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. Bill P

    Re: UKIP and talking about past manifesto pledges.

    I’m assuming that Labour in particular will be playing hard ball on this over the next six months. Farage left a huge hostage to fortune earlier this year when he flatly denied having written or read the 2010 manifesto. In fact, he wrote the executive summary of the manifesto and launched the thing. Of course, he now wants to distance himself from nutcase policies like giving people earning £1M pa a £200k tax cut. But he campaigned on that policy last time. And he has simply told whoppers about it when confronted by the fact.

    Open goal for Labour. Something along the line of “Farage, the friend of the multi-millionaire and a man who tells big far fibs when put on the spot about it.”

    Of course, it’s far tougher for the Tories to play that angle.

  2. I’m not convinced a vote for Ukip or the Greens really means a vote for who they want to be the next PM. Everybody knows Ukip won’t be in the majority but if immigration is too high or the EU is too interfering, then having that protest vote in there means that opinion gets taken account of. For instance, I was always pleased the Scottish Socialists had MSPs voicing their opinion but a government of them would be disasterous.

    YouGov’s latest has 6% wanting more immigration, so going for that vote and leaving behind the rest is sheer folly. You can’t outkip Ukip but Labour won by adopting Tory economics under Blair. Embracing policies most people agree with, including your own voters, is only sensible.

    Cameron and Milliband can both ‘agree with Nigel’ by implementing obvious policies whilst saving the economy/NHS/whatever. Calling >25% of the last EU electorate loonies and racists isn’t persuasive politics.

  3. Maybe that’s why Ukip were promising to bring back Pullman carriages in their 2010 manifesto, complete with steward service, and presumably fitted-out with fine French-polished walnut and book-matched burr veneer panels outlined in gold-leaf.

    Perhaps they could reintroduce 3rd class to accomodate the rest of us!

  4. @Leftylampton
    I am not a big fan of [Nigel Farage], however I do not believe he is alone in “misspeaking” about past manifesto’s or past performance.
    I do think that the forthcoming campaign will highlight the fact, that Farage is just another slippery politician. He will, by next June, be in the detested bracket, along with Clegg and Miliband. Perhaps Cameron will still be merely, not very popular. It could be he is lumped in with the other 3 by then. The peoples mood is ugly.

  5. Charles

    Yes I remember all those Ms – M3, M0, then Thatcher denying in an interview with Peter Jay (or was it Brian Walden?) that she had ever subscribed to such absurd theories!

    And remember the gnomes of Zurich? And yes, the trade deficit and defending the value of the pound sterling – the humiliation of devaluation and the IMF crisis and the ERM debacle.

    I remember a quote from Ian Fleming in the Bond novel Goldfinger, expressed by M, when he said he couldn’t understand how the nations’ wealth depended on all this mumbo jumbo about gold reserves, surely it was more to do with how hard we worked?

  6. @Lefty Lampton – i am sure Labour could go after Farage on the grounds of his 2010 election. But might it not be more sensible to let the Tories do that? They have already called them fruitcakes and it is up to them to make the charge stick. If they don’t it is better for Labour to have UKIP voters stay with UKIP than defect, most probably to the conservatives.

    Meanwhile Labour should go all out for Osborne and Cameron. Conservative supporters are not going to come over to Labour who in turn need to establish their left wing pro the common man credentials. The main target of all this should be to win over the Greens, Lib Dems, SNP but who knows the odd UKIP voter might come over (which they might not if their Leader is called a racist, lying fruitcake and charlatan)

  7. Farage may be embarrased to have it pointed out he wrote a manifesto he has distanced himself from but anyone want Brown and Howard battling it out for PM? Didn’t see Ed or Dave distancing themselves from manifestos they had a major hand in writing. So, not sure that’s the best election strategy.

  8. ComRes also have their “6 month out from election” analysis.

    http://www.comres.co.uk/blog-post/82/six-months-to-go-the-many-paths-to-may-7th.htm

  9. The ComRes swingback barchart is inaccurate re -1979 election. Six months earlier – Nov 1978 – the polls put Labour ahead so that the final result represented a big swing to the Tory opposition.

  10. Graham

    Well spotted! I imagine someone forgot to put a minus sign in the chart data.

  11. Charles

    Were I guiding Labour’s policy on UKIP, I would not be labelling them as nutcases. Far from it. I would highlight the fact that they are steely, determined arch-Thatcherites and that if they end up holding the balance of power in a Tory-led coalition, they would pull the Govt further rightwards than anything we have seen for generations.

    That’s what I would be saying. In order to scare the red-Kippers to their senses (and, hopefully, drive a few more wavering souls on the Tory right into UKIP’s embrace).

