Over the last year couple of years Labour’s lead has gradually been whittled away, from ten points in 2012 they are now holding onto only the very narrowest of leads, with many polls showing them neck and neck. At the same time we have seen UKIP’s support getting ever higher, with polls regularly putting them in the mid teens. One naive assumption could be that supporters have moved directly from Labour to UKIP, but in reality there is a lot of churn back and forth between parties. A political party could be picking up support from one group of voters, but losing an equal number of voters somewhere else. The voters now backing UKIP could be people who earlier in the Parliament were backing Labour, even if they didn’t vote Labour in 2010.

Every month YouGov carry out around twenty polls for the Sun and the Sunday Times. In any individual poll the crossbreaks of 2010 Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters are too small to be robust, but by aggregrating up the polls from a whole month we have enough responses to really examine the underlying churn, and by comparing the figures from 2012 and 2013 to today, we can see how party support has changed.

All these charts are based on YouGov’s figures. For simplicities sake the movement between the parties are always *net* figures – for example, there are a very small number of people who voted Labour last time but said they’d vote Lib Dem this time, but the vast bulk of the movement is in the opposite direction. I’ve netted them up to get the overall movement between each party. I’ve also excluded very small movements made up of less than 0.2%. The percentages are of the whole of the sample, not of each parties support, and because the sample also includes people who say don’t know or won’t vote things don’t add up to 100%. You can click on each image to get a bigger, readable version. With that in mind…


Here’s October 2012, a high point for Labour when they were enjoying an average lead of around 10 points in YouGov’s national polls. Labour’s vote at the time was very robust, they were making a very small net loss to UKIP, but otherwise their vote from 2010 was solid and they had added to it small amounts of support from 2010 non-voters and Conservatives and a large chunk of former Liberal Democrats. Lib Dem support had already slumped, with the large majority of their support going to either Labour or to Don’t know/Would not vote (DK/WNV). The Conservatives had started to lose support to UKIP, but it wasn’t yet a flood – they were also losing some support to Labour and a large chunk to DK/WNV.


Moving onto October 2013, Labour’s lead had now fallen to around 6 points in YouGov’s national polls. They were still holding onto their 2010 support, but their gains from the Conservatives and non-voters were starting to falter. The movement of support from the Conservatives to UKIP had vastly increased, but part of this was balanced out by fewer Con-to-DK/WNV and Con-to-Lab switchers. The number of lost Tories was growing, but lost Tories were also switching their destination, saying they’d support UKIP rather than saying Labour or don’t know. The Liberal Democrats and Labour were also starting to see increased movement to UKIP, though at this point the big chunk of LD-to-Lab voters remained solid.


Finally here is the picture from October 2014. Labour’s average lead in YouGov’s polls last month was just 1.5 points and their retained support from 2010 is now faltering. In 2012 20.6% of our polls were made up of people who had voted Labour in 2010 and would do so again, that has now dropped to 16.6%. Those 2010 Labour voters are now flaking away towards UKIP, the Greens and the SNP. Movement from Con-to-Lab has now dried up completely. The chunk of CON-to-UKIP voters has continued to grow, but mostly at the expense of CON-to-DK/WNV, meaning Tory support has remained largely unchanged. Most importantly that solid block of LAB>LD switchers has started to wither, down from 6.6% of the sample to 4.6%. The Liberal Democrats themselves aren’t doing any better, but their former supporters are scattering more widely, moving to the Tories, UKIP and Greens.

Comparing the churn from 2012 and now you can see Labour’s issue. In 2012 all arrows pointed to Labour, they were picking up support from everywhere and holding on to what they had. Today they still have the benefit of a strong transfer from the Liberal Democrats (though even that’s declining), but they are leaking support in every direction – to the Greens, to UKIP and to the SNP.

One of the reasons the Conservatives ended up falling short at the last election was that they failed to clearly identify themselves as THE party for change – the public wanted rid of Gordon Brown and Labour, but following the debates Nick Clegg managed to make many people think the Liberal Democrats were the more convincing alternative. Ed Miliband may face a similar problem, the government still isn’t popular and still has a relatively low level of support, but the anti-government vote seems to be fracturing away from Labour to alternative non-Conservative parties like UKIP, the Greens and the SNP.

(This post is also featured on the New Statesman’s May 2015 here)

402 Responses to “How the votes have shifted since 2012”

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  1. The start of this thread reminded me how good the comments can be when they are about polls, and public opinion and psephology and not partisan crap. For as long as I was around to knock on the head the constant attempts to steer the conversation off to “here’s something thats bad for the party I don’t like, let’s all say how rubbish they are!” it was really good.

