YouGov’ daily polling for the Sun has topline figures of CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 9%, Others 10%. It’s the first time YouGov have shown the Lib Dems dropping into single figures, and the first time any pollster has shown them at such a low level since 1997.

I always urge some caution when a poll shows a sharp movement. In recent weeks YouGov have generally been showing the Lib Dems at around about 11%. It was mathematically inevitable that sample error alone would eventually produce a 9% (or indeed a 13% like the one we saw at the weekend). That said, the lowest score for 13 years is worthy of comment and suggests the downwards trend in Lib Dem support is continuing.

Inevitably eyebrows will once again be raised over the sheer spread of Lib Dem scores from different pollsters. ICM was showing 18% for a long time, though they have more recently dropped to 16%, YouGov have tended to have the Lib Dems at around about 11% lately, the other polling companies tend to have them around 14% or 15%. Even putting aside outliers, that a good five point difference. What’s causing it? (If you aren’t interested in geeky polling methodology, you may want to look away now!)

Some of it is clearly identifiable. ICM, who show the highest Lib Dem score, reallocate people who say they don’t know how they will vote based upon the assumption that 50% will end up voting for the party they say they did last time. Currently a lot of former Liberal Democrat voters say they don’t know how they’ll vote, and in ICM’s last two polls this reallocation added 2 points to the Lib Dem score (it would have been 14% without it). Populus also do this reallocation, but at a lower rate for Liberal Democrats. This difference is nothing to worry about – different pollsters are simply measuring slightly different things – YouGov is reporting how people say they would vote tomorrow, ICM and Populus are reporting how people say they would vote tomorrow plus how they think those that didn’t say would vote.

That’s part of the reason, but it leaves at least another 3 point difference to explain. One thing we can rule out is the weighting targets. YouGov weight by party ID rather than past vote so the published figures aren’t comparable, but I checked the sample for this poll and about 26% of respondents who say they voted in 2010 claim they voted Lib Dem (which is pretty typical), so YouGov actually have more people saying they voted Lib Dem in 2010 in their samples than some other pollsters do. For some reason YouGov’s 2010 Lib Dem voters seem to be less likely to be sticking with the Liberal Democrats now.

As to the reasons why, we can only speculate. One possibility is when the weighting data is collected – companies using online panels can ask respondents how they voted at the time of the election then retain that information for weighting future surveys – people still might not report their vote accurately, but at least you can be certain levels of false recall won’t change. Phone pollsters naturally have to ask people to recall their past vote during the survey. If the drop in people supporting the Liberal Democrats is being matched by a drop in the proportion of people reporting to pollsters that they voted Lib Dem in 2010, then there is a risk that pollsters could be failing to account for growing false recall and are weighting them upwards too much (meaning samples would include an increasingly large proportion of the more loyal Lib Dems). Looking at the data from Ipsos-MORI who ask about recalled 2010 vote, but don’t weight by it, there is indeed a clear and rapid downwards trend in the proportion of people reporting they voted Lib Dem in 2010, which suggests this is a possibility.

Another possibility for ICM’s high score is their question wording – they ask how people would vote in “your area”, which could potentially make people think more about their local seat and local MP, which might help the Lib Dems. Personally I don’t think the difference in wording is blatant enough, but you never know (and this would only explain ICM, not other companies). Or, of course, it could be something else to do with the samples. I wrote here about some of the reasons why the pollsters got the Liberal Democrats wrong at the 2010 election – one of which may have been having samples that are too interested in politics and probably too educated (YouGov has since changed sampling to tackle the problem), perhaps it’s something along those lines. Perhaps it is a mode effect of some sort – for some reason answering online making people more likely to say they aren’t voting Lib Dem, or some sampling bias that either online panels or telephone polls are producing… or something completely different.

As to which one is right. Well, naturally I think YouGov are probably correct – if I didn’t, we’d change methods! Equally, I’m sure Martin Boon also thinks ICM are doing things correctly, and so will ComRes, MORI and everyone else. No pollster uses methodology they think is wrong. Something I once heard Martin himself say at a conference was that if you were confident in your methodology and it spat out surprising numbers then once you’d checked everything you eventually just had to trust the numbers. It’s sound advice. It may well be that the big gap disappears with time (ICM and Populus’s way of calculating target weights takes into account long term shifts in past recall, and ICM’s election post-mortem said they’d be reviewing whether they were weighting the Lib Dems too highly)… or it may persist over time and we won’t know for certain until May 2015.

UPDATE: Also worth noting is the government approval rating – the net score was minus 10, the lowest the coalition have had so far.


366 Responses to “YouGov have Lib Dems down to single figures”

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  1. @Rob Sheffield

    Glad to see that you agree with me that a red-yellow coalition remains a possibility.

    I think you’re being unfair to Clegg. There were all sorts of reasons why Clegg went blue rather than red in May. I don’t think ‘hating’ reds was one of them.

