There is a new YouGov poll for Channel 4 News asking how people would vote under AV. It projects that Labour would suffer the most under AV, with the Lib Dems gaining the most and the Conservatives largely unchanged – their losses would be cancelled out by gains.

On a normal uniform swing, the standard FPTP voting intention figures in the poll would give us 255 Conservative seats, 355 Labour, 16 Lib Dem and 24 Others – so a Labour majority of 60. YouGov’s projection of how the seats would pan out under people’s AV voting intentions are 255 Conservative seats (so no difference, though there will be churn in which seats!), 342 Labour (down 13 compared to FPTP) and 29 Liberal Democrats (up 13 compared to FPTP). Labour would instead only have a majority of 34.

At the previous election (and at elections before that) polls have repeatedly suggested that AV would favour the Liberal Democrats and Labour and disadvantage the Conservatives, or in some cases that both Labour and the Conservatives would both suffer, but the Conservatives would suffer more.

This was largely because Labour and Liberal Democrat voters told pollsters they would be very likely to give their second preferences to one another, while Conservative voters favoured the Liberal Democrats for second preferences, albeit less enthusiastically. Hence in Con v Lab marginals Liberal Democrat second preferences helped Labour, in Con vs LD marginals Labour second preferences helped the Lib Dems, and in the relatively small number of Lab v LD marginals Conservative second preferences helped the Lib Dems a bit.

Last Summer, when the coalition was still young and Lib Dem support was still in the mid teens, YouGov asked how people would vote under AV and found this pattern beginning to change. The remaining Liberal Democrat voters were as likely to give their second preferences to the Conservatives as to give it to Labour, and Labour voters had become significantly less likely to give their second preferences to the Liberal Democrats. At the time AV was still better for Labour than the Tories, but if the trends apprent then continued it could easily have changed.

This week YouGov & Channel 4 did a fresh exercise asking people once again to say how they’d vote under AV. This time we repeated the question used by the British Election Study in 2010, giving people a picture of a ballot paper and asking them to actually enter numbers next to as many or as few candidates as they wanted to. This allowed us to better project the actual effect than was possible last Summer – for example, Labour second preferences disproportionately go to the Green party, but given that the Green party will normally have already been eliminated in a count before Labour is, it’s actually their third or fourth preferences that count.

Conservative voters are now most likely to give second preferences to the Lib Dems (41%), followed by UKIP (27%). UKIP are, of course, unlikely to actually benefit from many Conservative second preferences – what will actually matter in the course of most election counts is how Conservative voters’ lower preferences divide between Labour and Liberal Democrats – here 29% of Conservative voters do not give Labour or the Liberal Democrats any preference, 8% put Labour higher on their ballot, 63% put the Liberal Democrats higher on their ballot.

When the BES ran the same question in May 2010 over half of Labour voters gave their second preferences to the Liberal Democrats. This has collapsed – 30% of Labour voters would now give second preferences to the Greens, 19% wouldn’t give one at all, 18% would give it to UKIP and only 16% to the Lib Dems. Taking into account preferences further down the ballot though, if it was between Lib Dems and Conservatives 46% of Labour ballots would end up being transferred to the Lib Dems, 12% to the Conservatives, 42% neither.

Turning to the Liberal Democrats, their second preferences now split fairly evenly, but with the Conservatives just ahead: 31% to the Conservatives, 24% to the Greens and 24% to Labour. Again, looking at what would ultimately happen to Lib Dem votes if they had to be transfered to Con or Lab, 46% would end up in the Conservative pile, 39% in the Labour pile, 15% neither.

The minor parties’s transfers end up much where you’d expect them – Green voters favour Lab or LD strongly over the Conservatives, and Labour slightly over the Lib Dems. UKIP voters tend to favour Conservatives over Lib Dems, Conservatives slightly over Labour. Around a third of BNP voters don’t give any preferences to any of the three main parties, but those that do tend to favour the Conservatives and Labour over the Lib Dems.

What this all boils down to is that in Con v Lab marginals the lower preferences of Lib Dems would help the Conservatives win seats from Labour, in Lab v LD seats Conservative lower preferences will help the Lib Dems win seats from Labour, in Con vs LD seats Labour lower preferences will help the Lib Dems… but Con losses there will be cancelled out by Con gains against Labour.