    I also wandered over to some other sites earlier and slogged through all the idiot arguments of “This is great for Osborne”, “No Osborne is a liar” etc, etc and reminded myself how bad things could be. That sort of crap drives out all sensible and thoughtful comment.

    This is NOT a venue for general political debate or discussion, it’s about polling, and public opinion and psephology. It’s not about arguing about each others views, or playing politics. I trust people to try and moderate themselves and post in the SPIRIT of non-partisanship – that is, leave your views at the door, try to stay on topic, ignore others who may slip up rather than get into partisan back and forth that pollutes the threads. There’s not wrong with partisan debate… this just isn’t a place for it, and there is no shortage of places that welcome it.

    I commend those that make an effort to stick to the spirt of the rules (I don’t like picking on people, but perhaps I should pick out people who do make a really positive contribution, people like Roger Mexico, Crossbat, Statgeek and Lefty, and many others), but frankly there are too many who pay lip services to it, and actually just seem to spend their time trying to be as partisan as possible without getting moderated. I’m sick of it, and I’m putting a lot more people who are making either no damn effort at all, or deliberately attempting to subvert it on pre-moderation.

    (And for those thinking “Why is Anthony so pissed off when this isn’t a bad thread at all?”, well, it’s because I’ve played whack-a-mole a lot and the result was to remind me how GOOD the comments threads here can be, if people don’t fill it with rubbish. I can’t always do that though, it depends on everyone else playing their part – AW)

  2. Alec – that’s is the point, it’s the change that’s interesting.

    This is actually a post I’ve been trying to write for years. I couldn’t get a visualisation that wasn’t a god awful mess (simplifying it by doing net change between parties, rather than separate back and forth was what finally made it), but then it was just a list of numbers that wasn’t really that interesting.

    I knew there was a story to be told though there, and it’s the change in churn that made it work… and the bit that got me here was thinking about how Labour had declined and UKIP had gone up… yet UKIP’s vote was disproportionately ex-Tories. Could it be people who didn’t vote Lab in 2010, but would have voted Lab in 2012 are now voting UKIP? This doesn’t actually answer that question properly, but it got be to the point where I worked out how to tell the story of changing patterns of churn.

    Anthony in news with this post.
    “Yet, at the very same time, the dissidents noted pollsters had detected a pattern of Labour leaking support not just in Scotland. They pointed to research conducted by Anthony Wells from YouGov. He said that in 2012: “Labour was picking up support from everywhere and holding on to what they had. Today they still have the benefit of a strong transfer from the Liberal Democrats (though even that’s declining), but they are leaking support in every direction – to the Greens, to Ukip and to the SNP.

    That was the part I picked up on too. I think it’s better that the media pick up on proper analysis which has been thought through and report on that rather than tittle-tattle.

  4. @AW – I appreciate that, and perhaps I should have stated more clearly that it is a useful and impressive piece of work.

    However, within the wider media, I think it’s clear that there is more appetite for stories about Labour travails. The spark seemed to be that poll with them on 29%, but oddly enough, the one a day or two later with Cons on 27% seemed to attract next to no attention.

  5. @AW

    Can you extrapolate from the raw data, or rate of churn in the Labour vote how much further it is likely to fall?

  6. Today’s YG/LBC poll had people’s predictions for the UK GE. The geographic crossbreaks looked interesting, especially since they aren’t broken down by VI.

    I think (though I can’t remember where I read it) that people are influenced by opinions of those around them, and often generalise out from that to assumptions as to how others think as well. Also that people do make decisions now on their “guesses” as to what will happen in the future – not just those who go to the bookies!

    In GB 39%predicted a Con/Con led Govt, 33% a Lab/Lab led Govt and 29% (rather sensibly) said Don’t Know.

    For the geographic areas the figures were

    London, 40%, 34%, 26%.
    Rest of S Eng, 41%, 27%, 31%.
    Midlands/Wales, 40%, 34%, 26%.
    N Eng, 33%, 39%, 27%.
    Scotland, 39%, 25%, 35%.

    I wonder just how much of VI intention varies with the expected outcome. Has any research been done on that?


  7. Test

    [You’re so paranoid. I haven’t even modded you today. Still, one could perhaps attempt to be a little less obviously pro-Nat? No? – AW]

  8. AW

    Apologies, and I sympathise.

