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…

2012churn550

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.

2013churn

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.

2014churn

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. To edit my above comment “…reverse of LD to Lab and Con to Lab switchers that will very likely have gone now to UKIP….”:

    … although others of the former have very likely also gone to Green.

  2. And ” All that means that the Conservatives should assuming that a withering of UKIP support will allow them to take the lead over Labour” is not what I meant.

    Should read ” All that means that the Conservatives should NOT assume that a withering of UKIP support will allow them to take the lead over Labour.”

  3. A couple of mentions of the Greens have been made. Important to remember their appeal is not on environmental grounds – it’s as a hard left party.

  4. I think a lot of this churn are probably the less committed voters, who are, if not swing voters, are more open to changing their vote due to events over a single parliament.

    It would probably take a longer time than that, or a very serious event, for more committed voters to change. But would such voters then become just as committed to their new party? Once you start voting for a party, it’s not necessarily easy to stop. Or when you lose that commitment, it’s possible a voter might try various options before settling again.

    I think the main parties might well have lost some previously regular voters who are now looking for a new home, or will become floaters because they can’t find one.

  5. @AW

    I don’t think it was Widdecombe. Teachers in non-Academy, non-free schools are still (technically) employees of their local council, and as such they can’t also be a councillor for the same council. No council employee can also be a councillor for the same council.

    Mind how any teacher could somehow find the time to juggle that job with being a councillor beats me.

  6. I agree with one of the Richards. There is no point in Labour going for the UKIP vote. They are not going to outbid the Tories in that direction. Instead they should try and keep the Libdems they have got and attract more from the Greens, the Libdems and – hard though this clearly is – the SNP. Going after UKIP votes is going to alienate these other sources of support and – to declare an interest and probably get a snip – in my view morally wrong.

  7. I totally concur Charles. Unless an individual has been voting blindly for years, how can you turn a Labour voter into a kipper. Its like a man going out to buy a family people carrier with a small diesel engine, he then gets sold a BMW 2 door coupe with a 3.5 petrol engine.

    One could equally add the Greens trying to capture Tories. I suppose a Tory who really dislikes the idea of fracking, could be tempted, or a resident of Rotherham, who blames the local administration for recent social issues in the area. But, in general I personally cannot see a bridge across the ravine.

  8. Good eye-candy AW, and I hear you on the partisan stuff. I try not to be partisan, but it doesn’t always succeed. This is one of the few sites where I type something, read through it, edit it, then delete it, thinking “that’s childish / partisan / wrong”. I miss the “preview post” and “Edit” features on this site, but with time and practice, one comes to self-preview one’s posts. As a result, the ‘heat of the moment’ posts tend to be deleted and never seen. :))

    For what it’s worth, my newly-added ’12-month rolling averages’ page lends some added weight to your points, but completely fails to pick up on churn, and have updated the text to suit.

    If anything, the 12-month trends show where a single party’s changes have happened at a ‘regional’ level (the usefulness of this knowledge is debatable).

    I spent a couple of days mulling over churn, and quickly came to the conclusion that any worthwhile measuring of it (i.e. accurate and above criticism) would be exhaustive and probably beyond my statistical ken anyway. Sometimes it’s easier to just add a caveat and save yourself some brain cells. :))

  9. I think the main parties and the main steam media are losing voters and readers because they are not even at times acknowledging events happening.

    For example the Occupy democracy demonstration in Parliament Square, had hardly any mainstream media coverage.

    Also 10 years ago the Fire Service going on strike had massive coverage and political angst, now hardly a mention.

    I

  10. Phil – worked it out now. The Widdecombe rules were about councillors being barred from being local authority employees above a certain level *anywhere*, as opposed to the usual rules banning councillors working for the *same* authority. Teachers weren’t part of the WIddecombe rules, but are part of the usual rules about the same authority.

    I know lots of teachers who are councillors! The leader of the Labour group on my local council has now retired, but worked as a teacher at the same time as being a councillor for many years (indeed, he taught me history at school). The deputy head of my son’s school is also a councillor.

  11. Yes, a friend of mine is a teacher and stood for the council in May. I would think teachers are far enough removed from the workings of a council to be eligible.

  12. @Charles

    I disagree with you when you say “There is no point in Labour going for the UKIP vote.” It’s more a question of how it goes about going for it.

