1) The Labour lead narrowed

Labour’s lead has gradually eroded over 2013. We started the new year showing a Labour lead of around about ten points. It started falling in the spring as the economy improved, and continued over the summer. There appeared to be something of a reverse in the autumn, one assumes because of the impact of Labour’s energy pledge and the political narrative focusing on gas and electricity prices for a few weeks, but we still ended the year with an average Labour lead of six points, compared to ten. Note however, that the majority of this change came from Labour losing support, dropping from an average of 42% in the polls to 39% – there has been comparatively little increase in Tory support.

2) People got more optimistic about the economy

There has been a sharp increase in people’s view of where the economy is growing. Looking at the monthly questions MORI and NOP both ask on how people think the economy in general will perform in the twelve months ahead shows a sharp increase early this year, thought it has rather stagnated since September. Asked in a more narrative way, earlier this month YouGov found 43% of people now think the economy is showing signs of recovery or is well on the way to recovery, up from 37% in August and just 14% in April.

However, people are less optimistic about their own household finances. YouGov’s economic optimism tracker for the Sunday Times asks about people’s expectations of their own finances, rather than the economy in general, and while it has shown a similar rise the net figure is still much more negative. In November MORI asked the two questions in parallel – 42% expected the economy to improve in the year ahead, but only 23% expected their own finances to improve. In a similar vein YouGov found 35% of people thought the economy as a whole was growing, but only 22% thought it was growing in their own region. More and more people are thinking that the economy is growing, but people are not necessarily feeling in their own pockets yet.

3) The Conservatives have moved ahead on the economy

As the economy has improved, it has had an impact on political attitudes towards the economy. At the start of 2013 the Conservative and Labour parties were essentially neck and neck on the economy. As the year progressed the Conservatives gradually pulled ahead and established a consistent lead.

Other trackers have moved in the same direction. Since the end of 2010 YouGov’s fortnightly trackers on attitudes towards the cuts had consistently shown that while people thought the spending cuts were necessary, they thought they were bad for the economy. That reversed in September and now finds more people think that the cuts are good for the country’s economy, than think they are damaging. However, while preferences on who people trust to manage the economy are heading in the Conservatives direction, Labour still lead on their preferred ground of prices and living standards.

4) But people have started to care more about other issues

The two regular trackers of what people think are the most important issues facing the country (YouGov’s which offers a list and Ipsos MORI’s which is unprompted) have both had the economy as the number one issue for years, and it remains there at the moment. However, it’s dominance has begun to fade over 2013. Back in 2012 well over 50% of people consistently told MORI that the economy was one of the main issues facing the country, YouGov’s prompted question consistently found over 70% picking out the economy.

In 2013 both trackers have shown the proportion of people thinking the economy is one of the big issues facing the country falling, presumably as a result of people starting to think the economy is improving. In the case of MORI the proportion of people saying the economy is a big issue has fallen below 50%, and in their December poll down to 39%. On YouGov’s tracker the figure has fallen below 70%, and in their final December poll down to 58%. At the same time other issues have risen up the agenda, most notably that of immigration – in MORI and YouGov’s December polls they both found immigration the second most mentioned issue, in both cases just two percentage points behind the economy. Note also the increase in the number of people mentioning issues of inflation from Autumn, as Labour started to try and shift the agenda more towards cost of living.

5) UKIP have continued to gather strength

The advance of UKIP in the polls has continued, though perhaps hampered by the lack of any elections or by-elections in the second half of 2013. UKIP’s support so far this Parliament has been a series of spikes and plateaus, seeing sudden increases in their poll ratings on the back of election successes like Rotherham, Eastleigh and local elections and the ensuing publicity and then flattening out again until the next opportunity to demonstrate their support comes along. This has certainly been the pattern in 2013 – they started the year at just below 10% in the polls, enjoyed a big jump in national support following their successes in the county council elections and, since the publicity boost from the county elections faded have rather stagnated. They still end 2013 above where they started, and have the inevitable publicity boost of the European elections to come next year.