    Over the years I’ve taken it upon myself to counter smears against David Miliband which have appeared regularly on these pages for over four years… to the effect that he was complict in torture/a war criminal etc.

    A little help would be appreciated.

    [Please don’t! If I see people saying someone is a war criminal I moderate it, it’s one of those things I really don’t allow (it’s normally Blair though), but as with all silly partisan stuff, please try to ignore it, otherwise it just derails stuff. I can’t say I’ve even noticed David Miliband stuff, I guess it comes up with stuff about how well he would have polled as Labour leader, and whether his record as Foreign Secretary would have counted against him. Personally I don’t think it would have, but it is a valid on topic discussion… but like you, I’d hope people could do making every attempt not to smear or denigrate a politician. It’s perfectly possible to do it by saying that some proportion of the public would have had negative opinions of him because of his time as Foreign Sec and associations with Afghanistan or whatever, rather than saying “I think he’s a stinky war criminal” – AW]

  9. Raf – nah. Could all change tomorrow. I bet if we did it for every month (which I’m not going to) we wouldn’t get nice even trends, lots of things change in response to events which are underpredictable, not some underlying ongoing trend.

  10. Nice graphics – Don’t recall seeing anything as good when the Tories or Libs vote was falling – Will be interesting to compare when that next happens.

  11. AW & OLDNAT


  12. AW

    I only posted the Test because you HAVE bloody modded my 10:54 post on one of YG’s polls.

    Thy right hand knoweth not what thy left one doth! (Oh, God. I used Left and Right – me for the naughty step now) :-)

    [Automod. Dunno what it took exception to – AW]

  13. Thanks, and goodnight

  14. @Richard

    The graphics don’t just show Labour gains and losses, but gains and losses for each party. That’s what makes them fascinating.

  15. AW

    Thank you for releasing my 10:54.

    By way of apology to me for your outrageous slur on my psychiatric condition (psychiatrist says I’m no longer that much of a danger to the public), can you answer my question?

    Has research been done into any relationship between voting and people’s expectations of what the result will actually be?

  16. I think the impact of the EU budget settlement will not be positive for the Government: it seems rather like Gordon Brown’s apparent tax cut in 2007: the cut was rather lost in all that money flying around.

    I was thinking of a possible reasoning for an older Labour voter shifting to UKIP: they’re something different, but not the Tories. So in theory such a person could shift their vote if they’re fed up with Labour and not be voting for the “enemy”, nor a minor party unlikely to win any seats.

    Earlier I mentioned about UKIP hoovering up swing voters leaving little for Lab or Cons. Alas I’ve had the song from that old “shake and vac advert” going round my head all evening. I need to listen to some Mozart to get it out of my brain.

  17. Adge 3, I liked your post earlier, part hommage to CB11’s post and part your own thoughts as to what Ed M has to do to fight off the onslaught.

    I also appreciated Charles, when you said:

    “In pursuit of this clear message Labour should surely try and draw as clear battle lines with the conservatives as it possibly can, attacking them as elitist, incompetent at managing the economy…”

    After tonight’s [announcement] from G Osborne about cutting the EU bill in half, well, if the Eds can’t quit talking ‘smoke and mirrors’ and instead do simple sums like ordinary kids are taught in school […] then frankly they won’t stop the ‘Ed is rubbish’ bandwagon in time for next May. This is their golden opportunity to dispel the ‘Conservatives can do sums, i.e. manage the economy’ [perception] once and for all, and if they don’t, or can’t, take it, they deserve their comeuppance.

    There is, I think, a fixed anti-neo-lib voting bloc, which was but a short while ago Labour’s and is currently dissipating to other parties. Labour won’t re-harness that vote if they are relying on tactical voting when push comes to shove. They have to speak up and wither their opponents when opportunity presents itself, and this I think is one such potentially poll-changing opportunity.

  18. Oldnat – I would if I could, but alas I’ve no idea. I don’t know of any, but that’s a world away from there not being any

  19. Anthony

    Your apology is gracefully accepted. :-)

    I’ll do some searching, but if you don’t know of it, I’m not hopeful.

  20. AW

    I’ll accept that you never noticed accusations about David Miliband (about things which occured before his time as Foreign Sec), however, they cropped up so frequently during the Labour leadership campaign, and regularly since then from new posters, I had to conclude that they were “allowed” and accepted as fact by many here… and therefore felt the need to counter them.

