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. GRAHAM

    Some evidence to support your ideas would help.

    TONY DEAN

    As long as Charlie doesn’t stand as a Tory, I can’t see him losing.

  2. RiN
    No mention of reform in the ’87 manifesto, no. How about 1992?
    “Further constitutional reforms will include those leading to the replacement of the House of Lords with a new elected Second Chamber which will have the power to delay, for the lifetime of a Parliament, change to designated legislation reducing individual or constitutional rights.
    We will continue to encourage a wide and well-informed public debate on the electoral system. The working party on electoral systems which we established in opposition under the distinguished chairmanship of Professor Raymond Plant will continue its work with an extended membership and enhanced authority and report to the next Labour government.
    This general election was called only after months of on-again, off-again dithering which damaged our economy and weakened our democracy. No government with a majority should be allowed to put the interests of party above country as the Conservatives have done. Although an early election will sometimes be necessary, we will introduce as a general rule a fixed parliamentary term.”
    Lord Raymond Plant was a supporter of the AV campaign.

    Is that enough electoral reform for you?

  3. @OldNat

    So, not dead then? Was worried.

    rgdsm

  4. Tinged

    Ok, I might have been slightly unfair but no one reads those manifestos anyway, im sure that very few of the labour mps of the time did or they would have mentioned those things on tv

  5. We need the Sunday Times poll to put us back on track.

  6. Talking about replacing clegg I notice that tim farron is making some good noises. I do wish howard would stop abbreviating tinged fringe to TF, cos everytime I see TF I get excited thinking howard is talking about tim

  7. RiN
    According the book ‘Central Debates in British Politics’ (2003), citing the Guardian (6th April 1992), electoral reform was the second most talked about issue on TV news during the campaign.
    (I found this while looking for what Prof Plant recommended in 1993 – he recommended SV for the HoC)

  8. Martyn

    Nah. Just that so much of UK politics is either irrelevant, boring or both.

  9. RiN
    How do you know I’m not Tim Farron? (I’m not, this is clearly a joke.. or is it? (Hint: It is))

  10. Just looked on the YouGov Twitter in case their poll was out (it wasn’t!). But found an interesting footie poll-

    55% of Londoners think Nani should have been sent off compared to 32% in the North. Seems like Man United have a London problem with their polling!

  11. @OldNat

    OK.

    rgdsm

  12. tingedfringe

    (FPT) a return to earlier times (as in Christian eschatology – everything’s been downhill since that incident with the apple

    But as a devout Erisist, don’t you believe the same thing (though obviously a different incident with a different apple)

    RiN
    How do you know I’m not Tim Farron? (I’m not, this is clearly a joke.. or is it? (Hint: It is))

    Ah, but maybe it’s a triple bluff. We all know that people tend to keep their real initials in aliases.

  13. Roger,
    As The Pope of the Heterodox Church of Discordia, I spread the message that everything has been both uphill and downhill since that incident with the apple because measurement is relative to the observer’s position in nth dimensional morality.
    I usually see things from the perspective of the Revolution of Rising Expectations but realise that reality only appears that way because that’s the way Our Lady has deemed I view things.

    RM,
    So does the M in Mexico stand for Moore?

  14. @Richard in Norway

    “Is it a case of very strong regional and ethnic diffrences? If so would their be a danger/opportunity for a breakaway nation?”