6) Ed Miliband’s ratings went down, and up, and down again

Ed Miliband’s miserable job approval questions have continued to go downwards, with one notable exception. Three companies do regular questions on what people think of the party leaders – MORI ask if people are satisfied or dissatisfied, Opinium if people approve or disapprove, YouGov if they are doing a good or bad job. Ed Miliband’s ratings have been on a downwards trend for most of the year, but he enjoyed a reverse after the party conference and his energy price pledge, briefly reversing some of the year so far’s decline. All three measures still showed him ending the year with lower approval ratings than he began with.

559 Responses to “Six public opinion trends from 2013”

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  1. In my opinion Crossbat has posted most consistently interesting and insightful posts of 2013 so gets my vote for UKPR Poster of the Year

  2. Very nice summary of the Polling Year -boils it all down nicely .
    Thanks Anthony.

  3. It’s a much more interesting assessment as it is looking at the bigger picture. I think immigration will be one issue of many issues at the GE but I think all Parties are particularly focussing on it now with the Europeans coming and UKIP in the shadows. The main two Parties are solidifying support on this issue which is why it is going up as an area of concern and discussion.

  4. this polling lead on economy is a ray of hope for Blues amongst a lot of psephological gloom

    great display today by eagles, no others have only conceded one at the Etihad, belief is growing at SP

  5. The real story of 2013 is much simpler than this: Labour have lost some ‘traditional’ support to UKIP. Mainly, I imagine, down to the immigration issue.

    In consequence, the gap has gone from Lab + 9 to Lab + 6 or thereabouts.

  6. For Labour it is worrying that their leader has not improved his approval ratings, for the Tories it is worrying that Labour still have a lead, for the Libdems it is worrying full stop and for UKIP it is gratifying that they are in a better position than they could have ever hoped for.

    UKIP’s improved position was obvious once the LIbDems went into government, UKIP are therefore getting a double boost,those who see them as a positive alternative to the Tories, (they just hate Dave and all he stands for) and those who want to register a protest vote.

    For the two main parties it would appear to be the end of Buggin’s Turn they can no longer expect that once the public are cheesed off with one lot, they’ll automatically get a go.

  7. Good Evening All.

    Ed Miliband’s ratings remind me of Neil Kinnock’s ratings. His deputy Roy Hattersley regularly writes advice about how Labour should fight the General Election.

  8. Surely UKIP support will largely or even partially evaporate come the GE, but their residual vote might be enough to cost the Tories some seats. Happy days!

  9. @That Old Bloke

    I don’t believe the 3% drop in Labour’s lead is simply matter of “Labour have lost some ‘traditional’ support to UKIP.”

    Traditional Labour support would be expected to have voted Labour in 2010… unless it’s support that Labour lost it some time ago, in which case we are talking floating voters.

    Strip out Don’t Knows etc and it’s difficult to find more than 1% of Labour’s 2010 vote share now expressing support for UKIP.

    A further point is that a number of polls recently are showing Labour picking up more votes from 2010 Cons recently… more actual votes than Labour is losing to UKIP.

    Which makes me think that the difference between large Labour leads and small Labour leads this year has a lot to do with the behaviour of 2010 LDs.

  10. This ‘good news’ for the conservatives reminds one of the good news on ‘the deficit’

    What this means in simple language is that we are not falling into debt quite as fast as before. The debt itself, however, has actually GROWN, whilst our ability to pay it back has reduced. Look at the appalling trade deficit figures if you want to see the real facts.

    A 6% lead in the face of mounting – if unwarranted – optimism means a very workable majority for labour. Not quite as much as a 9% lead but another thumping defeat for the blues. It is absolutely nothing to be pleased about..

  11. No doubt verboten from discussion, but there’s a poll out at midnight of those in rUK? (only true if it includes NI) on attitudes to their sharing pound and Common Travel Area with an indy Scotland.

  12. Any thoughts about the *sudden* divergence between IPSOS and NOP in economic optimism.
    It seems up to about April they were pretty similar than in May suddenly IPSOSSERS were 20% more optimistic than NOPPERS and have by and large stayed there with NOPPERS pretty much neutral and IPSOSSERS’ glasses overflowing with good cheer.
    DIfferent questions?