Of course, this all needs a lot of caveats – it assumes both a uniform swing, and that each parties second preferences split in the same proportions across the country. It also cannot take into account what effect an election campaign fought under AV would be – this poll shows people’s AV first preferences being largely the same as their FPTP vote, but I suspect in practice smaller parties would effectively campaign to get some people to use their first vote to send a message. All that aside though, it is looking as though AV would work against Labour, as Conservative and Lib Dem voters seem increasingly likely to give preferences to one another.

See also Gary Gibbon’s post here


138 Responses to “YouGov – Labour would do worse under AV”

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  1. good post Anthony but the factor that is missed is the geographical one and I bet in the south as compared to the north the splits are massively different

  2. IanRobo – we can’t tell, but the BES version of the poll back in May 2010 had a much bigger sample size (16,000) so was able to compare second preferences in one region to those from another.

    Conservative and Labour second preferences didn’t really have particularly big regional differences at all. Lib Dem second preferences did have some differences, albeit not massive – they were more pro-Labour in the North and Midlands, pretty even between Con & Lab further South.

  3. Anthony,

    Apols if I have missed it but what were the first pref VIs in the poll?

  4. More importantly what it doesn’t factor in is the varying nature of the LibDem vote as it is whittled to it’s core.

    The current LibDem vote is die-hard, and given the way their party has been treated by Labour spokesmen, I would surmise it is quite bitter towards them.

    But the only likely source of additional LibDem votes is from centre-left voters that abandoned them for Labour or Green as a consequence of the Coalition Agreement. If that’s right, then any rise in LibDem support would tend to unwind the trend towards giving preferences to the Tories. In the unlikely event that the LibDems ever managed a 24% vote share at a GE again, I would expect the effect to almost completely unwind. Perhaps there would be a slight permanent shift towards giving preferences to the Tories (as former comrades in arms, and as an aftertaste of Labour spitefulness) but I think it would be small.

    In short, this poll shows that at current levels of support Labour suffers under AV, not that this would be the case at a future GE.

  5. Neil A – yes, by definition it is only what AV would do with current levels of support and current second preferences. There is no hard and fast rule that AV will always favour one party or disadvantage another – it’s all dependent on the political circumstances at the time.

    Eoin – tabs will be up tomorrow and I don’t want to do requests, but FPTP toplines were CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%, Oth 12%. AV 1st pref toplines were CON 36%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, Oth 14%

  6. It all seems rather academic given that the referendum looks very likely to retain FPTP.

    AW- was this part of the tracking polls (I use that term advisedly before the poll-pedants leap on me!) YG compile or a separate exercise?

  7. AW- mea culpa: just read through the whole spiel properly and note the C4 commission :-)

  8. I would be interested to know how this would work out with the loss of 50 seats after the Boundary changes.

  9. I’m not convinced AV would work against labour although it might not not necessarily work against the tories in the west country as some people think but who knows?

    I’m really not convinced that AV will shift many seats because the LD might fall sharply in some areas anyway and go to labour.

    My hunch is that the odds of a hung parliament are roughly the same at the next election regardless of the system.

  10. There are two major factors I find lacking from the AV debate in the UK.

    1. Toxicity.
    2. As a party climbs in the first pref VI the pool it fishes from will naturally have less transfers.

    Labour’s toxicity in ’10 was much lower that blue ’97 and they still accrued 2nd pref as show in 7 previous polls that asked.

    Also, smapling a BES like this when reds are already high will of course show their ability to fish from a barren yellow pool as challenging.

    however, if a) Tory toxicity climbs which there is evidence that it might begin to happen, or indeed b) reds fall back in the first pref VI, their ability to gain from second pref increases… instead of fishing from a blue of closet tories in the LDs, they’ll have some SDs to attract back..

    Toxicity, and the inverse proportionate affect reds riding high would have mean that this was always going to produce the best case scenario for blue…

    There is also the matter of an ability to expand upon your FPTP base. When reds were at 30%, they expanded upon their base in the 2nd pref poll by 47%

    when reds were at 34% in the July 2nd pref poll they expanded beyond their base by 32%

    Naturally when reds are now 42%, they will expand above their base less because, hell there’s less fish in the sea..

    I view AV as a fail safe mechanism to prevent reds dipping below a certain point, when we are riding high AV/FPTP it wont matter which.

  11. @Eoin

    Yes. AV would help parties that are in the ascedent and damage though who have amassed antipathy.

    Next year’s scottish council elections will be very interesting.

