Lord Ashcroft has repeated the same sort of large marginals poll that PoliticsHome did in 2008 and 2009, looking at the clusters of key marginal seats that will provide the battleground for the next general election.

As in 2008 and 2009, the poll asked two questions to determine voting intention – asking the same sort of standard voting intention that all polls use, then prompting people to think about tactical voting, asking people to think specifically about their own constituency, the political situation there and the candidates likely to stand and then asking how they’d vote in their own seat.

There is a widespread belief that people don’t really think about tactical voting until a general election is almost upon us. I’m not so sure that’s the case, it may just be that people don’t reflect their tactical voting intentions in polls until late in the day! The two-stage voting intention question clearly suggests that some people answer a standard voting intention question differently to how they think they would actually vote in a general election, their normal answer is more like their “national party preference”.

Anyway, this two stage voting intention appears to pick up tactical and incumbency effects, so in Labour held seats it tends to slightly increase the reported level of Labour support, in seats the Conservatives are defending it marginally boosts Conservative support. Where is has a massive effect is in Lib Dem held seats – the Liberal Democrats get much more support in those seats when you prompt people to think about their own constituency.

The picture painted by the Ashcroft marginal poll is not particularly surprising – a big swing from Con to Labour, the Liberal Democrats collapsing where they are against Labour but more resilient against the Conservatives. It is good to have solid data to back up what I was only assuming was happening in the marginal seats though!

The swing from Conservative to Labour is slightly smaller in the marginals than in the national polls (national polls are showing a swing of around 8.5%-9.5%, while this poll shows a swing of 8% in Con-v-Lab margins) but this looks like this is the result of incumbency effect for those first term Conservative MPs who hold most of those seats – the standard voting intention question without the constituency prompt was showing a swing wholly inline with national polling. There are no massive regional differences, the biggest being London marginals where there is only a 5% swing from Con to Lab, probably a reflection of the fact that the swing towards the Conservatives in London in 2010 was much less than elsewhere in the country – there is less far for the pendulum to swing back.

Perhaps the more interesting findings are what the poll says about the Liberal Democrats – the Con-v-Lab battle normally follows national polls, the Lib Dem battleground is sometimes different. When PoliticsHome asked the two stage voting intention question structure back in 2009 it found the Lib Dems did 10 points better in LD-Con seats when people were prompted to think about their own constituency (and conseqently was actually quite a good pointer to how well they’d do at the 2010 election – it had them getting 55 seats, compared to the 57 they actually got). In the Ashcroft poll today the tactical/incumbency boost the Lib Dems get in LD-Con seats when people are prompted to think about their own constituency is a mighty 13 points.

This is naturally good news for the Liberal Democrats, but still means they will lose a lot of seats. The reason that tactical/incumbency boost is bigger is probably simply because they are starting from a much lower base. Even with this prompting the poll suggests the Lib Dems will lose around 17 seats to the Conservatives. In seats where they are up against Labour the swing is bigger, the tactical/incumbency boost is smaller, and the Lib Dems face wipeout. Overall, if this poll was reflected at the next general election – still two years away remember- it would leave the Lib Dems with around 25 seats, a very sizeable loss, but not the complete wipeout that some have predicted, feared or hoped for.

192 Responses to “Lord Ashcroft poll of marginal seats”

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  1. Old Nat, you are back! Did you see Martyn’s comment & realise that we were missing you?

    I don’t even know if I type this pseudonym correctly. I had the same problem with CrossbatII who turned out to be ‘eleven’.

    Any explanation that preserves your anonymity please?

    First, ones or eyes?

  3. Ukip still a wasted vote?

  4. RinN
    Not if they achieve what I think they will achieve Richard!!

  5. PeteB
    Do you know of any polls of non-voters and which sort of parties they would back?
    Because that’s probably the start point before speculating about UKIP’s chances.

    1992-1997 drop in voting for the main three was largely due to drop in Tory voting. And 1997-2010 largely due to a drop in Labour voting.
    But we don’t know how much changes to demographics changes that.