    Tks for being the only one to respond to my posts from Nairobi about the Kenyan Election. I was beginning to think no one at all was interested …

    Yes you right on the money. The ethnicisation of party politics is the crucial factor here – and this also involves geography. Basically Kenya is now divided 50-50 between the Kenyatta-Ruto alliance controlling the ethnic communities in the central, and more prosperous areas, and the rival alliance led by Raila Odinga which won a sweeping but ultimately insufficient victory in the Western area around Lake Victoria and the East covering arid areas and the Indian Ocean coast including the 2nd city of Mombasa. The capital City of Nairobi is the exception – because so many people have migrated there its indigenous Kikuyu people have been matched by incomers. It’s also 50-50 (and with multi million slums from both sides also a tinderbox)

    As a Kenyaphile I am torn between praising them for enduring a week-long election system and count which would have tried a saint, and criticising them for allowing a candidate under ICC trial not only to stand for election but to spend unlimited financial resources from possibly the largest personal fortune in Africa to win it by 0.07% …

    Raila’s problem is that he had to straddle the contradiction of being both an ethnic leader in the west and a self titled non tribalist previously representing a mixed Nairobi constituency. His party has approximately social democratic policies. Uhuru also has the same divided personality – the ethnic leader of the largest ethnic group (Kiluyu) and a right wing populist plutocrat who espouses a minimal “enabling” state in a country where millions live in
    dire poverty, while a gradually expanding elite capture most of the economic growth.

    On top of this UK – which has more economic, human and military interests than any other country – now has to face the reality that both the President and Vice President elect face trial for very serious human rights crimes at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The fact that we imprisoned
    Uhuru’ s father during Kenya’s independence struggle does not help.

    What happens next is anyone’s guess. A lot of “who blinks first” And off-stage manoeuvres , almost inevitably. But back to Opinion polls – only one poll ever showed Uhuru winning and then only by 0.4% on the first ballot, and then losing to Raila in the run-off. All other polls showedva Raila win – just as they did in the 2007 polls which he officially lost. So today’s result is a nasty shock for Britain and the West. Very skilful diplomacy required. Raila frankly looks shell- shocked and probably feels that he has been badly let down by Britain.

    Breakaways – don’t really want to go there. Kenyans mostly want to stay united in my experience. The new Constitution devolves more power to local level through elected Governors. Raila’s side actually won the three principal cities of Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa.But the predominantly Islamic Coastal region is the one to watch.

  15. Roger,
    Actually, it’s probably a good job that you reminded me of my Erisian creed…

    AW
    If I change my e-mail address that I post with, to the one on the domain that I own, would I have to inform you that I am in fact me rather than an imposter? You may suspect somebody posting as me if I do so.

  16. @Jim Jam @Neil A @RC.

    I think it’s a fallacy that this result represents a low point for the Lib Dems based upon the idea that they will recover with the economy or in a cyclical fashion closer to the election. Their troubles aren’t normal incumbency factors or concerns about competence or delivery, it’s a more fundamental problem of fundamentally changing what they’re offering, politically, and alienating a huge proportion of their voter base in the process. Even if they “succeed” on their own terms, most of those voters aren’t going to come back.

    The Government may well recover, but any Government recovery is only going to translate into Conservative recovery relative to the Lib Dems (as well as Labour), harming their ability to retain seats where the Conservatives are the main challengers. The Ashcroft seat estimate may well be at the high end of their potential performance in the next election.

  17. RM

    After a quick check, I can confirm that my initials are also in my pseudonym. But neither of them are “L”.

    WB
    Many thanks for that excellent summary of the Kenya situation. Our lack of knowledge of and interest in the situations in countries that we ruled not so long ago does us no credit. Thanks for going some way to fix my own ignorance.

  18. HOWARD

    @”RinN
    Not if they achieve what I think they will achieve Richard!!”

    Why be coy Howard?-it doesn’t become you.

    Would you actually vote for them Howard -wearing the Yellow-if it achieved that ?

    Bet you would.

    To keep the rotten Tories out.

    EM must offer thanks to people like you every time he sees an OP-for f***ing the Tories-and destroying the LibDems.

    Did someone call them “useful idiots ” once ?

  19. @OldNat
    I dont know where you are getting your sample sizes from. From Lord Ashcrofts own tables, the sample size for scottish Lib Dem seats is 1151 and the sample size for the Lab vs SNP seats is 772. Both reasonably large enough to have confidence in the results.

    Also, I dont think he puts in personal factors – its all about the polling.