  21. Billy Bob – the reality is, there are times when I moderate more actively than other times (through busyness, willpower, despair of the whole damn thing, etc!). I would love to be able to be really light touch and depend on the community to police itself all the time, but I’ve not got it to work yet so its sometimes strict, sometimes hoping you’ll police yourselves. Labour leadership campaign may well have been a time when I was trying a light touch.

  22. @AW

    “Could it be people who didn’t vote Lab in 2010, but would have voted Lab in 2012 are now voting UKIP?”


    Eh? Some of us have been on about that for a while now…

  23. Didn’t peeps post churn from 2012 onwards? Not sure, seem to recall maybe Spearmint did…

  24. OLDNAT

    “In GB 39%predicted a Con/Con led Govt, 33% a Lab/Lab led Govt and 29% (rather sensibly) said Don’t Know.

    For the geographic areas the figures were
    London, 40%, 34%, 26%.
    Rest of S Eng, 41%, 27%, 31%.
    Midlands/Wales, 40%, 34%, 26%.
    N Eng, 33%, 39%, 27%.
    Scotland, 39%, 25%, 35%.
    I wonder just how much of VI intention varies with the expected outcome. Has any research been done on that?”

    Quite interesting that only one region predicts a Labour/Labour led win. I think peoples predictions are a spur of the moment thing. At present the focus has been spotlighting the trouble within Labour so people might well think game up!!

    In a few weeks time some big flare up might hit the Tories and it will be interesting to see how the predictions will pan out.

    My own prediction is that Plaid Cymru will not win the UK GE.

  25. Lefty mentioned it a few days ago. Bit late, but still…

  26. Anthony

    While this isn’t exactly what I was looking for (and it is presumably the basis for the Wisdom Index type of polling), this US research looked interesting.


    Once one knows the results of a poll of voters expectations, there is very little additional information left in the usual polls of voting intentions…
    The expectations question performs particularly well when: voters are embedded in heterogeneous (and thus, informative) social networks; when they don’t rely too much on common information; when small samples are involved (when the extra information elicited by asking about intentions counters the large sampling error in polls of intentions); and at a point in the electoral cycle when voters are sufficiently engaged as to know what their friends and
    family are thinking.

  27. Some awesome graphics there, thanks.
    Makes me want to run my own silly ideas of models against the data from last election.
    Does anyone know where such raw data can be obtained easily (without visiting ~650 Wikipedia pages). I was thinking just electorate and all votes cast per party per seat?
    All this also reminds me of how 538 got burned completely miscalling the Uk2010 election (by running the same kind of model that I have in mind now).

  28. Cyt –

    There is a spreadsheet on the Electoral Commission site, though not be most user friendly, or if you google “pippa Norris data” there is a spreadsheet on Pippa Norris’s website

  29. The graphics are designed to show movements from party to party, and do that well. But if you overlay 2014 on 2012 all the circles correspond.
    It would be interesting to see the visual effect if the VIs at each time were represented by the (changed) areas of the circles. It would be more noticeable for the smaller parties. For example, it gives an impression that the BNP has as much support as the LDems.

  30. AW, further to my previous suggestion to use your Advanced Swingometer as the basis for the UNS Projection on your home page, I just ran your Advanced Swingometer with the latest Welsh voting intention from the BBC Wales poll that you posted on 24 Sep, an average of the two Scottish voting intention polls you posted on 30 Oct, and the latest averages for GB from the ‘more’ tab under the UKPR Polling Averages. The result is a hung parliament with Labour short by 31. This compares with the UNS on your home page tonight that shows a hung parliament with Labour short by 1.

    With all the fuss about EM’s leadership I do wonder how many Labour MPs check out your site every day and at the moment reassure themselves, based on the latest UNS, that they are still on course for victory, or at least the largest party in a narrowly hung parliament. If the UNS was saying that they are projected to be 31 seats short instead of only 1 seat short, and that therefore only a small change would lead to the Conservatives being the largest party, then there might be a whole lot more impetus and overt campaigning for a change of leader.

    Incidentally, if Labour do lose the election, or lose out to another Conservative + LD/UKIP coalition because of EM’s leadership, and the unions are unhappy with the outcome, then perhaps the unions will only have themselves to blame. I seem to remember that it was the union’s vote in the Labour’s Electoral College that swung it for EM over his brother David. At the time, DM did seem to be the more charismatic and experienced of the two, and DM would probably have been better at connecting with voters and getting the message across. Too late now of course, as DM is no longer an MP and therefore not available to rescue Labour’s fortunes.

  31. @ Oldnat

    ‘Has research been done into any relationship between voting and people’s expectations of what the result will actually be?’

