42. @ALEC

    Spot on. This is the major area where the coalition has really impressed so far and probably one of the main areas where finding common ground helped them to come together in the first place. Labour’s record here was dreadful.

  43. @ Sue Marsh

    Anyone that doesn’t buy that Osborne is to the right on Thatcher doesn’t want to

    He has to be. He has no choice.

    The mess left by GB if far worse than the mess left to Thatcher.

    Consequently the dose medicine must be that much stronger.

  44. @Sue – I don’t think anyone has doubted the fact that in economic terms the government is moving rightwards. There is an equally clear move in the other direction on criminal justice policies, but signs of a more rightward move in broader social policies. Their stated views on foreign policy and Afghanistan seem to be much more left leaning, with talk of illegal wars, bringing troops home, a balanced relationship with the US and increasing the foreign aid budget.

    It all makes left/right analysis pretty meaningless in my view. There are no set policy combinations across all areas that define left and right now. yes, there is some philisophical basis I suppose, but Labour were pretty good at dropping their ballast when politcial necessity required and I don’t expect the coalition to be any different. The only thing left that really matters is whether policies work.

  45. Most of the disppointed constituency correspondence from tactical LD voters (from left) that I see (well, half a dozen) are thinking people reacting emotionally to the coalition.

    I agree thus with AW’s caveat over Con / LD marginals. These people will return, expecially if AV is won.
    BTW, I was Howard once!

    I believe there is a lot of truth and sense in your comment TOT. However, this daily poll gazing can blur the picture. If the poll tomorrow shows 40 38 15, there will be shouts of hooray the Tories are busted.
    The point is, how unpopular will the cuts make them?
    Have the British people excluding Scotland got the sphericals to stand some pain for the national good?
    Or will the Labour narrative of jam today tomorrow and forever win them over ? One has to have faith that they have learned that lesson. I seperate Scotland because it became a begging bowl many years ago and is beyond redemption.

  47. John – That totally depends on which part of “The populus” you are referring to. That’s why debates on here will never come to any resolution.

    If you earn just enough to get by every month, one of you loses your job, the kids school gets worse, you can’t get an operation and your house gets repossessed, then cuts can destroy you.

    If you tut over the Telegraph every morning, pay 2.5p extra on VAT and have a nice home with the mortgage paid off, then the cuts only skim the surface.
    Be careful of referring to “your populous”, in stead of “the populous”

  48. @John Fletcher – “The mess left by GB if far worse than the mess left to Thatcher.”

    Don’t agree. The mess left was of a different type, but of equal scale. Pre Thatcher we basically didn’t have large scale homelessness and ultra long term unemployment. Tebbit and others began the shift towards fiddling unemployment figures and parking vast numbers of workers onto incapacity benefit and in many ways invented the benefits culture. (How could a miner work down the pits one day and be put on incapacity benefit the next?) The NHS was genuinely dying on its feet.

    Each generation has different problems and issues, but lets not pretend 1997 was a golden age.

  49. @ Sue,

    I did allow for the fact in my post that there is an element of the population who will be affected by the cuts and it will be very nasty for them.

    My point was however that the vast majority will muddle by ok, and that they get far more upset about the freedom issues than the economic ones.

    I am happy to stand by this.

  50. I just don’t understand, no matter how many times Alec posts his infinite sense on the economy, the Blues on here insist on still seeing it as

    Tory cut all = Good

    Lab never cut anything = Bad

    Labour were always going to cut too, just not to this extent. I like to think also they would have done so more imaginatively and progressively, but that we’ll never know.

    I’ve been asking for months, but no-one ever answers : Why go SO far? Why eliminate ALL the structural deficit? Why take SUCH a risk with recovery? Why are those so concerned over the debt willing to ignore the effects of cuts in Ireland, Greece and Spain and adamant that cuts are the only way to reduce the debt?

    It is so banal to make it about Tory cut, Labour no cuts, because that’s just nonsense.

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