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. @Mike N

    “A lot of LD members appear to have deserted the party, but those who remain are surely not all centre/right in their views.”

    A lot of voters have left but not many members. Certainly in my local branch we’ve had more new people join since the new year than have left in the last 12 months. You’re about right on the members though. Coalition with the tories has not moved the member’s political position towards them.

    What the coalition has done is shatter the illusion that the Lib Dems are just Labour Lite and will always side with them when needed. This will have lost some of the plain anti-tory vote as well as the protest only vote. What remains is the Liberal and slightly left of centre core that is the heart of the party. What has gone is the tactical vote and the protest vote that was only ever ours on loan.

  2. BillyBob

    Your comments on Clegg’s evolving ‘strategies’ serve to indicate to me that he has no underlying strategy for positioning the LD party at all.

    If I were a LD member I would be appalled by the lack of good leadership of the party and where the party has now reached and what is in prospect electorally.

    It will be truly ironic that after waiting so long to be in gov, that on achieving this goal the LD party is then consigned again to a long period out of gov and irrelevant politically.

    IMO, the only viable course for LD members is to replace NC as party leader and leave the coalition by the autumn this year.

    And I repeat frm an earlier post “Someone upthread said that Ministers don’t know what the coalition will be doing in 2012…”

    It doesn’t take much to imagine why this might be the case.

  3. Colin Green
    Are you saying that every LD member is renewing their membership whenever it falls due?

  4. @Howard,
    Sorry for the delay in response.You are quite right,it was
    supposed to be a listening to concerns exercise.Ironically
    therefore it was the staff at Frimley Park who had to do the listening!

  5. Mike N

    “Are you saying that every LD member is renewing their membership whenever it falls due?”

    Clearly not.

  6. You have to wonder if the coalition had appeared in happier times, ie no need for cuts, tuition fee changes, etc then perhaps the LD support might not have fallen down the plughole. I just don’t feel they’ve asserted enough of whatever we thought they were in coalition – or else whatever we thought they were was quite wrong. Either way, the only way is down.

  7. AV poll is now up on YG… time to geek out :)

  8. Eoin/The Green Benches

    You may be making a bit too much of the effects of the ‘toxicity’ of the Lib Dems. Although they have lost a lot of second preferences from Labour supporters, under AV what matters is where the vote effectively ends up. In a Conservative – Lib Dem marginal the only important AV decision is how Labour/Other voters pick between those two Parties, not how far up or down the ballot paper they do so.

    Of course under STV the situation would be a bit different, as there might be enough votes for Labour or the minor Parties to gain seats themselves, or a least hold on to till they were no use to the Lib Dems.

  9. Roger,

    I don’t think I agreed with a word of that. A sizeable chunk of reds are unwilling to transfer their vote anywhere.. in effect, they’d rather bin it. I’ll now get a chance to check the rest.

    63% of the public would have voted yellow [1st/2nd pref] 10 months ago. now c.32%.

    A decline in 12-3million voters is very hard to over state..

  10. Sorry for the massive link, Mike N, here is the “omnishambles” quote, though I can’t find an external reference to the 2012 comment. Bogan seems to pinning his hopes on one more appointment turning the tide:


  11. Tingedfringe’
    ‘If, at their worst electoral point for 1983, Labour, under AV, still could have had a good chance at being in a coalition government and at their best, they’d have a huge stonking majority – perhaps Ed’s thinking is that AV could secure Labour’s part of future governments for decades to come.’
    The evidence to date suggests that AV would damage the party perceived to be toxic at a particular election..For that reason the Tory majority in 1983 – and 1987 – would have been even bigger than under FPTP.A coalition or Hung Parliament would have been extremely unlikely.

  12. BillyBob

    That’s a good article by Brogan. Thanks

    We’ve seen this week one ‘flagship’ gov policy hit the buffers. I suggest/predict another will also hit the buffers at some future date, possibly by the end of 2012.

