In the Sun this morning there is a new YouGov poll of Lib Dem seats and marginals. The poll is based on the provisional new boundaries, covering the 46 seats that the Lib Dems will notionally hold on the new boundaries, plus the 30 most winnable seats for them beyond that (this obviously includes many areas that currently have Lib Dem MPs on the old boundaries, but wouldn’t on new boundaries – such as Redcar, Sutton and Cheam, Yate and Manchester Withington)
Lib Dem MPs depend more on other parties on personal votes and tactical voting – for this reason I’m always wary about voting intention polls in Lib Dem seats and marginals, as they tend to pick up the national picture rather than local factors. For this reason the poll repeated something I’ve done before in the marginal polls for PoliticsHome and which Populus have done in some of their marginal polling for Lord Ashcroft. First YouGov asking the standard voting intention question, then asked people to think about their own constituency and the candidates likely to stand there, and asked them how they are likely to vote there at the next election.
As we’ve seen before, this makes a large difference in Lib Dem seats, boosting their support by nine points. This suggests the are still benefitting to a substantial degree from personal and tactical voting. They are just in such a bad starting position it doesn’t really help much!
Vote share at last election: CON 32%, LAB 19%, LDEM 41%
Vote share (normal question): CON 29%, LAB 34%, LDEM 15%
Vote share (constituency prompt): CON 28%, LAB 31%, LDEM 24%
This would suggest the Conservatives are down 4 points, Labour up 12 and the Liberal Democrats down 17. If these shares of the vote were repeated at the next general election and there was a uniform swing across this group of seats the Liberal Democrats would hold only 7 seats, with the Conservaties taking 21 of them and Labour 18. There was little significant difference between the position in Con -v- LD and Lab -v- LD battlegrounds.
One thing to note is that YouGov’s national polls show the Lib Dems down by about 15 points, while this poll, in their strongest seats where they will benefit most from MPs personal votes and tactical voting has them down by 17 points. This is not necessarily as strange as it might seem, it could just be a sign of a floor effect. At the last election there were 132 seats where the Lib Dems got less than 15% of the vote, by definition they cannot lose 15 percentage points in those seats, so to be down 15 points on average they must be losing more in some of their stronger seats. We saw a similar pattern in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2011 – the Lib Dems had a bigger than average drop in their support in all but one of the seats they held due to a floor effect of seats where they started off low.
Needless to say, polls measure opinion now, they don’t predict what will happen in three years time. The Lib Dems may recover, all those former Lib Dem voters saying “don’t know” may come home, as we get closer to an election people may become more aware of which parties can win in their own area or more willing to consider voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats. Right now, however, things really don’t look good.