    Labour should not write off it’s losses to UKIP from working class voters, but should adopt clearer and more radical policies of the sort that emphasise the values that Labour has traditionally stood for. It if does then it can shift the emphasis of debate back from migration to the “rich versus the rest” theme and woo back some UKIP switchers.

    That is an approach could woo back voters not only from UKIP, but also appeal to Greens and left leaning 2010 Lib Dems.

    I do agree with you on HS2 incidentally. And I think that Ed Balls still does too. If Labour is going to accept in large part the straitjacket of Conservative plans for the PSBR, the very least it should do is to reprioritise Conservative plans for capital spending in favour of things that polls tell us working class people consider to be important, such as house building and the NHS, as well as to local transport in the North. If we do get a Labour administration post 2010, facing hard choices on investment, I don’t think that the Secretary of State for Transport is going to find many allies around the Cabinet table when that choice has to be faced up to.

  13. Random post on Milliband’s popularity, given the reported rumblings in the Labour Party. This is interesting academic take based on monthly polling by the University of Essex:

    http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/conversationedu/~3/oTEdNDWauAA/voter-survey-shows-miliband-panic-is-overblown-33975

  14. Although I’d love to vote Green (being heavily involved in environmental matters), they’ve now reversed their position on immigration and population regulation…in the UK anyway, although have no problem saying other countries should reduce theirs, whilst ours should increase for economic reasons.

    So to appeal to the Greens anti-UKIP vote, that would mean being more open to immigration than the current policy – and yet, I seem to remember the policy that would be more likely to increase votes for Labour is based on being more skeptical towards immigration (sorry, I don’t have the source offhand but remember strongly that was the case).

    So, it’s not a case of:
    Left Labour + Green + Left/Undecided Lib Dem = More Labour
    but
    Left Labour + Green + Left-SDP LD = Labour – Centre Labour – Right Labour – Liberal LD – people who wouldn’t vote Labour anyway (economic crisis, Iraq War etc.)

  15. @CYT

    “Does anyone know where such raw data can be obtained easily”

    http://www.statgeek.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/2010_data.xlsx

  16. N.B. – That data was taken from a mix of the BBC and Wikipedia, based on which values seemed most correct (there were occasional discrepancies).

    The ‘Electorate’ column is basically the rounding of the votes, divided by the turnout, times 100, so is probably not 100% accurate, but is accurate enough for some tasks.

  17. @ Mr Nameless

    A couple of mentions of the Greens have been made. Important to remember their appeal is not on environmental grounds – it’s as a hard left party.
    —————–
    If people stop & think for a moment, UKIP are also speaking as if they are an authoritarian left wing Party.

    1. State planning & control of immigration; leading to
    2. Better paid jobs; &
    3. Better planned services e.g. enough school places, GP places, houses etc.
    4. Contributory benefits (the inference being that they’d therefore be more generous); &
    5. Improve the NHS.

    On the face of it, that looks left, not right, leaning.

    Followers of politics are, of course, almost certain that these are unlikely to be the actual outcomes of a UKIP government but we are an unrepresentative sample.

  18. Statgeek
    “Mulling over churn”

    Mm,mulled churn, sounds tasty :))

  19. @Valerie

    Much better than churned mull. Eww!

  20. Anthony

    The Widdecombe rules[1] seem to have arisen when it was feared that the leading lights on various Councils were giving each other well-paid jobs on each others’ councils. It seems to have become less urgent as many councillors became full time under New Labour’s changes and cabinet systems

    But of course those teachers can only serve on your local council because Kent has two-tier authorities and they are employed by the County not the District. The same will apply to all sorts of other people and contrariwise for District employees. In somewhere like Cornwall or Northumberland there is no possibility of this and the areas are so large that being employed in a similar job by an adjoining council not really practical for most such professionals.

    [1] Always wise to google with “-Ann”.

    [2] Obviously this was particularly vulnerable to happening (and being noticed) in London where councils are so closely “packed like squares of wheat”.

  21. “I would think teachers are far enough removed from the workings of a council to be eligible”

    ————-

    Or councils are removed from the workings of teachers…

  22. STATGEEK
    When ever I try to enter your site from links you provide on UKPR I get “forbbiden” . How do I make your links work, or is the site only for some?