  20. @Shevii (10.31pm)

    “Just looked on the YouGov Twitter in case their poll was out (it wasn’t!). But found an interesting footie poll-
    55% of Londoners think Nani should have been sent off compared to 32% in the North. Seems like Man United have a London problem with their polling”

    It was a definite red card. A high studs up challenge, totally off balance (and,with both feet some distance off the ground), and at pace, into the ribs of a stationary opponent.

    Given the amount of Manyoo fans who live in London, that 55% figure should probably be considered a landslide.

  21. JOHN RUDDY

    We agree on the sample sizes. 1151 across the 11 LD seats means each seat sample around 100. Hence my comment that you wouldn’t postulate a result for a single seat on that number.

    If you apply the voting shifts for the 1151 to the 2010 result individual constituencies, then Charlie loses.

    Unless Ashcroft is applying an entirely different calculation to R, S & L , then his assertion that the LDs keep that seat makes no sense at all.

  22. JOHN RUDDY

    I have replied, but the UKPR auto mod seems to be as inexplicable as ever!

  23. It was a cynical chest to the bottom of Nani’s foot

  24. Surely UKPR doesn’t think that postulate is a naughty word? Can’t see anything else – unless using the Scots version of Charles assumes some form of illegal drug use?

  25. JOHN RUDDY

    (Let’s try this)

    We agree on the sample sizes. 1151 across the 11 LD seats means each seat sample around 100. Hence my comment that you wouldn’t postulate a result for a single seat on that number.

    If you apply the voting shifts for the 1151 to the 2010 result individual constituencies, then Kennedy loses.

    Unless Ashcroft is applying an entirely different calculation to R, S & L , then his assertion that the LDs keep that seat makes no sense at all.

  26. Nope. Wasn’t Charlie either.

    Daft auto mod is another reason for visiting here less!

  27. JOHN RUDDY

    We agree on the sample sizes. 1151 across the 11 LD seats means each seat sample around 100. Hence my comment that you wouldn’t postulate a result for a single seat on that number.

  28. JOHN RUDDY (Part 2)

    If you apply the voting shifts for the 1151 to the 2010 result individual constituencies, then Kennedy loses.

  29. JOHN RUDDY (Part 3)

    Unless Ashcroft is applying an entirely different calculation to R, S & L , then his assertion that the LDs keep that seat makes no sense at all.

  30. JOHN RUDDY (Part 3)

    Unless Ashcroft is applying an entirely different calculation to Kennedy’s seat , then his assertion that the LDs keep that seat makes no sense at all.

  31. @Raf, Greg
    Its technically a foul, no question, but the rule is a little vague, and does give the ref some discresion.

  32. OHN RUDDY (Part 3)

    Unless Ashcroft is applying an entirely different calculation to Kennedy’s seat , then his assertion that the LDs keep that seat is inexplicable.

  33. JOHN RUDDY (Part 3)

    Consequently, I can see no reason for the author of the poll to apply different reasoning to that seat.

  34. JOHN RUDDY

    Got there in the end!

  35. @OldNat
    Hard to see how you get that, as he starts with 52.6% of the vote, while conservatives had 12% and Labour 16%. Applying the swings since 2010, still leaves him with nearly 42% of the vote.

  36. Immigration: British Future Poll Preview

    “There is also a potential public consensus about what incomers should do to integrate and the treatment they should expect in return. I’ve had a preview of some fascinating polling, commissioned by the innovative think-tank British Future and to be published in early April.

    “It found massive support for the statement: ‘To belong to our shared society, everyone must speak our language, obey our laws and pay their taxes – so that everyone who plays by the rules counts as equally British, and should be able to reach their full potential.’ Eighty three per cent of respondents gave that the thumbs up. Ukip supporters not only liked it, they liked it very much.”

    Rawnsley writing for the Observer (Graun)

  37. @Amber,

    I’m sure most people would agree with that. But most people would add a few more things to the list. I’d be interested to see if the poll itself has other suggestions that the respondents rejected.