  12. A Brown,

    Actually its on a quadrant if you like..

    ascending will not benefit you if the other party’s toxicity is low

    falling parties might benefit from transfers as their deserters give them their second prefs..

    faling parties that are toxic might fall even more if as in 1997 nobody loves them..

    ascending might benefit as would have happened in 1997 if it was a landslide effect…

    So in very crude terms, it removes the winners bonus for narrow elections, but exxagerates the effect of a landslide..

  13. tsitsikama – the trends (Lab down, LD up, Con somewhere inbetween) should be the same under different boundaries. The scale of the effect of the boundary changes remains to be seen, though it is very likely the effect will be to help the Conservatives and hinder Lab and LD.

  14. Experience shewed that it took a couple of goes before the Scots began to become sophisticated did it not? Also there was the simultaneous different system ballot fiasco.

    A thought, does the AV Bill apply to all levels of elections, if passed? I confess I don’t know. What a farce if it didn’t..

  15. Thanks for that Anthony, I suppose we won’t really know until the boundry changes take place.

    I still haven’t made up my mind about AV yet, I suspect I will eventually decide on how it will affect MY constituency, after all that is the only place my vote matters .

  16. Howard – ha! Ha! Of course not. Only westminster elections would be AV. Local elections would remain FPTP, Scotland and Wales would remain AMS, Europe would remain closed list, London Mayor would remain SV.

  17. Actually,

    On some private calculations this is the best AV poll for Labour yet on one measurement…

    In the May wave of polling the maximum number of voters willing to vote Labour as their 1st or 2nd pref was 44% [ish]

    In the July polling the maximum number of voters willing to vote Labour as their 1st or 2nd pref was 44% ish

    I am now predicting [though I have not seen the data] that..

    c.6% of Tories would vote Labour as their 2nd
    c.25% of Others inc. Nats [excl. NI] would vote Labour as their second
    and since we know that c.24% of yellows would vote red as their second

    we can now say that of the three waves of AV polling the “pool” reds are fishing from has grown…

    They have always been in third place… traditionally yellows are first on 55-6% willing to vote for them 1st or 2nd

    Blue are usually over 50% of voters willing to vote 1st or 2nd

    I am will to stick my neck on the line and say that for the first time in AV polling

    1. reds are in 1st place in terms of the potential 1st or 2nd pref voters willing to vote for them

    2. I might even go as far as to say reds are on the verge of breaching the 50% barrier in terms of voters willing to give them 1st or 2nd prefs..

    I will have to do more calcs [half my data is hypothesis] but greens will be worth looking at to see if they are now “ahead” yes “ahead” of the LDs in terms of people willing to give them 1st/2nd pref.

  18. The bit I don’t get about the calculation of the seats is the assumption of a uniform swing. The whole point of AV is that there will be a massive unwinding of tactical voting, which has a very different pattern in different constituencies. Thus I would expect the swing to be very non-uniform. I think a different method of calculating the number of seats is called for (I don’t have a proposal!).

  19. @Neil A – ” … given the way their party has been treated by Labour spokesmen, I would surmise it is quite bitter towards them.”

    I think it was Cecil Parkinson who said ” …no one has yet worked out how the coalition agreement will come to an end.” ;)

  20. On very very crude figures, I think the

    The total % of the electorate willing to place each of these parties as their 1st or 2nd is roughly as follows

    Reds c.49-50%
    Blue 47%
    Yellow 32%
    Green 24%
    UKIP 17%

  21. HAL
    I think you have a point there and I am recovering from AW’s confirmation of what I feared (remember the 1997, 2001 and 2005 elections were for, at least, both County and GE).

    The 2015 GE will be held at the same time as the district and parish ones (and some unitaries).

    If AV is passed, they will just have to change the Act with a new Bill.

    We have too many thickos down here, far exceeding how many they have in Scotland and Wales.

  22. Forgive me for cross posting but this is just quite how big I think this poll is: [see below]

    A 16,000 sample BES study was analysed by YouGov for Channel 4 News. Tomorrow you will hear lots of reports that AV could be good for the Tories. Underneath all of the data there is plenty for reds to cheer about. 2.6 Million voters are now willing to give reds their first or second preference that were not willing to do so in May 2010. In addition the yellows used to be able to attract 10 million more voters to consider voting for them as their first or second preference than reds, that has now in fact disappeared and now nearly 8 million more voters would give reds their first or second preference before they’d consider yellow. A turnaround in 18 million voters [net] is nothing short of an electoral Armageddon. To put it in context, 26 million voters used to consider voting for yellow as first or second, now that is just 13 million, whereas nearly 10 million would now consider voting for the Greens as their first of second preference. The balkanisation of our UK political landscape has arrived.