  23. I think there is a legal difference between VA (voluntary aided) and VC (voluntary controlled) schools, apart from what Roger M has just correctly noted. In the latter case the teachers are employees of the education authority and in the former they are employed by the Governing Body (mostly C of E-dominated in rural areas).

    So a VA school teacher would be free to be a councillor on either tier of local authority.

    That’s unless the law has changed; I could be out of touch.

  24. Hi Tony. I have a feeling you were being blocked by my super-duper location sensor.

    Try now?

  25. STATGEEK
    Thank you. That worked perfectly.

    (I will be back in the UK by mid December and perhaps the location sensor will accept Cornwall!)

  26. Probably been missed on here, but there are critical elections to the UK Dairy Council commencing today (via 14 day postal ballot).

    The UKDC was formerly divided between the two big groups – basically the struggling producers and the rich and powerful processors – but recently new groupings have formed and are breaking down the old voting pattern.

    No one is quite sure how many seats the breakaway Scottish Milk Producers group will get. They insist going it alone will be far better and witter on endlessly about the good old pre 17th Century days when the Scottish dairy industry was a world leader.

    Then there are the anti EU ‘UK Independent Butter’ group that insists breaking links with continental supply chains is essential. And in literally the last few weeks, out of nowhere an extremist pro organic, pro badger faction appears to have made gains and could affect the outcome, particularly in the south west.

    While the Milk Production and Processing section seems to be following the pattern from the 2012 elections, the Butter and Cheese section is likely to swing the result and is incredibly difficult to call.

    There’s so much churn out there.

  27. ALEC
    There’s so much churn out there.

    LOL, but didn’t you mean too many “churns”.

  28. @ALEC

    “Probably been missed on here, but there are critical elections to the UK Dairy Council commencing today (via 14 day postal ballot).”

    —–

    Don’t suppose they have storage elections? Might get me voting…

  29. “If people stop & think for a moment, UKIP are also speaking as if they are an authoritarian left wing Party.”

    ——-

    [Comparing anyone to Nazis isn’t really in the spirit of non-partisanship…]

    But they also had stuff like the flat tax thing, though they seem to be rowing back on that…

  30. @Alec

    Yoghurt people’s feelings with posts like that. :-p

  31. @Carfrew
    “If people stop & think for a moment, UKIP are also speaking as if they are an authoritarian left wing Party.”

    That’s what they said about the BNP.

  32. Carfrew,

    When was the last time you heard UKIP talk about their flat tax policy?

  33. Alec

    But in the end the Scottish Milk Producers were defeated by the Butter Together campaign!

  34. @AW

    I didn’t really do that now did I. There is a difference between a nationalist party with some socialist policies, which is not unusual, and a party that like invades much of europe etc. etc…. I did not say or imply anything perjorative.

  35. @BILL PATRICK

    When was the last time you heard UKIP talk about their flat tax policy?

    ———

    That was my point… it doesn’t seem to be policy any more…

  36. @RAF

    “That’s what they said about the BNP.”

    I was quoting Amber. I don’t think you could say UKip have much in the way of socialism going on at present. There may be pressures to lean more that way if an increasing numberof those with concerns re: immigration also want a bit of socialism.

  37. @ RAF

    That’s what they said about the BNP.
    ——–
    Indeed. But the BNP were ruled to have a racist, therefore illegal, constitution. Not so UKIP.

    What has dumbfounded many politics watchers is the way in which Nick of the BNP was ‘monstered’ in the msm, whereas Nigel of the UKIP is extended every courtesy to a point where it smacks of indulgence.

    Nevertheless, I think my original point holds. UKIP are inferring that planned immigration = a planned economy/ state. It beggars ‘informed’ belief that UKIP is succeeding in so doing – but it’s not a stretch to conclude, from Anthony’s churn analysis, that it is.

  38. @ Paul A

    But in the end the Scottish Milk Producers were defeated by the Butter Together campaign!
    ———-
    100 LOLs :-)

  39. Amber

    They were creamed.

  40. Ukip are offering a raise in the income tax threshold to £13,500.

    Also offering to abolish the top rate (ie redution of 5% for those over £55k) and introduce a new 35% rate (ie 5% reduction for those earning £42-55k).