    I know that in advertising, there is a concept which fits but I can’t remember what they call it. The Conservative ‘Nudge’ team use it too. Basically, knowing that your neighbours do X increases your likelihood of following suit. Another variant is the use of ‘celebrities’. I believe that the notion is that it ‘normalises’ doing X and invites the subject to be ‘normal’ too. We are a group animal and it is a way of ‘belonging’.

    After all, isn’t that what Pressman saying that the RM papers are trying to do .. albeit negatively.

  32. There is perhaps an irony in the EM/DM thing.

    In that Ed was more liable to move left a bit initially, and thus hoover up all those LD and some other left-wing votes, in a way that his brother might not have been able to do.

    But since the rise of immigration and UKip, perhaps Ed’s elder brother might have been more suitable for his new environment…

  33. …for THIS new environment…

  34. Syzygy

    Thanks. I suppose that kind of “group think” idea is what I was considering, but perhaps in a slightly different way.

    Of course, the regional crossbreaks are internally diverse, and they may not even have a clear sense of a unique “identity” anyway – though I imagine London, the North of England and Scotland do.

    It was the response of those in the North of England that intrigued me. They traditionally vote Labour, and most, of those with an opinion, predict a Labour victory, unlike everywhere else.

  35. @syzygy

    There is also research I read about in the New Scientist I’ve been meaning to post about concerning the impact of our peers on our thinking.

    It’s something I’ve been very aware of from the education thing, used it a lot, but the NS had some interesting research on it via monitoring people’s use of social networks etc…

  36. There was an interesting VOTE attached to an article by Tom Watson on yesterday’s Daily Mirror website. Not likely to be a good random sample of the electorate, but it is the Mirror. 75% to vote UKIP next May!?!

  37. Carfrew

    That sounds worth reading.

  38. Gavin Hewitt of the BBC on Osborne’s announcement that he had toughed it out with the nasty Europeans.

    “It is the case that these figures were never discussed at the finance ministers’ meeting today so the announcement that the UK bill has been halved has been met with some surprise.”

    I have no doubt that this will be headline news tomorrow.

  39. @ Carfrew

    If anything, David Miliband is more in favour than Ed Miliband of the EU & of immigration.

  40. Sue.

    Given what we have heard recently about what many celebrities have been doing for the last few decades, one can but hope that the public may eventually wean itself off the media/celebrity teat.

  41. Amber.

    Aye. Why didn’t Labour elect DM?

    He’s have stopped all these folk slipping away to the Greens and UKIP.

  42. @Amber

    Maybe, but what about things like austerity and the neolib thing?

    But beyond that, the leadership/approval thing didn’t matter when Labour were polling 45%, but it might make a difference in a tight election.

  43. My point being, that if Labour were going to eventually lose the left anyway, may as well have had Miliband senior…

  44. @ Carfew

    The drift from Labour to SNP and the Greens appears to be disappointment with the move right from those earlier days of EM’s leadership. So a return leftward would arguably be a more successful strategy than trying to bring back support from Ukip… ‘No-one can out-kip Ukip’. Although IMO a move leftward, and clear water with the Tories, might well negate some of the purple protest.

    I can’t quite see how David Miliband would be better in this new environment.

  45. @oldnat

    I did a summary of it to post, but stuff happened. I shall try and dig it out…

    I felt it was important, ‘cos it challenges the idea that peeps don’t change their views much, whereas if one takes the education thing seriously, one can see peeps changing all the time, and the peer thing is one of the mechanisms.

    Another reason, is that some people don’t seem to realise how much their peers on this board affect them…

  46. @syzygy

    Yes, one can see the appeal. Peeps on the left are drifting away, therefore move left to get them back.

    The problem, is then losing potentially more votes in the centre or to ukip, especially following a media assault…

  47. @ LeftyLampton

    ‘Given what we have heard recently about what many celebrities have been doing for the last few decades, one can but hope that the public may eventually wean itself off the media/celebrity teat.’

    One can but hope .. but unfortunately advertisers tend to get it right, however little I want to believe it!

  48. I have to say, I can understand about every movement on some level, apart from the 1.8% of the electorate who have switched from Lib Dems to Con. Has anyone got a rational explanation for this (to me) seemingly curious grouping?

  49. @Wes

    Stockholm Syndrome…

  50. Syzygy

    “The drift from Labour to SNP and the Greens appears to be …..”

    I’d beware of automatically concatenating those drifts as having a common causation.

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