    And what’s turn-out like in elections under different systems (such as AMS) where voters have much more choice in who they vote for, compared to General Elections? [1]

    [1] This itself could prove to be a blind alley as the elections held under AMS could be seen as less important – like local elections having lower turnout in non-GE years.

  6. Oldnat

    Thank god your back!

  7. Yes, he was missed (O N).
    Old Nat, why do you think the ‘outer what ever they are’ will want to continue being represented by someone whom evidently has no further part to play?

  8. Howard,
    I always try to keep my posts non-partisan. Why do you think i don’t want a Labour landslide? I just think that the next GE looks as though it will be a very interesting one as there may be a credible fourth force in England as there already is in Scotland.

  9. Tinged,

    No I don’t but it just seems that if any party has a chance of getting more people voting again it is likely to be UKIP. There’s precious little sign of any other party connecting with the disillusioned voters (in England).

  10. Yes- the wow was for UKIP on 17%- must be their first? I know it probably doesn’t mean anything but is a remarkably high vote. Also a bit of a wow for a new Tory low.

    Maybe Nigel Farage should say I am the first leader of a party with no seats to tell it’s members to go back to your constituencies and prepare for government.

    @ Howard

    Shevii with two i’s at the end short for Shevington near Wigan. I had it for some other wordpress thing before I went on here and discovered I had it. I get Crossbath wrong even to this day :-)

  11. Thanks for the welcome back, folks.

    I’ve been busy elsewhere for a while.

    Howard, do you mean Charlie’s seat – which includes part of the “Inner” not the “Outer”?

  12. “Why is it “wow!” that UKIP are on 17%?”
    Because it’s their highest VI since the election?

    Second lowest VI for Cons, although not a huge dip from where they were two weeks ago.

  13. Pete B

    I don’t know why you think that I think that you do not want a Labour landslide. I don’t know what you want.

    All my posts are centred on the realities of FPTP because they are the realities. If UKIP VI does not return to Con (if Observer poll was to be the case) then Con are toast.

    However, I believe the poll is an outlier. If repeated several times however, it would of course be different.

  14. ON
    Yes I meant CK. I just wondered if you had a handle on his probable incumbency advantage (well – is it probable?).

  15. Sheii
    You just got Crossbat11 wrong again. :-)

  16. Observer Opinium poll: Lab 39 Con 27 UKIP 17 Lib Dem 8

    Looks like Labour are suffering most from UKIP surge….

    ….or not, as the case may be! lol

  17. Shevii
    yes I know I got …….

  18. Well even though im not a big fan of ukips policies I’m always glad to see their vote share increasing, not because it increases the chance of a massive labour landslide (thats not something I want to see) but because it increases however slightly the chances of cross party support for some form of PR

  19. CrossBat
    And here he is
    No one expects the crossbat11…..

  20. Howard
    “I don’t know why you think that I think that you do not want a Labour landslide. I don’t know what you want.”

    Because of this post –

    “Pete B
    SHEVII report (thanks Shev) means Labour landslide. Not what you are looking for I am afraid.”

    However I agree that this poll looks like an outlier. But as I said in other posts, if UKIP can re-energise the ‘missing’ voters it could make the next election very interesting.

  21. Pete B
    I’m sorry, I suppose i suspected you thought that it was helpful to UKIP. it is only helpful to Labour of course.

    R in N
    I assume you mean that a Con collapse would make them suddenly interested in PR. Yes I expect that would be likely.

    Would Labour though?

  22. It’s a shame he didn’t include the 2010 % to compare the figures to (just the swing).

  23. Howard

    The numbers for the LD seats (diff from 2010 election in brackets are SNP 31% (+16%) : Lab 26% (+6%) : LD 20% (-21%) : Con 16% (-5%) : Other 7% (+4%).

    Obviously, the shifts won’t be the same in every constituency. but if you do apply them uniformly, then the two smallest majorities over the LDs would be in Ross, Skye & Lochaber and Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk .

    Charlie’s survival is a hunch based on my knowing folk there who vote SNP normally, but for Charlie at Westminster. Enough of such people could tip things in his favour.

  24. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/mar/09/ukip-opinium-observer-opinion-poll

    If the polls continue to show the Tories suffering from UKIP switching, Cameron will be under real pressure to apologise for the language he used to describe UKIP supporters.

    Farage has stated no deal will be done with the Tories while Cameron is still leader. I suspect that Farage will be open to a deal of some kind, providing the apology is made and that the Tories support a No vote to staying in the EU, when the referendum is held. Obviously it won’t happen on this basis, but I wonder what deal could be done, if any ?

  25. It will be so funny if after losing the next election to a labour landslide the tories find out it would have been a close run thing under AV. But even the crushing defeat of 83 did very little to change labour’s attitude to PR so any hopes that I have that a massive defeat of the tories due to an increased ukip vote would lead them to change their minds on PR is really just clutching at straws on my part. But straws is all I have left after cleggs miserable little compromise with dave

  26. Opinium/ Observer have been polling since September 2012.

    Average of 13 polls excluding the current one is:
    CON 29.7%
    LAB 40.0%
    LDEM 8.4%
    UKIP 12.0%

  27. R Huckle
    Promise of Italian-style PR for Westminster elections would probably be something that UKIP would back, given that it’d give them seats and likely a place in coalition.

  28. Unfortunately the Tories can’t win in 2015 or in my opinion again. To not get a Majority in ’10 after 13 years of Labour destroying the economy showed that the country has moved from a mostly conservative nation to a clearly socialist one. Eve if the conservatives managed to turn the economy around in the next 26 months (which is unlikely as the economic cycle is a lot longer than 5 years) they would still struggle to match the 2010 result where they didn’t win. The Lib Dem’s treachery on the border changes took away any small chance of victory although this is not a surprise as they are also fundamentally socialist. Labour will return with a 100ish majority with the knowledge that even if they screw things up as they did 97-10 (which due to their spend at all costs ethos, they will) they are unlikely to be punished. They will only lose power again when they finally bankrupt the country and they have to call the IMF in again as in 76.

  29. “..but even the crushing defeat of 83 did very little to change labour’s attitude to PR”
    Really? So why did they pick a proportional system for devolved governments, back STV for local elections in Scotland , put electoral reform in the 1997 manifesto and establish the Jenkins Commission?

    Labour only abandoned electoral reform after the giant majority of 1997 because at that point they didn’t need it – but prior to 1997, they were quite in favour.

  30. Tf
    I thought largest party in Italy got the bonus so how do reckon that UKIP get a look in under that system?

  31. In fact, every Labour manifesto post-1997 has recommended a referendum on electoral reform –
    1997 – “We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons.”
    2001 – “We will review the experience of the new systems (in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and the Jenkins report to assess whether changes might be made to the electoral system for the House of Commons. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.”
    2005 – “Labour is committed to reviewing the experience of the new electoral systems — introduced for the devolved administrations, the European Parliament and the London Assembly. A referendum remains the right way to agree any change for Westminster.”
    2010 – “To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election, we will hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons.”

    Of course, if they get a majority in 2015, the excuse will be ‘We held a referendum and the people rejected it”. I suspect that it won’t appear in the Labour manifesto.

  32. TF
    ‘do you’

  33. TF
    You have just reminded us about the Labour manifesto commitment in 2010 on AV and its subsequent behaviour.


    Slab only reluctantly accepted STV for local elections because the LDs forced them into it, as their price for coalition.

  35. Howard
    As far as I’m aware, the biggest coalition automatically gets 55% of the seats, which are divided proportionally between coalition members. Then the 45% left are divided between the ‘losers’.
    So if UKIP+Cons were the largest coalition, on let’s say 44% of the vote (27/17), Cons would get 34% of the seats in parliament, UKIP would get 21% of the seats.