    This is the intro of Universal Credits…delivery will rely on new data systems being designed and delivered within a very tight timeframe. In addition, UC may rely on uptodate data from employers. This project has the all hallmarks of going belly up. And that was without the possibility of lack of total coperation within the civil service.

  13. Anthony,

    The C4 poll tables are interesting. May I ask you a question about how you arrived at % for the second prefs?

    Take the LDs distribution of 2nd prefs… you say above reds got 24, green got 24, and blue got 31… [%]

    The wee tables say Greens 24, Reds 22, Blue 30

    Can you tell me what I am missing?

  14. Eoin

    Thanks for the nudge about the tables being up – though it meant my comment to you was shorter than it would have been! You need to look at the percentages in the AV First Preference columns not the Current FPTP columns. The difference is because some people voted a different first preference when offered AV. More significantly, a lot of non-voters decided to vote.

  15. Roger yes,

    c.20% did not transfer their vote.. I factored that in already

  16. By my reckoning

    c.49% of the UK would vote Labour as their 1st of second pref
    c.43% Tory
    c.32% Lib Dem
    c. 5.3% SNP/Plaid
    c.21% Green
    c.25% UKIP
    c.6% BNP

    In May, the figures were
    63% Lib Dem [down 31% since] – 12-3mill voters
    47% Tory [so down 4%]- 1.8mill voters
    44% Lab [so up 5% since] 2mill voters

    Approx. 10 mill would consider UKIP as their first/second pref…

    Approx 8ish mill would consider Green as their first second pref…

    If and when AV fails, there will most likely by very very few polls like these.. It might be the last chance we get to survey the UK political landscape…

  17. Eoin – Sorry about the confusion but I was replying to your query to Anthony above, not to what you said in your reply to me.

  18. roger ahhh! gotcha

  19. While there is no breakdown for Scotland, there is an interesting difference between the SNP/PC willingness to make other preferences compared to the other party supporters. At each level, more preferences arecast by SNP/PC.

    Given the relative sizes of the populations and party strength within them, one can infer that most of the SNP/PC are SNP, and have some experience of an election run on preferential voting.

    Is this difference down to being SNP, or is it replicated among other Scots?

    If there is a difference, is it due to experience of STV where votes above quota are reallocated?

  20. Actually the big surprise for me about these figures was the increased participation AV encouraged. Under FPTP 22% of the panel members questioned were non-voters. By my reckoning this reduced to under 6% when they were offered AV
    It’s a bit uncertain because there are no voter figures for the other ‘Others’ – probably 20+ out of the 3,821 sample. Ignoring this the revised first preferences would be: Con 32%; Lab 37%; LD 13%; SNP/PC 3%; UKIP 7%; Green 6%; BNP 3%. The percentage figures on page 2 of the pdf only show the effect of changes to vote/first pref for those already picking a Party under FPTP.

    Interestingly all Parties benefit, though as you’d expect the smaller parties do best – the Greens would get half their votes from people currently saying they wouldn’t vote or don’t know how they would. But even the Conservatives would get an extra 10% of votes.

    Of course there are the usual provisos. There may be a sort of Hawthorne effect which might make those panel members keener to try something different, while they still might not walk to the polling station in reality. In addition YouGov members are always going to be untypical – just by opting to be panel members they’re going to be more opinionated than average. Still it makes you think that the Yes to AV people might be picking this up as one of the advantages of AV.

  21. An AV election result

    “Wick by-election result (08/04/11)
    The seven-cornered by-election for Wick (Ward 3) on The Highland Council has resulted in a victory for Gail Ross (SNP).
    The turn out was 38.2% and the total number of valid votes cast was 2,091. The winner required a quota of 1,047 votes and Ms Ross achieved this at the end of stage 3 of counting with 1,049 votes.
    Michael Carr, Scottish Conservative and Unionist, was eliminated at the end of stage one, with 33 votes. Laurel Bush was eliminated at the end of stage 2 with 75 votes; Jim Oag, Independent, was eliminated at the end of stage 3 with 202 votes.
    At this point, Ms Ross had reached the quota of 1,047 votes, with 1,049 votes and was elected. At this stage, Claire Clark, Scottish Liberal Democrats had 236 votes; Neil MacDonald, Scottish Labour Party, had 463 votes; and Niall Smith, Independent had 245 votes.
    The vacancy was created by the resignation on 4 March, this year, of Katrina MacNab (Independent).”