  12. Smithson tweet

    Even though the focus is on Ed some poor numbers for CON from Opinium for the Observer Lab 32 (-1) Con 29 (-4) UKIP 19 (+1) LD 9 (+3)

  13. Number Cruncher tweet

    “Hearing talk of a bad ICM poll for #labour (or at least for Ed M)”

    So, if both tweeters are right about both polls, then bad news for Con & Lab.

    It would be partisan to add a smiley.

  14. @Charles

    I’m not the person to answer, but I do remember a time when we owned stuff… infrastructure, utilities, industrial sectors and the like.

    There was a it of a hoo-hah when BBC news started reporting stock market movements on a daily basis (the period of pioneering privatisations). Until then massive fluctuations were considered newsworthy, otherwise it had been considered a niche interest for people who read the FT.

  15. Observer saying “Ed Miliband’s Labour party leadership was plunged into fresh crisis as senior Labour MPs revealed that at least 20 shadow ministers were on the brink of calling for him to stand down.

    The frontbenchers are willing to go public with their demand if the former home secretary, Alan Johnson, indicates that he would be prepared to step into the breach, should Labour be left leaderless just months from a general election. The senior status of the potential rebels and their numbers represent another grievous blow to Miliband’s authority, after attempts by his aides to minimise the extent of dissatisfaction in the party”

  16. @Billy Bob:
    I’m going to go out on a limb and argue that introducing a “real” first class service of some sort might actually make sense in a few markets. Oddly enough, when I look at the 2010 manifesto I actually see an implicit criticism of HS2 that I can get behind in a way that I’m hard-pressed to usually. More on that in a moment.

    With that being said, seeing those manifesto pledges does seem to underline a lot of the discussions I’ve had with friends on UKIP…that basically over the last 80 years or so, the liberal and conservative lines of thinking steadily merged with the liberals mostly winning out on the economic front under Thatcher and on the social front since then (witness Cameron on gay marriage). UKIP does seem to have some criticisms on both fronts, and while the focus is clearly more on the social side than the economic* there seems to be some of each.

    Moving back around to the train stuff, it’s interesting seeing some of that. In a broader context, it places the party as being intensely conservative…basically a rebirth of the Tories of the 20s and before. I’m inclined to put this down to the Tories and LibDems filling a lot of the same niche under Cameron and thereby abandoning a good part of the party’s base from before. This is going to be very interesting to see play out into and beyond the election.

    *”Economic” is probably too broad of a brush here. UKIP would seem to agree with Thatcher’s policies in terms of taxation, but not in terms of trade policy…which is probably where Essex Man was in the 80s, anyway, seeing how much Thatcher and Major had to fight over Europe stuff.

  17. I think polls being taken from the back end of last week will reveal the extent of the Labour crisis; the pressure will be kept on Labour [by the press]

  18. @Gray

    The Ukip Grammar School policy seems to fit into that narrative.

    Kent is the great bastion of selective education, and if memory serves, the greatest divide between best and worst performing schools in the country

  19. YouGov is 33-33

  20. @OldNat

    Anonymous sources.

    The Opinium poll shows Labour up from level with the Tories to +3
    Survation showed Lab +4
    Populus showed Lab +2

    And yet Labour is in crisis.

    ICM produces the lowest harbour scores, so I would not be surprised if they show the Tories ahead. But even if so it needs to put into context with the above polls.

    As for the Observer story, someone posted a full explanation of something similar from the Morning Star this morning. The Observer is spinning this to look much worse for EM than it actually was. I won’t go into it here because it isn’t the place. Suffice to say that the senior Lab MPs were putting their foot down to quell the nonsense.
    I

  21. Are we expecting an Opinium tonight?

    This story has a graph with Opinium showing

    Lab 32(-1)
    Con 29
    UKIP 19 (+1)
    LD 9 (+3)

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/08/ed-miliband-crisis-labour-mps-back-leadership-change

    Hmm, LD’s seem to be picking up a bit in a number of polls recently, not sure why, but they are….

  22. ST leads tomorrow with Labour voters wanting Miliband out.

  23. But their poll shows Johnson only doing 2 points better. I know there are all sorts of caveats about hypothetical questions, but that sort of number will probably get attention…

  24. RAF

    I quoted my sources! That my sources only quote anonymous sources is quite normal. They (apart from number Cruncher, I hope) all live within the Westminster Bubble, where colleagues brief against each other all the time.

    Apart from those committed to a party, why should any voter consider “them” [1] fit to govern the country?

    [1] applies to any party, at any time, where competing factionsare briefing against each other

  25. Has anyone else been following Mike Smithson on PB for the last half hour or so? It’s a classic case of over-hyping the polls that are about to come out to support your lazy “narrative” and with every poll that actually comes out it just defeats your own argument – even he has had to admit that one of the polls isn’t so bad after all, the other is even worse for Cameron and the final one is the ridiculous “wisdom” poll for the Torygraph – and even that is no worse for Ed M than [Cameron]

  26. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/11218334/Conservatives-snatch-first-poll-lead-for-six-months-as-Ed-Milibands-woes-worsen.html

    “Asked, in ICM’s latest Wisdom Index poll for The Sunday Telegraph, what percentage share each party would win if there were a general election tomorrow, respondents put the Tories on 31 per cent, against Labour’s 30 per cent. The UK Independence Party was third on 16 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats fourth on 13 per cent.”