  13. I’ve just done some brief calculations.

    The point at which Electoral Calculus shows the Conservatives as the largest party is at


    UKIP and LD figures are hypothetical but based on a few LD ABT returners and UKIP holding fast where they are.

    That gives seat totals[1] of:


    Now there are 494 days until the general election. To achieve that result, the Con vote has to go up by 2 percentage points, and more importantly the Labour vote down by 6 percentage points.

    Translated, that means that for the Conservatives to win (in the sense of being the largest party) they have to make VI gains of 0.004% per day until the election.

    Labour, correspondingly, have to lose 0.012% of the electorate per day to be on course to lose.

    Broken down even more simply, we can look at those percentages compared to the UK electorate – 46,107,200 – on an assumed turnout of 65%. That rather neatly comes out as almost exactly 30 million (29,969,680 to be precise).

    The Cons, therefore, need to win over an average of 1198 voters per day until the election and Labour need to lose the support of 3596 voters each day to result in a Con plurality.

    Of course, that isn’t how VI works. It’s (normally) a graph of hills and troughs driven by events, and trends are only useful so long as they hold steady and change gradually. But this has been a remarkably flat parliament in terms of VI, and it may be worth considering that required shift against the shift which this post establishes has been going on.

    Just for fun, I also looked at the required figures for a Con overall majority and a Lab overall majority.

    Con: 38.1%
    Lab: 31.9%
    LD: 13%
    UKIP: 12%

    Gives seat totals of:

    Con: 322
    Lab: 277
    LD: 23
    UKIP: 0

    That’s not a technical majority, but with 5 Sinn Fein absentees and the speaker not voting, it isn’t possible for the Conservatives to be defeated unless some of its MPs rebel or are absent.

    From current VI totals, that requires the Cons to gain 0.01% of the electorate (2996 people) per day, and Labour to lose 0.012% (3596 people).

    [1] Interestingly, that seat total makes it basically impossible for either party to form a coalition – any LD-Con or LD-Lab coalition would have a tiny majority, even if Labour’s SDLP allies helped out. Iron discipline and whips armed with rusty implements would be required.

  14. I’m glad that it was noted in the first trend (Labour’s Lead Narrowed) that the Conservatives vote hadn’t actually gone up. It also needs to be noted that they haven’t been ahead in any poll too – as the polling has actually been pretty consistent.

    The drop in Labour’s vote is possibly linked to the economy, but I think it’s mainly linked to a tendency amongst some of the electorate to not want to vote out of a sense of anger or apathy towards politics.

    The big goal for Labour is convincing these people that Miliband is someone they want to vote for. It does seem to be a personal factor for them (and Miliband) to engage with the electorate.

    For the Conservatives, I do think there is a conflict in terms of what they think the electorate will respond to. Convince them that the economy is on the mend, and people will not worry as much about it and focus on other issues. Convince them that the economy is worth worrying about, and they’ll be blamed for it. The undercurrent of electoral distrust in the government also has a clear depository for Tory votes in the advent of UKIP’s rise (moreso than the other parties).

    With such a long time to go before the election still, there are still a lot of events that could impact on voting intention. As much as anything else, the eventual winners could be the Party that hold’s it’s nerve the most.

  15. With all the usual caveats about political party commissioned polls (the political agenda is obvious, and the SNP wouldn’t have published the Panelbase poll if rUK voters had supported the attitude of the UK Government), these are the poll results being reported.

    The poll was conducted from 13th to 20th December, among a representative sample of 1,011 people in England, Wales & NI.

    “Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are among each other’s largest trading partners. Putting aside your own views on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country, if independence does happen do you think that Scotland and the rest of the UK should continue using the pound in an agreed sterling area?”

    Yes, definitely: 46%
    Yes, I think so: 25%
    TOTAL YES: 71%
    Not sure: 16%
    No, I don’t think so: 7%
    Definitely not: 5%
    TOTAL NO: 12%

    The poll breakdown shows that 81 per cent of Labour voters in the rest of the UK back a sterling area, 66 per cent of Conservative voters, and 75 per cent of Lib Dem voters.