  36. @ AR558

    They will only lose power again when they finally bankrupt the country and they have to call the IMF in again as in 76.
    Guess again, my dear. It is the IMF who were, not so long ago, calling on the US & UK* to prop up the IMF’s support of the euro.

    * relatively strong economies with sovereign currencies which can, therefore, use QE.

  37. Oldnat
    Thank you for that info, I will try to remember that.

  38. TF
    Ah, I see now, you were assuming that UKIP would register as a ‘broad’ coalition with Con, as in Italy, they do. Yes that is possible although I think under PR we would be in a different scenario.

  39. Howard
    I can’t see why, under a ‘coalition bonus’ system, Cons and UKIP wouldn’t form a permanent coalition, perhaps with support from right-leaning liberals.
    Otherwise the split-right vote would allow a Labour + Left-leaning liberals + Green coalition to dominate politics.

  40. Lab partisans went all quiet when TF reminded us of the Lab manifesto of 2010 on AV. I wonder why?

  41. Howard
    To be fair, Ed Miliband wrote the 2010 Labour manifesto and he did fully back the campaign for AV.
    It’s just a shame that some of the more conservative types in his party didn’t.

  42. Labour will stick by the line that AV was defeated in the referendum. AV is IMO dead for ever.
    However, SV is not!! If Labour ever need an arrangement with the LDs they could go for SV (or perhaps as an outlier SV+ at say 90/10 or 85/15). Indeed Labour could spin SV+ to their electoral advantage in the following way. “As an answer to granting devo-max to Scotland we do now need to address the West Lothian Question. There will be 600 constituencies of which 50 are in Scotland. To ensure English MPs can cancel out the vote of the 50 Scottish MPs we propose that added to the 500 English MPs elected by constituencies will be 50 elected as additional members for counties using [email protected] lists.
    Hey Presto – only England has top-up members – exactly where the Tories win almost all their constituency seats, therefore the additionals will be mostly Labour or LD! Thus the pro-Labour bias in the system will not be affected by having new boundaries – and the LDs are happy too!
    I can see it coming to pass!

  43. Howard you are being a bit disingenuous here. You know full well that EdM supported AV, it was the behaviour of Clegg that made a more robust campaign impossible. Maybe if at the time EdM had been more secure in his position he could have pushed it further. Any Tory support for AV would be merely because of convenience where SOME of Lab support in principle.

  44. @Oldnat
    If you look at the tables linked to from Lord Ashcrofts website, it does indeed show the Lib Dems only holding Orkney & Shetland and Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

    Labour gains E Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh W, Conservatives gain Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk (and therefore doubling their representation!) while SNP gain the rest.

    Lab vs SNP are where you are.

  45. Old Nat,
    I suspect Ming Campbell is likely to hold East Fife – if he stands. Also Labourwere

  46. Its odd that the labour party had those nice things in their manifesto cos in public appearences labour mps have invariably been against PR, and thats been the case as far back as I can remember. Also I notice that you didnt mention the manifesto of 87, if the defeat in 83 had changed minds then surely the 87 manifesto would have reflected that! Which was the point I was making, but if it takes the tories 3 lost elections to make a commitment to PR which they have no intention of keeping then I really am clutching at straws

  47. AMS is a good system and works well in germany.

    For the LDs to have any hope at the next election, they will need to ditch Clegg, otherwise they will not be able to play the we’ll support any party hand. Clegg and Laws and one or two others are very right wing on the economy. Of course they would be hepled if Cameron ins ditched.


    I suspect that Ashcroft (like most folk) has built in a personality factor for Charlie, since it would be unwise to postulate a result on a 100+ sample. If you apply the shifts for the LD seats to R, S & L then Charlie loses.

  49. Old Nat
    I suspect that Ming Campbell will hold East Fife if he stands. Also Labour held Inverness 1997 – 2005 and I would expect them to be in contention there again.

  50. Welcome back OldNat!

    But let’s get real – Charlie would’nt lose if he stood as a Monster Raving Looney…..party politics don’t really apply in his constituency with him standing do they?!

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