    He’s a pragmatist who wants to get things done. I’m looking forward to seeing Nick Clegg campaigning shoulder to shoulder with Ed Miliband in favour of AV…

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  2. Just to prove my non-partisan credentials….Browne is the man who is ultimately responsible for the Gulf of Mexico disaster………in his wisdom, he fired 5,000 engineers during his time at BP. ‘ Savaging the overhead’, was his mission statement, to anyone sad enough to hang around when he appeared, most people ran for it……After 5 minutes he would start camping it up….I was just a shareholder, and I once asked him about the safety policy in exploration and drilling, he said, ‘ outsourcing is the future working model, in oil and gas ‘. I thought, this man is mad, turned out I was right. :-)

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  3. @ROB / DAVID
    Hung parliaments are very rare under FPTP.
    The next election will produce either an overall win for Labour, or for the Tories.
    Anyway, Labour would be very foolish to go into a coalition with the LDs. It would make them look like they were allies with the previous government just rejected and by definition that they agreed with the cuts and all the other unpopular coalition policies.
    At least one term without the LDs being in government would have to pass before Labour could consider a deal with them.
    Like I say though, though, this is probably irrelevant. The next national election will produce an overall winner.

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  4. Oh yes, and Clegg would definitely have to go.

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  5. @Julian

    “The next election will produce either an overall win for Labour, or for the Tories.”

    Current long term poll trend rejects this and firmly predict a hung parliament.

    “Anyway, Labour would be very foolish to go into a coalition with the LDs. It would make them look like they were allies with the previous government just rejected and by definition that they agreed with the cuts and all the other unpopular coalition policies.”

    Sorry but that is utter nonsense.

    In a hung parliament scenario it would give Labour- as senior partner- the opportunity to implement significant parts of their manifesto.

    Labour also has a huge overlap in values and policy preference with a significant strand amongst LD’s (not the segment that currently controls it). I very much doubt all of the current ministers- if re elected- would be in the Lib-Lab government. You’d have Charlie Kenendy and Hughes etc. Vince has done enough to illustrate quite clearly that he goes into the cabinet room holding his nose and he’d be OK

    A red-yellow coalition after the next election (in a hung context) is a complete and total no brainer for Labour :-)

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  6. @David Abrahams

    “He’s a pragmatist who wants to get things done. I’m looking forward to seeing Nick Clegg campaigning shoulder to shoulder with Ed Miliband in favour of AV…”

    Its deep and a matter of blood and class David: never forgiven the reds for disinheriting his Romanov ancestor who had to run away from Russia ;-)

    Also I will be genuinely surprised- given Cameron has agreed to be ‘low profile’ in his ‘no-ness’ – to see Nick Clegg doing campaigning that can in any way be described as passionate. He’s pragmatic remember and won’t want to upset the blues nor his best mate Dave.

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  7. @ROB -“Current long term poll trend rejects this and firmly predict a hung parliament.”
    No it doesn’t. Project the rise and falls of the parties since the election as trends and you’d get a massive Labour majority.
    Of course trends change over 5 years.
    What is true is that for the support for the three parties to stay around the same levels they are now for the next 5 years is a statistical impossibility.
    “Labour also has a huge overlap in values and policy preference with a significant strand amongst LD’s”
    I think you are confusing activists with voters. The activists and party members may be the same but the reddish LD voters have already deserted them. It’s the LD voters we should be thinking about. Labour is already winning them over. What would they think if the party they’ve shifted to goes ahead and joins with the party they’ve just rejected?
    It would make Labour look to the voters like the LDs look to them now. Namely that power is more important to them than their policies.
    LDs are damaged ….no contaminated… goods for possible Labour voters.
    IMO.

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  8. @Julian

    We have been in 40-39-11 (including m.o.e territory) for several months now- that is a hung parliament.

    We absolutely do not no where the polls will be at the next election: so we project based on the current trend. That says hung parliament.

    I don’t think all the social liberals have deserted yellow- just go and read LDV for a few days and you will see their is (if you ignore the obvious reds) a pretty even split between Beveridge and orange types.

    Like I said: I am in Cleggs back yard where you would anticipate that ‘damaged goods’ sentiment you assert would be strong. Yet my CLP/ ward is open to coalition as the senior partner.

    Its a no brainer. If the deck of cards deals us a hung parliament we want to get our policy agenda implemented as far as is possible and we want those blues out on their arses.

    I really think you are being incredibly naive: or perhaps trolling ;-)

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  9. @Julian

    We have been in 40-39-11 (including m.o.e territory) for several months now- that is a hung parliament.

    We absolutely do not no where the polls will be at the next election: so we project based on the current trend. That says hung parliament.

    I don’t think all the social liberals have deserted yellow- just go and read LDV for a few days and you will see their is (if you ignore the obvious reds) a pretty even split between Beveridge and orange types.

    Like I said: I am in Cleggs back yard where you would anticipate that ‘damaged goods’ sentiment you assert would be strong. Yet my CLP/ ward is open to coalition as the senior partner.

    Its a no brainer. If the deck of cards deals us a hung parliament we want to get our policy agenda implemented as far as is possible and we want those blues out of government.