    “A Common Travel Area has existed since the 1920s which provides for freedom of movement throughout the area for citizens of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Putting aside your own views on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country, if independence does happen do you think that there should continue to be freedom of movement with no passport controls between England and Scotland?”

    Yes, definitely: 55%
    Yes, I think so: 20%
    TOTAL YES: 75%
    Not sure: 12%
    No, I don’t think so: 8%
    Definitely not: 4%
    TOTAL NO: 12%

    The poll breakdown shows that 84 per cent of Labour voters back continuing the common travel area, 73 per cent of Conservative voters, and 81 per cent of Lib Dem voters..

  16. I’m a bit of a night owl tonight, watching another abject England display in Melbourne before driving up to Manchester Airport at 2.00am for an early morning flight to Riga. My wife and I are going to the Latvian capital for a few days of benefit tourism before returning to work in the New Year. I will report my findings to both Cameron and Farage on my return,

    Anthony’s commentary at the top of this thread highlights some of the themes that I think we’ve all commented on during this political year and the conundrum of the static and stagnating Tory VI becomes ever more intriguing as the polls track Miliband’s declining personal ratings and growing economic optimism. It defies conventional psephology and there is certainly something strange, and not at all good, going on with the Conservative vote. As I’ve said before, I think their problems are historical, demographic and stubbornly deep seated.

    @Reginald Maudling

    Thank you for your kind words, but I think you flatter me a little. As for the Eagles, I saw them beat the Villa on Boxing Day and I think you may well be OK come the season’s end. You stole a little gem off us in Barry Bannan and for that grievous sin alone, our Manager, Mr Mumbles Lambert ought to lose his job. Sadly, there are many other reasons why he deserves that fate, not least his achievement in making us resemble a rather ineffectual Sunday morning pub team.

  17. As for the Eagles, I saw them beat the Villa on Boxing Day and I think you may well be OK come the season’s end.
    Ah, it was sport Reginald was writing about. I was thinking about the Eagle sisters (Labour MPs) & was totally puzzled by the Reginald’s comment.

  18. Crossbat gets my vote for UKPR Poster of the Year
    I like CB11s comments very much; Rosie & Daisie are fabulous; actually the folks who deserve kudos are too numerous to mention but I think Martyn should get some sort of prize for: “Look, there’s a squirrel!”

  19. The Crosby version seems to be, “look! A Bulgarian squirrel!”

  20. [snip]

    Most irritating – clearly anything from Scotland [apart from Amber.]

    CB11 for fictional crime and footy.

    AW for best Dictator, just pipping Dim Jong Rong-Un into second place.

  21. @” I think you flatter me a little”

    I love that “a little”. It says so much.

  22. ” As for the Eagles, I saw them beat the Villa on Boxing Day”

    I liked their songs: didn’t know they were into footy though.

  23. Col @ cross Batty:

    “” I think you flatter me a little”

    I love that “a little”. It says so much.”

    You’re letting your jealousy show.

  24. When it comes to the ballot itself would the voter be more likely to vote on the economy in general or on the likely impact on their own finances?

    Agree with other posters that the failure of Conservative support to rise must be a clear indicator against their prospects.

    Only around five months to the European elections now. I will still stick my neck out and say that however well UKIP do in 2014, they will not win a single seat in the GE 2015.

  25. “The Crosby version seems to be, “look! A Bulgarian squirrel!” ”

    They’re the worst sort. They steal the local sqirrels’ nuts AND trees.

    Little foreign rascals that they are.


    Its walkies time now.

  26. An interesting play today from Farage – and one that should remind many who dismiss him, that he is a far better politician that many people think.

    He’s popped up on the BBC to say that UK should take Syrian refugees, and that asylum seekers are very different to economic migrants. Others may disagree, but in terms of Farage and the official UKIP, they have always remain anti racist and careful to not present the same kind of view as the BNP. Indeed, Farage has been scathing about such groups and their attitude to race.