  38. Amber

    ‘To belong to our shared society, everyone must … pay their taxes’

    That’s going to exclude a lot of Tories.

  39. Raf
    Demba Ba got the full force of a boot in the face recently. I don’t think the culprit even got a yellow.

    Usual ABU nonsense on view here. I don’t expect anything else. By the way have a mentioned recently that we have won it 19 times?

  40. I think the only criteria you need for incomers is;

    “Treat us as we treat you”

    That way if they don’t fit in it is because they haven’t been made welcome, so we have no one to blame but ourselves.

    Peter.

  41. “…polling, commissioned by the innovative think-tank British Future and to be published in early April…“It found massive support for the statement: ‘To belong to our shared society, everyone must speak our language…”

    Exqueeze me? Speak our language? So, we have a common language now?

    rgdsm

  42. @ Welsh Borderer

    Interesting stuff. But from the West’s perspective with such a divided electorate how much stability is there in the country to allow external commercial interest to invest? I understand Keyna is one of the rising stars economically in Africa, but with so much potential tension there I can also see a reluctance for outsiders to want to come in.

    I think it was on BBC Radio 4’s Costing the Earth that there is a push across the continent to get kerosine burners replaced with solar lighting; something very simple but with the potential to transform so much of social life there. Kids could then do their homework at night.

    It sounds to me like somewhere that will blossom in the next ten years and more. But only if the lid is kept on tribal tensions.

  43. @ Martyn

    Exqueeze me? Speak our language? So, we have a common language now?
    —————
    I was going to make a joke about Glaswegian but with Auld Nat back in town :-) a dinnae think a shood dae that.

  44. @ Old Nat

    Seriously, it is nice to have you back posting again. :-)

  45. @TingedFringe

    So basically all reform which never threaten their stranglehold in Westminster (where AV – a system that allows them to use smaller party voters as ammunition – is the most that’s offered).

    I agree with RiN, PR is a hopeless cause now. The only thing would be if Conservatives started to grow restless at being held out of power for too long and adopted it, but I can’t imagine they’ll be kept out too long (Labour’s victory is 2015 is bound to disappoint their voters even more than Hollande’s).

  46. Labour lead at 10 – Latest YouGov/Sunday Times results 10 March – CON 31%, LAB 41%, LD 12%, UKIP 11%; APP -35

  47. Latest Yougov poll is quite a contrast to the Observer-Opinium poll. The Grauniad article has a nice graph of the VI for the four main parties.

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

  48. Are UKIP on 17% or they on 11%?

    This is a big difference. When it gets to putting Xs on ballots, it will be just a tad important.

    Aren’t pollsters worried about the wide variations here?

  49. I’ve only just picked up on these opinions.
    Has anyone commented regarding the LibDem chances after Eastleigh, taking into account that their result was due to the masses of activists that came from all over to help.
    Won’t most of them be working in their ‘own’ constituencies and therefore the ‘mass attack’ factor will be dissipated.

  50. I would generally think that this crop of polls is good for Labour. While they are down from a previous high, Tories are clearly struggling at (or below) the bottom end of their range, and these are the numbers that really matter.

    The Ashcroft poll is also quite heartening for Labour as well, in that it provides clear evidence of a differential collapse in Lib Dem votes, depending who they are fighting. On these figures, Labour could expect to get more benefit from Lib Dem difficulties that their main rivals, although the Tory gain would put them over the majority line if all else stayed the same. However, direct Tory to Labour losses are also highly likely, so at this stage, Labour should be content.

    The two big questions will be firstly whether the Tory VI edges upwards. I suspect it probably will, but ithen it needs to. Secondly, will LD VI edge up. Likewise, I suspect, but I wonder if the recovery is also going to be differential and greater in LD/Con marginals. I have no real evidence for this, other than a hunch, but this would be one to watch, in my view.

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