  23. Is it not the case that in landslide conditions, and also in less dramatic ‘change elections’ AV would accentuate the effect?

    When an unpopular government of whichever colour is voted out, swings would be amplified under AV because the smaller party voters will also be pushing the widely/recognisably unpopular administration further down their list of preferences.

  24. Eoin
    We know that at least 25% of voters are volatile and we’ve known that for yonks. So I am not surprised at anything that could take place in VI (1 2 3 4) at the drop of a hat.

  25. Anybody have any thoughts on how this will affect the Green’s chances?

    If the Green party reaches a tipping point of being seen as a valid party to vote for (as opposed to a wasted vote), could we see the Green 1st pref and Labour 2nd prefs for the Greens grow?
    I.e are the results of the poll still biased by ‘but the Greens couldn’t win’ feeling?

  26. Howard

    Typical bloody English arrogance!!!

    We have just as many thickos as you have mate!

    (though maybe we teach them better :-) )

  27. I’m not sure how many council ballots were spoilt in 2007 in Scotland. In AV by elections the number of spoilt ballots is usually below 1%.

  28. Tingedfringe
    Yes. but also UKIP, etc. See Euros.

  29. The findings of this poll confirm what I have been saying for a number of months now: that Nick Clegg’s coalition with the Conservatives has made the Lib Dem brand toxic for most left-of-centre voters and that it has had the effect of altering the composition of (what remains of) the Lib Dem vote. This was always bound to mean that the Tories would out-perform Labour in terms of Lib Dem second preferences.

    So why on earth is Ed Miliband campaigning for AV? Clearly it’s too late for him to do a u-turn now, but if he were to employ me as his polling advisor he would benefit from my expertise (in just the same way as readers of this blog do) and so would avoid making any mistakes in the future.

  30. @ TGB

    “The total % of the electorate willing to place each of these parties as their 1st or 2nd is roughly as follows
    Reds c.49-50%
    Blue 47%
    Yellow 32%
    Green 24%
    UKIP 17%”

    As usual, Eoin, a very interesting and well researched piece of analysis, but I fear that it may be all a bit academic because I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in hell of the YES vote prevailing in the forthcoming AV Referendum. Apathy will probably be the ultimate winner but, as is quite often the case with referenda (rather like voluntary questionnaire-based surveys) only those with hardened views/opinions will participate and, in the case of
    the AV Referendum, the majority of those will be implacable opponents and those wanting to kick the coalition. The Nays are in the ascendancy in terms of campaign momentum and I think they’re much more likely to get their vote out than the Ayes. In my view, something fairly extraordinary will have to happen in the next four weeks for the Ayes to prevail and, my gut feel, is that the AV cause is as dead as a dodo.

    If I’m right and the diehard Tories come out in droves to defeat AV, then I foresee a boost to the Tory vote in the local elections on the basis of them coming to polling booths when, if there were only council elections on offer, they’d have probably stayed away. May not have a great effect, but it could be influential in certain boroughs.

    An oft forgotten side effect of the May 2010 GE, coinciding as it did with the local council elections, was that it helped Labour buck the GE result and score reasonable gains in the local elections on the basis of a well above average turnout. This factor could well shore up the Tory council vote by getting more of their core vote to turn out in May.

  31. @tingedfringe

    Not sure about the greens’ chances although perhaps there will be significant movement in inner London boroughs from the LDs and perhaps some from Lab to the greens in 1st prefs.

  32. Eoin – just to make things clear – in May 2010, YouGov asked this question to 16,000 people for the BES.

    This time we asked it to 4,000 people for Channel 4 – this poll wasn’t 16,000 or for the BES!

  33. AW
    Yes but 4000 gives a fair shout at reducing moe as much as 16000 did. I thought Eoin had a point.

  34. Robin Hood,

    “So why on earth is Ed Miliband campaigning for AV? Clearly it’s too late for him to do a u-turn now, but if he were to employ me as his polling advisor he would benefit from my expertise (in just the same way as readers of this blog do) and so would avoid making any mistakes in the future.”

    Doesn’t this mean Cameron needs to switch places with Milliband ( on AV ) —- Strange ( Political ) world we live in.

  35. @tsitsikama

    AV currently suits Labour over Conservative because the Tories are unpopular over cuts. In a few years it will be the other way round, then it will swap again. AV is not good or bad for a party overall. It is good for voters though.