    He consistently outflanks and outmaneuvers Cameron on immigration issues.

    On a linked theme, the Telegraph is leading with a story on maternity tourists. It’s hard to judge the veracity of the claims, but if true, this will fan the flames. The issue is one of those where we are really struggling to get a true picture of what is going on, as too many people feel uncomfortable asking the necessary questions as the debate is so polarized and the arguments so readily distorted, on both sides.

    On the Telegraph story in particular, if hundreds of heavily pregnant women are entering the UK for maternity treatment by falsely claiming they are less than 36 weeks pregnant, then there would obviously be abuse of the system.

    I remain somewhat baffled as to why people with clearly identifiable and specific health needs are allowed onto planes heading for the UK without proof of valid health insurance. Indeed, why isn’t everyone from a non EU country required to have insurance before they depart?

    For all the fuss an bother over immigration, I remain completely bemused as to why some basic steps haven’t been taken.

  27. ALEC

    @”For all the fuss an bother over immigration, I remain completely bemused as to why some basic steps haven’t been taken.”

    Absolutely agree.

    The Times & MoS today feature articles about what may or may not happen after Jan 1st.

    If the influx does in fact turn out to be significant , I can see Farage cleaning up another dollop of Con VI.

    DC has to get a grip of the Borders Control issue. It seems to have been out of control for ages-but he is ion charge now, and as AW points out the salience of Immigration related issues is rising to the top.

  28. @Colin – agreed. I don’t think anyone really can claim Labour had a very good record over technical issues of border control, whether or not you want to debate the merits or otherwise of immigration itself.

    However, promises were made, and Cameron can’t campaign like an opposition party in 2015 – voters think that 5 years is long enough to get a grip on such things, which isn’t what appears to have been happening.

  29. The Times has a piece on fears within certain quarters that the Darling lead Unionist campaign is useless-and that Salmond will win.

    If he did, I wonder which side of the scales would come out heaviest for DC-the attack on him for losing the Union-or the prospect of a Con rUK ?

  30. A Darling led campaign not working? Really?

    My irony…

  31. @ Alec and Colin

    Read the DT article- a pretty poor piece of journalism by any standards. I’m sure there is something in journalist standards where a report should have who, what, why and where in it (plus person’s age and, if relevant, hair colour!) and that article had virtually none of the above. One brief mention to the Lagos shuttle without specifically referring to anything in particular.

    So the article doesn’t say where people are coming from, why they are specifically coming here and, as you point out, what is causing them to be allowed on planes in the first place. Plus a tiny bit of guesswork on the figures that isn’t really quantifying whether this problem is serious or not.

    So questions to be asked are which countries are the mothers to be coming from and why the UK would be beneficial. If it really is African countries as opposed to EU countries I do question if this is purely for the medical treatment. Doing a brief google search and taking the first figures I come to it suggests you could probably get private healthcare for delivery/anti natal etc for around £100 in Nigeria. I’m not saying my figure is right (especially as that would only compare to a night in a 5 star hotel) but would not seem to be unreasonable given what we know of wages in Africa- certainly a long way off the cost of a return airfare with all the distress of an airflight when heavily pregnant. In any event if you could afford the airfare from Nigeria you are likely to be well off by that country’s standards and have different priorities to just getting a ‘bargain’ and more concerned with the welfare of mother and child.

  32. Actually it seems to me that EM has more at stake.

    DC would face -you lost Scotland-but could counter that he gained Westminster.

    EM would face-you lost Scotland & Westminster-and with a Labour lead campaign-where were you?

    I read crticism that DC hasn’t done more-had a debate at Westminster. But this is a matter for Scots-no one else gets to vote-and the idea that a Conservative PM is likely to sway the votes of Nat. inclined Scots seems daft.

  33. jack

    “A Darling led campaign not working? Really?

    My irony…”

    Somewhat misplaced as it is most unlikely to be true.

    Quite what else he is guilty of I have no idea.