    I really think you are being incredibly naive: or perhaps trolling ;-)

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  10. @ROB
    I’m not winding you up. ;)
    May – Labour 29%
    November – Labour 39%
    That’s 10% in 6 months.
    The trend for Labour is therefore 20% a year!!
    May – Cons 36%
    November – 40%
    That’s a long term trend of 8% a year.
    Trend to Labour , twice that of Cons.
    I don’t need to mention the trend away from LDs. That would just be rubbing it in.
    Now I know this is mathematical nonsense because the trend will not stay the same during the next 5 years.
    But for the support levels to stay the same for the next 5 years there would have to be no trends at all for the next 5 years.
    To put it mildly, not very likely.
    We want those blues out of government?
    No, I’m not motivated by hatred of blues. And neither are the voters.
    It’s the policies. And the policies are being passed into law by the yellows just as much as by blues.
    They will be tarred with the same brush by the electorate.
    Labour needs to be VERY careful not to let any of that tar brush off on itself.

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  11. Julian
    I’m not winding you up.
    May – Labour 29%
    November – Labour 39%
    That’s 10% in 6 months.
    The trend for Labour is therefore 20% a year!!

    Yay! May 2015 – Labour 129%

    Ken
    ‘ outsourcing is the future working model, in oil and gas ‘.

    Even better outsource to Haliburton!

    I think insane self-belief is now the main (only?) requirement for CEOs. :(

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  12. @ROGER MEXICO
    129% – :)
    CEOs’ insane self-belief – :(

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  13. Eoin, hi!

    You said “…Yes, but Martyn’s tables, and genuine…”

    Thank you for that, but I have to point out they’re my visualisations of figures that Anthony collated, so I can’t take the credit. Which reminds me: I’ll have to change the licence to one of the cc licences… :-(

    Julian Gilbert

    You said “…Just had a look at the no2av.org website…Pretty powerful stuff…Any pro-AV people had a look at it yet?…”

    Not for a while, no. No2AV is presented as the creation of Matthew Elliott/Taxpayers’ Alliance and Rodney Leach/various. It presents in blog format (entries, mostly textual, arranged in chronological order). It has the usual attack site characteristics (if-this-happens-then-that-happens-so-dont, unsupported figures, uncritical reportage of pro, critical reportage of con, liberal use of weasel words). The layout and graphics are nothing special, although it isn’t making any major mistakes (except possibly one or two… :-) ), I like the colours, and I have seen worse.

    It’s an attack site intended to give succour to those who share its view, rather than an analysis site – it’s preaching to the converted, not explaining to the interested. That’s not to mean it isn’t effective – God knows Fox News isn’t going to make a loss this year and Glenn Beck isn’t going to die poor, so insane partisan screaming can work. But given the choice between reading it or watching “Mock the Week” on iPlayer…well, it’s hello, Dara.

    Speaking seriously, it is possible to construct a valid site considering AV vs FPTP: set up the desired characteristics of an electoral system beforehand, establish metrics to measure the deviation of AV and FPTP from those characteristics, get values for those metrics, present them to the audience so that they can decide. There was an article the other day adopting this approach, but the results were displayed graphically and separately, making comparison difficult. I’ll try and rescale and redraw the graphs so that they can be fitted on the same axes, but no guarantees.

    You also said “…No, I’m not motivated by hatred of blues. And neither are the voters…”

    I can only speculate regarding your motives. But I would be genuinely surprised if dislike/hatred does not play a major part in the way the electorate vote.

    Regards, Martyn

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  14. ROLAND HAINES @ RICHARD IN NORWAY

    “Pray tell what is the benefit of going to University unless you intend to study for a degree that will give you a lucrative and interesting career ?”

    TomC @ROLAND HAINES

    “Degrees benefit people who take them in many ways. Yes sometimes this can be financial but the real value of a degree is that it enables the development of a critically engaged, reflective individual.”

    Many people go to Uini, but few further develop their knowledge or do resarch, before going on what is often an unrelated career.

    I did it the other way round, but I didn’t get the benefit TomC describes. In fact, to the embarrasment of the tutors I got into difficulties by being “critically engaged” and had to choose between giving the expected answer and the evidence-based one.

    Leaving school just short of university entrance requirements, I qualified in accountancy and took a diploma in managment. Only after publishing articles and presenting papers arising from a lifetime interest in musicology did I complete (at the age of 70) an OU degree, mostly in music. I havn’t actually claimed it yet and don’t intend to graduate till I can do so at the same time as my wife.

    If I were to spend 40 years as the manager of a shoe shop on £18,000 I think would need something like an interest in English literature to enhance my quality of life. I knew a single retired postman who organised a small group of enthusiasts for fortnighly poetry readings round his fireside.

    He didn’t have TV, and nor do I, but at some tiime or other I have played nearly every ochestral instrument and half a dozen others.

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  15. John B Dick @ 11.29pm

    “The unit of paper currency will be the Bottle and it will “promise to pay the bearer one bottle of whisky.”
    “It will not be backed by gold, but by the stock of whisky maturing in bond. The duodecimal currency will have 12 glasses to the bottle, and 12 sips to the glass.”

    lol.

    It would be the strongest currency in the world in a matter of days.

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  16. Unless you take it with water. Devaluation…

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