  36. So Labour LD swap votes under AV; not really a surprise (ignoring current bizarre coalition). Many / most of these parties would recognise they currently are similar and so would happily put themselves 1/2 in an AV situation (and throw Greens in for 3).

    Not really rocket science…

  37. @TGB
    Very interesting analysis based on political arithmetic. It is, though, ironic, that the least “balkanized” countries are precisely the Balkan ones. By this I mean that in these countries voters favor the two major parties much more than elsewhere. Thus, according to the figures of their respective last GE, the sum of the two major parties’ vote share is as follows: Albania 80.8, Bulgaria 57.4, Croatia 66.8, Greece 77.4, Macedonia 72.4, Montenegro 67.5, Romania 65.5, Serbia 67.9. Average: 69.4. (I intentionally did not count Bosnia & Herzegovina, where the two major parties’ sum is 39.5, because no party operates on national level, they are all regional/local because of the country’s partition in two zones: Serbian and Moslem-Croatian). For the sake of comparison, the same figure (parties 1+2) is 55.3 in Austria, 53.5 in Iceland, 51.9 in Estonia, 51.7 in Denmark, 48.5 in Switzerland, 45.4 in Finland, 40.0 in the Netherlands and only 34.7 in Lithuania – these are indeed politically balkanized countries!

  38. Anthony,

    Ta! :)

  39. ‘COLIN GREEN
    @tsitsikama
    AV currently suits Labour over Conservative because the Tories are unpopular over cuts. In a few years it will be the other way round, then it will swap again. AV is not good or bad for a party overall. It is good for voters though.’

    Not convinced at all. When did Tories/ UKIIP /BNP have 50% of a poll. Versus Lab /LD GREENs.? I think the left of politics have it since about the year dot.

    FPTP have always favoured the largest p[arty (Tories) although the majority of the popualtion have always voted against them.

    This is why AV is best; by definition the MP elected is liked by the majority of the people; and so is the GOVT. Currently a party loathed by the majority of the people can win (Thatcher / Blair) even though the majority of the people vote against them.

  40. Virg,

    How ironic… I guess before it was balkanised an STV poll would have be interesting for the former Yugoslavia..

    That’s kinda what I had in mind at least :)

  41. YouGov/Sun results 7th April

    CON 35%, LAB 44%, LD 10%

    APPROVAL -26

    Probably an outlier unless the internship-gate/ cleggonsocialmobility-gate/ LetwinonSheffield-gate/ cutsThatchercouldnothavedreamedof-gate and Portugal-gate are having an impact..

  42. YouGov shows 9 point Labour lead.

    Surely when a government promises to listen, it is a sign that they are on the skids. ;)

  43. 35/44 sounds much more like it, given the cuts & other negatives for the Government.

  44. YouGov have had the LD on 9, 10 or 11 for two months straight. That’s over 40 polls on 10 +/- 1. Surely there should be more variation than this just from random sample noise, no?

  45. AV aside, in my first election campaign as a candidate I am finding some very interesting things on the doorstep. There is still a large amount of anger over the expenses issue. Many voters still hesitant to go out and vote because they are all as bad as each other (the pollies that is). There has been some anger about the cuts but our campaign is highlighting far more on local issues.

  46. In fact issues such as garden grabbing and development on open spaces has caught the attention of far more people.

  47. I’m dubious about one-off polls showing “the result under AV”. I don’t think we’ll really see good methodology till we’ve had at least one real general election conducted with AV.

  48. @Colin,
    I agree,so much negative news at the moment.Even the
    Times were reporting the listening strategy at Frimley Park
    was really just an attempt to sell the NHS reforms.

  49. In Australia there are always deals between the parties on preference direction. Although they dont have the power to direct a preference one way or another they do deliver how to vote cards which shows the way preferences to be delivered. So it can come down to policy where the flow goes as opposed to pre concieved ideas. So for instance if Labour promised to bring in PR in some form wouldn’t lib dems prefer to see their second preferences go to labour?

  50. @Epochery

    “They’re all as bad as each other” is an effective curb on debate and thought … in some cases it is just means “we don’t discuss politics or religion”, but in others it is a real denial tactic.

    Think of the commited politicos who feel betrayed by party politics at some time or other, then compare to those who do not have an in depth understanding of politics, but feel that in so many areas of their lives the odds have always seemed stacked against them… better to appear hard-boiled.

    Good luck with your campaign btw.

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