  34. Thanks AW for the graphs. Taken as a scanned set of visual impressions, one would wonder why Labour was the largest supported party. This is the clue, the real reason for Labour’s strength is in the textual information you hinted at, and those data are about the real economy of whether people feel better off and not just financially.

    Moreover, it is important that it is what Labour VI (and waverers) think about those issues that you did choose to highlight, rather than what the generality of voters think.

    Thus there was an immediate joyful greeting from Colin to the displays but I feel those displays were (of course unintentionally) biased.

    The voters would have to be held as masochists on current polling, according to the presented graphs.

  35. “I think refugees are a very different thing to economic migration and I think that this country should honour the spirit of the 1951 declaration on refugee status that was agreed”

    “There is a responsibility on all of us in the free West to try and help some of those people fleeing Syria, literally in fear of their lives”

    – The Hon. Nigel Farage MEP.

    What’s he up to? I’ve no idea. I do remember though that the National Front declared support for the PLO in a way that threw the left off-balance a bit.

  36. Completely off-topic but found this episode of ‘After Dark’ on the old youtube

    I think we miss such intelligent debate and informative discussions on the gogglebox and it is sad to think we do not have any such discussion now.

    I would love to see the three smug hits from the Sunday Politics holding their own on this!

    High Trevor-Rope does not come across as an intellectual tour de force unfortunately, and the Copeland – Benn discussions are fun

  37. High Trevor-Rope – is of course Hugh Trevor-Roper…..

  38. HOWARD

    @”Thus there was an immediate joyful greeting from Colin to the displays”

    Read it again Howard-no political opinion was expressed-merely thanks that a whole year of UKPR blather could be condensed in such a time-saving way.

    Of course-not being a devotee of the psephological chicken’s entrails-I would feel like that.

    No doubt entrail devotees like your goodself, who can detect biase in AW’s analysis find this approach too simplistic………..or maybe you just didn’t like the message.

  39. “I’m sure there is something in journalist standards where a report should have who, what, why and where in it…”

    That’ll be Kipling:

    I KEEP six honest serving-men
    (They taught me all I knew);
    Their names are What and Why and When
    And How and Where and Who.

    I send them over land and sea,
    I send them east and west;
    But after they have worked for me,
    I give them all a rest.

    I let them rest from nine till five,
    For I am busy then,
    As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
    For they are hungry men.

    But different folk have different views;
    I know a person small—
    She keeps ten million serving-men,
    Who get no rest at all!

    She sends ’em abroad on her own affairs,
    From the second she opens her eyes—
    One million Hows, two million Wheres,
    And seven million Whys!

  40. Perhaps Miliband’s poor approval ratings are a reason for optimism on Labour’s side. They’ve maintained a lead despite them and maybe things can only get better on that score. When he’s been in the public eye, as post-conference, his ratings have improved. The same may again be true pre-election, especially if there are leaders’ debates.

  41. Perhaps Miliband is the Susan Boyle of politics: opinions transform when he opens his mouth.

  42. I find it interesting that the old meme ‘it’s the economy, stupid’ is apparently what determines the outcome of elections.

    Given that the economy has finally shown some sort of recovery in the short term, one would expect polling to reflect an increase in support for the LibCons but it simply hasn’t happened.

    2013 – the year when the govt didn’t lead a single VI poll. One would expect the govt to be worried about that yet they show no signs of being worried or even aware of the feeling the public has towards them.

    As for EM’s poor polling – it’s hardly surprising given the vicious, gratuitous attacks on him by the press pack. Thank heavens we don’t vote for a President.

  43. @RogerH

    Good point well made.

  44. With the shocking news today that Nigel Farage wants to open the door to Syrian Asylum seekers, many of whom could be jihadists in disguise I expect we will see Ukips vote dip a little as this is not the sort of thing his voters want to hear, and let’s face it, Lab and Lib voters may applaud him for his stance but they really aren’t anymore likely to vote for him. The drop in UKIP as many point out will be a small boost to the tories.

    As the economy is on the up, I expect 2014 will be a much better year financially, as we’ve seen in the points mentioned above Labour have lost credibility on the economy while the Tories have gained because Labour said we’d lose 1million jobs when actually we’ve gained 1million, and they said we’d be in a triple dip recession when actually we never even double dipped.