    So a small giveaway to those on or near the full-time minimum wage. (Swallowed up by consequent loss of in work benefits in many cases perhaps?) The annual giveaway to someone earning a million would be in excess of £43k.

  41. …and abolish the entire concept of inheritance tax

  42. @Phil Haines I am glad we are agreed on HS2. I hope we are agreed on UKIP too.

    I am not saying that Labour should not attend to the real problems of UKIP voters. However, it should do so by policies such as the minimum wage (on which it should be more bold), ensuring that this is enforced, dealing with gang masters, dealing with the operation of the social security system which as some contributors have pointed out make it very difficult to take the kind of casual work which is often all that is on offer, dealing with the skills deficit etc.

    As a tactical matter I would be very wary about anything that implies that UKIP voters are racist. It is often unfair, invariably annoys them and does nothing whatever to change their vote or behaviour.

    For the sake of community harmony I would be prepared to make it more difficult for people to come here remain unemployed for a number of months and claim benefits – but actually I think this is not a big problem and it’s difficult enough anyway. What I wouldn’t want to do is to start to shift right on immigration, claim that I was going to renegotiate the free movement of Labour etc. And I would either offer a referendum more or less immediately or say that on balance the EU is good for us and we simply can’t afford to waste time and lose jobs arguing about it. Having a referendum two years after the election on the vague hope of a substantial renegotiation seems to me the worst of all worlds (in reality, not necessarily electorally)

    I am nor sure if this is what you mean by the kind of policies that would appeal to both UKIP and the others. Hopefully so and then I will be more confident about arguing this line on other occasions!

  43. @Charles
    Yes, thanks for clarifying that.

  44. You could put income taxes up, like in France. Which would not win votes, nor benefit the economy, in fact the deficit would balloon and VI plummet.

    I have yet to see any party address the real issue, of how to eliminate this deficit, not just trim it; All the time debt is building. I think this issue could win or lose the election.

  45. Hoof Hearted

    “I have yet to see any party address the real issue, of how to eliminate this deficit,”

    You can always look to America for inspiration.

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/11/oklahomas-senator-elect-to-use-biblical-worldview-to-defeat-the-national-debt/

  46. I view the Greens in NE Scotland not as hard left, cf Amber at 12.52 pm

    Many who are now Green in this area came from the LibDems, in a row about the Donald Trump golf development on a SSSI. Martin Ford who was a leading LibDem and chair of the Aberdeenshire Infrastructure (=Planning) Committee, and several other LibDems were forced to leave the party as a result of the Infrastructure Committee voting against Trump, 9 to 5.

    Martin Ford went on to stand as a Green candidate for Holyrood, and only narrowly failed to be elected.

  47. @ Old Nat

    LOL… keep ’em coming!

  48. @ Old Nat

    My 5:32 was in response to your 4:31 but it might apply equally well to your 5:21.

  49. @TonyBarrett 12.01
    Very interesting. It explains why I counsel calm to my red friends and caution to my blue ones, lest their respective instincts get the better of them. Unfortunately, I think it falls victim to the Reagan (?) adage ‘ if you’re explaining you’re not winning’, which itself is tosh but seductive for the media. Nonetheless, Labour should be calmer than they appear. Although I fear they are not.

    @Alec
    I await confirmation that the milk board election thing you posted for our delactation is a spoof … :)

  50. In the old days we used to worry about ‘the balance of payments’. Nowadays we seem to bother about the deficit. Am I right about this switch of attention? And if so is it justified economically?

    On the face of it, and from the point of view of the nation as a whole, it doesn’t matter if the state is borrowing money provided it is doing it from British nationals. In that case the nation as a whole is just as rich as it was before. It is only if we are borrowing from others that we are becoming poor.

    And while I am on about this why do we pay so little attention to what the money is spent on. If the state borrows from abroad and invest it in infrastructure that makes money our borrowing is in a sense matched by an increase in our wealth. If we distribute it as largesse that is then spent on foreign imports we look like our credit might be at risk.

    I ask these questions because a) I genuinely want to know and b) I need to be convinced that an obsession with the deficit as opposed to other economic indicators (there used to be all those Ms) isn’t an example of a particular group having managed to set the agenda which in turn filters through into VI.

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