  22. Blues are in much bigger trouble under AV. In May a 37% VI in the polls saw them expand beyond their voter base by 29% up to a total of 47% of voters said they would give them a first or second vote. Even in July they were able to expand from 40% in the VI polls up to 50% in total maximum share of the vote. This is a gain of 25% from their FPTP base. But now back at 37% as they were in May they are now only able to expand 16% from their base. Transfers to the Tories have halved in 11 months. The percentage a party is capable of expanding from base is the best way of measuring toxicity. A low VI reading in FPTP should equate to a high transfer ration as it did for yellows in May or even arguably blue in May. The blues are already becoming toxic and none of their voters with any sense should consider voting AV.

  23. Roger – sadly that’s almost certainly purely an effect of the way the question was asked, rather than some prediction of higher participation. Unlike a standard VI question there was not an explicit won’t vote box on the mock AV ballot paper, people could just leave it blank if they chose to.

  24. Barney will be delighted to hear that some (astute?) punter has clearly been “investing” in him. Paddy Power have just shortened a Barney Crockett victory in Aberdeen Donside to 5/1 (from 6/1).

    However, even with this price reduction Donside remains a fine arbitrage opportunity (Victor Chandler price the SNP’s Brian Adam at a tasty 2/5). 100 bar.

    Other remaining arbitrage opps include Clackmannanshire &Dunblane and Cunninghame North.

  25. Gosh, reading this makes me realise just how bad a system AV is!

    I especially like this:

    “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”

    Does that mean that since I am a labour voter with a Green 2nd preference, I should actually vote Green as my 3rd or 4th preference and find some other no hopers to put as my 2nd preference?! Yuck!

  26. The Tories in April 2010 are unable to attract more 1st & 2nd pref votes than Labour were able to do in May 2010.

    To put it another way, it has taken the Tories 10 months to match the toxicity that Labour achieved in 13years.

    Total first and second pref share for blues in April 2011 = c.43%

    Total first and pref share for reds in May 2010 = c.44%

    What should be most worrying for blues is that they had a 7% head start in the National FPTP VI of 37% [April ’11] compared to reds 30% [May ’10].

    Further evidence if it were needed that AV would be bad for blue

  27. *Apr. ’11 :)

  28. Hmmm… from behind the Times paywall: Angus McLeod reveals some tidbits from a previously unpublished Ipsos-MORI/Times poll:

    “Recent polling data by Ipsos Mori for The Times shows that fewer than one in four (23 per cent) of women aged 18-24 intend to vote SNP compared to 37 per cent of men in the same age group. Among women aged between 25 and 34, support for the Nationalists is at 29 per cent compared to 41 per cent among men aged 25-34.

    When it comes to whether they think Mr Salmond has done a good job as First Minister, only 43 per cent of women aged 18-24 think he has, compared with 50 per cent of men.

    Among women aged 25-34, 47 per cent think that he has done a good job compared to 60 per cent of men.”

  29. Eric Watkins
    “Does that mean that since I am a labour voter with a Green 2nd preference, I should actually vote Green as my 3rd or 4th preference and find some other no hopers to put as my 2nd preference?! Yuck!”

    If it is likely that Lab will be in the final shootout vote count in AV, I see no point in putting any second or third preferences. The opportuntiy under AV to vote more than once only makes sense if your first preference is not one of the major three parties (and possibly two in reality).

  30. Eric – no, your Green vote still wouldn’t come into play. It’s just because people’s subsequent preferences are only counted if their first preference is eliminated, and then only if the party you’ve given that preference to is still in the game when your first preference is eliminated.

    In the vast majority of seats the top three parties are Con, Lab & LD (or SNP/PC in Scotland and Wales).