    The key task for Cameron if he wants to retain power, is to use the rising economic fortunes to start handing out a few sweetners to people, otherwise Milliband wins by default.

    Also France could be interesting, they’ve put that 75% tax rate in place, if it all goes T*ts up then maybe the Cons will have another example of why the electorate don’t want Socialism, alternatively if things remain relatively stable in France or things even improve, then Labour will feel emboldened and again have a path to victory.

  45. An interesting piece on the possible impact of rising interest rates:


    For most households a few percentage points on savings rates will not offset a mortgage hike.

  46. Hello gang! Hope everyone had a happy Christmas. For my Yuletide gift to you, I bring… a whole bunch of graphs.

    Churn Analysis: The Year in Review:

    The Lay of the Land:


    As Anthony says, the outstanding feature of this year’s polling is the big reduction in the Labour lead. After a torrid, Ukippy start to the year the Tories have recovered to where they were before the Eastleigh Spring. They’ve even gained a little on their position last year.

    Meanwhile, Labour fell considerably over the spring as their voters discovered the delights of Ukip, and then leveled off. We can see now that the bleeding over the summer and the post-conference recovery were really just two sides of a long plateau with a little canyon in the middle in late September: 38.5 % appears to be the new normal for Labour.

    Although they’ve subsided from their May peak, Ukip will be thrilled that they’ve managed to remain at post-Eastleigh levels of support all year despite pre-Eastleigh levels of press coverage. Whether this will last after the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse fail to emigrate from Romania on January 1st and claim benefits, we wait to discover.

    Meanwhile, unwatched by anyone, the head of the Liberal Democrats has been slowly slipping further beneath the waves.

    The Long Term View:


    If we zoom out, Ukip can keep toasting their success and the Lib Dems can feel a little less glum (they’ve been below 10% before in this Parliament), but the two main parties have reasons for trepidation. The 2013 plateau is the longest Labour have been trapped below 40% since 2013, and it becomes clear that the Tory recovery is a recovery against Ukip only.

    Ed Balls may or may not be an electoral asset to the Labour Party, but they have been very fortunate in one Treasury team: 21 months on from George Osborne’s omnishambles budget, Tory VI has yet to make any substantial recovery. I’m not sure why Osborne’s political reputation has recovered in Conservative circles, because people may believe he’s competent to run the economy but they’re still saying they won’t vote for his party. If this trend doesn’t change he has singlehandedly lost the Tories the 2015 election.

  47. Tories:


    In 2013, Tory retention tended to vary inversely with Ukip defections. After the May rush subsided they managed to contain Tory -> Ukip defection to its post-Eastleigh level, which allowed their retention to plateau- it’s now about where it was in January, and it seems pretty stable.

    They’re also doing better with Lab -> Tory defectors, which is very commendable since those are the genuine swing voters who they’ll need to win a majority. Too bad the gain is about 0.5%.


    The Tories’ lethal problem can be seen in the long view: their retention is still awful when we compare it to 2011. The people who went to Ukip over the omnishambles budget show no sign of returning, and without these voters the Tories can’t reach the 36% threshold that marks their only hope of staying in government in 2015. Can an “Ed Miliband is carp?” campaign really win these people back? They know he’s carp already- Ukippers hate Miliband even more than they hate Cameron- but they’ve remained stubbornly on Team Purple.



    Why have Labour had such a bad year? I know Anthony is inclined to credit the economy, but I think it has a lot more to do with Ukip. You can see Labour’s retention and the numbers of LD -> Lab defectors start to fall immediately after Eastleigh. (Old Bloke and Billy Bob, you’re both half right: it’s retention and Lib Dem -> Lab defectors in roughly equal numbers.) This isn’t about economic competence. No one thinks Nigel Farage is an economic genius, when polled the Ukip voters are almost as miserable about the economy as the Labour voters, and very few of the Labour defectors have gone to the Tories. This is about Ukip being a better protest party or sharing working class voters’ concerns about immigration in a way that the Labour Party doesn’t.


    What’s even more worrying is that Labour had solidly retained these voters from 2010-2012. I don’t think they’re flightly, I think they’ve been fed up with New Labour’s economic settlement for a long time and they were just waiting for a passing ship to jump to. Ed Miliband was elected in part to make these people feel like they had a voice in the Labour Party once again. He had better get cracking.

    Lib Dems:


    Life is pretty grim in Lib Demia, but judging by their last conference they’re past caring. O Liberal Democrats, how have you come to this? Do not go gentle into that electoral night! Both retention and Labour defections are down as Lib Dems switch their allegiances to Ukip.

    Still, at least they can reassure themselves they spent 2013 socking it to their true enemy, the Labour Party. You can’t tell from the yearly graph, but look at the big one:


    They’ve actually recovered a lot of their Labour defectors. 2013 was the first year in this Parliament where 2010 Lib Dems saying they’d vote Lib Dem outnumbered 2010 Lib Dems saying they’d vote Labour, although that trend may be reversing once again.



    Ukip have had a good year, and Nigel Farage will be making that face he makes. You know the one.

    As you can see from the graph, they’ve grabbed a few more Tories since Eastleigh, but their enduring success is mostly down to the discovery by Lib Dem and Labour voters that it is socially acceptable to vote Ukip. Will this last until the general election? Who knows, but it certainly bodes well for them in May 2014.

    Don’t Knows and Not Voting:




    The big story here is the increase in Labour Don’t Knows and the gradual but constant decline in Tory Don’t Knows. (Lib Dems have held pretty constant.) The Labour increase has now leveled off, but it’s definitely up from the spring. You can see from the scaled DK graph that this is not a big deal- about 0.5% of the electorate, and still fewer Labour DKs than Tory or Lib Dem- but it’s a shift Labour would probably like to reverse.

    Although we can see that they’ve been here before:


    So there is some hope. (On the Tory side of things there is also some hope, as their Don’t Knows have fallen since their omnishambles peak. The only problem is many of them seem to be making up their mind not to vote Tory.)

  48. People keep going on about leaders ratings. It is all a bit of a nonsense. Nick Clegg was the most popular man in Britain about 2 weeks before the 2010 election. Now look at his ratings !

    Hope Anthony starts a 2014 prediction thread ( hint )

  49. @MitM – “With the shocking news today that Nigel Farage wants to open the door to Syrian Asylum seekers, many of whom could be jihadists in disguise I expect we will see Ukips vote dip a little as this is not the sort of thing his voters want to hear,…..”

    To be perfectly honest, I rather tire of these simplistic and somewhat arrogant assumptions regarding UKIP and their supporters.

    I can’t in all honesty recall any evidence to support the idea that UKIP supporters are opposed to genuine asylum cases – do you?

    UKIP are steadily building support, and have done so since the mid 1990’s. In the 1997 GE they gained 0.3% of the vote, 1.5% in 2001, 2.3% in 2005 and 3.1% in 2010.
    Small numbers, but they have increased national vote share at every GE from 1997, and are now polling some seriously healthy numbers. You can just dismiss them as fruitcakes if you like, but you merely risk failing to engage with their genuine concerns, vacating the space for them to grow ever stronger.

    I have a strong suspicion that UKIP supporters in the main will be supportive in principle of UK acting as a humanitarian host for genuine asylum cases. I don’t find it shocking in the least that Farage has said this – it is entirely consistent with his long held views. I tend to think that this will help more waverers switch to UKIP than leave it. And he has politically heaped all the pressure back onto Cameron to prove he isn’t inconsistent in his approach to Syria or leading ‘the nasty party’.

    I also think you need to justify your statement that many of the Syrian refugees are jihadists in disguise. I’m interested in your reasoning and evidence to make such a statement, and I would also appreciate an explanation as to why you think you can dismiss UKIP supporters in the way that you have done, while at the same time demonstrating an apparently greater unjustified prejudice yourself that UKIP’s leader has ever shown.

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