    Hence if your first preference is Con, Lab or LD, then relatively unlikely that your second preferences will ever be counted. In most cases it would only ever happen *after* minor parties had already been eliminated, so the counters would skip past your preferences for them, and look to see if you had a lower preference for a party still in the race.

    For example, imagine – for the sake of argument – that your preferences were (I know they probably aren’t, but humour me!)

    1. Labour
    2. Green
    3. UKIP
    4. Lib Dem
    5. Tory

    Now, imagine in your constituency the first preference votes were

    Tory 35%
    Lib Dem 33%
    Labour 19%
    Green 8%
    UKIP 5%

    UKIP would be elimated first and their voters’ second preferences redistributed (your vote would still be in the Labour pile). Then the Greens would be eliminated and their voters second preferences redistributed (your vote would still be in the Labour pile). Since no one has yet got 50%, Labour’s votes would now be redistributed – looking at your ballot paper, your 2nd preference was Green, but they’ve already gone, so it’s ignored. Your 3rd preference was UKIP, but they’ve gone too, so your vote goes to your fourth preference, the Lib Dems.

  31. Stuart –

    Hmm… if those are cross-breaks from a normal sized poll, then the sample sizes will be very low, far too small to make any of those differences significant. Even if they’ve aggregated up a couple of polls, they might not be.

  32. I don’t know what effect it will have, but my intention if AV comes about would be to vote Lab followed by Green. I won’t be giving LD or Tory any preference (or BNP or any other party).

    Obviously that might change. But what will be the effect of Lab voters not choosing to list LD or Con at all as any preference?

  33. NickP
    “what will be the effect of Lab voters not choosing to list LD or Con at all as any preference?”

    If the final AV vote count shootout will include Lab then not listing any other parties (ie just showing Lab) in your vote paper will have absolutely no effect on any of the other parties.

    The only time any effect might arise is where Lab is not in the shootout.

    (Simialr consideratiosn apply to those are Con or LD supporters.)

  34. NickP

    As a follow up comment, the counters at the GE elections under AV will not even bother to ‘record’ second etc preferences if the the voter’s first preference stays in to the final shootout.

  35. Anthony

    Having no ‘won’t vote’/’don’t know’ options might well increase ‘voting’ in this survey, but wouldn’t that to some extent invalidate the results? Of course you could argue that YouGov were only doing what other pollsters do and squeezing the vote, but it’s still not comparable to the way things are normally done by YouGov.

    It does explain why the non-voters’ percentage fell so low though, but it may well be that some non-voters would be more tempted to take part, especially for smaller Parties. For example, a Lib Dem currently disillusioned with the Party and hovering between it and another, might now vote because both can be voted for.

    That said, analysis of the AV votes of those who gave a FPTP vote shows similar patterns to the one you quoted. Indeed the choice for Lib Dems between Labour and Tory is weighted even more in the Tories’ favour 47-37. Though as I said in my comment last night, the small sample size makes it a little dodgy.

  36. Roger – we did it that way because it was the way the BES did it, and we wanted to have something directly comparable to that.

  37. Colin Green

    From a purely Scottish perspective, it seems to me that alienating the anti-tory vote is a very rash move indeed given the size of this tranche of LibDem voters and the potential to attract others from the SNP and Labour in different parts of Scotland.

    “On loan” they may be, but LibDems would thrive if they could persuade voters in Glasgow that they were more effective than Labour, and voters further North that they could be more effective than the SNP at keeping Conservatives out of parliament.

    In the past Liberals have succeeded in the Highlands by decades of persistence and hard work in those consistencies where they have substantial majorities. Older LibDems who have nurtured this growth over decades must be disheartened.

    Not only the SNP but the Greens are poised to take advantage of the opportunity you have handed them.

  38. I shall be voting in a (Manchester) council election on May 5th as usual. Hence for Manchester voters, voting Yes or No in the AV ref will be a cost-free action. Does anyone know what percentage of the electorate will not be voting in a local election, who will have to make an AV-specific polling journey. This disjunction will lead to a very marked regional variation in AV voting? esp. when non-English assembly elections are taken into account?

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