  27. @Jack R

    I suppose any paper can claim that any party’s supporters want their leader out (SNP excepted at present perhaps).

    Especially a centre-right paper when it comes to a Labour leader.

    The crux of the matter is that there is no one considered better, who is willing to take the job (and I personally can’t think of someone better at present regardless).

    The same goes for the Conservative Party, UKIP and the Lib Dems, short of going back to previous ‘better’ leaders, such as Blair, Charles Kennedy and so on.

    This problem that seems to be infecting British Politics is not fixed with removing the leaders. It is fixed by the parties actually delivering to the electorate what they promised, and by promising things that are deliverable.

    You get the drift. I’ll leave it at that, lest I move too far from the point of the site. ;)

  28. @ Oldnat

    Don’t worry, I am not in any bubble!

  29. @OldNat

    I have already said what I will do if Labour replace EM. And i’m sure thousands of others feel then same

    @Number Cruncher
    That’s because Allan Johnson is fools gold. He was instrumental in the privatisation of the post office. How can Alan Johnson win back the defectors to the Greens and the SNP?

  30. I will not leave the party if Labour replaces Ed Miliband. But it will be severely disappointing and I will spoil my ballot rather than vote for any replacement.

  31. Number Cruncher

    Can’t say I’m surprised. :-)

  32. All parties need to refresh and renew, not look back.

    AJ is one of yesterday’s men.

  33. @MrNameless

    Apparently they are not planning on giving you a ballot, they want a coronation of their man. Welcome to the world of back room deals, time to join the Russell Brand revolution.

    OK, but seriously, those LD numbers are creeping up with a number of polling firms over the last week or so. We wrote them off, but with Labour and the Tories both imploding it looks like they are taking the spoils. At this rate they will be in double digits post Rochester. Who would have guessed at this outcome!

  34. RAF

    “How can Alan Johnson win back the defectors to the Greens and the SNP?”

    I find it interesting that there is, on here, a regular concatenation of the movement of VI from Lab to “Greens and SNP”, as if there is a single common motivator.

    I’m sure that there will be common factors, but assuming that the resolution is common would seem to be unwise.

  35. @Adge3

    Balance of payments is not such a big deal these days compared to when we did economics degrees. If there are no currency controls and you have a convertible currency you are ok so long as you can persuade foreigners to buy UK govt bonds: no probs with that at present . So… Balance of payments does not really constrain economic growth. Government deficit/debt is more important as high level of government debt constrains ability for Keynesian type stabilisation – which is what we have been doing for the last 5yrs.

  36. From PB

    Survation poll in the Mail Lab 34 (+3), Con 29 (+2) LD 9 (-3) UKIP 23 (-1)

  37. Richard

    I didn’t post that Survation poll in response to you!

  38. Old Nat,
    You may well be right about the chart data but it also means that the ComRes average swingback figure is way out. Frankly very disappointing, sloppy – and unprofessional.

  39. That’s some Labour collapse.

  40. Graham

    Whether the average swingback figure was calculated from the data underlying the graph, or whether the graph was created separately by someone who mis-entered data – I have no idea.

    Sloppy, I agree, but I don’t think one can necessarily draw your conclusion from what we know.

  41. Survation also asking hypothetical LAB leader questions… With Chuka Umunna and Alan Johnson they do 3 points better in each case.

    Burnham does the same and Cooper does WORSE than Ed M…

  42. Correction from PB

    Latest @Survation poll in the Mail Lab 34 (+3), Con 29 (+2) LD 6 (-3) UKIP 23 (-1)

  43. Anyway, let’s have a look at the “potential leader” hypotheticals Survation have done.

    Yvette Cooper:
    LAB – 31% (-3)
    CON – 31% (+2)

    Andy Burnham:
    LAB – 36% (+2)
    CON – 32% (+3)

    Chuka Umunna*:
    LAB – 37% (+3)
    CON – 29% (-)

    Alan Johnson:
    LAB – 37% (+3)
    CON – 29% (-)

    *I’m slightly suspicious of the Chuka one because it’s the same figures as Johnson. Not sure BritainElects got the right figures.

  44. @ Mr Nameless I wondered that too but they’re right (at least, judging by a screenshot I’ve seen of the page in the Mail)

  45. Yougov

    CON 33%

    TORY 33%

    Neck & Neck.

    From what I gather in the papers tomorrow it’s grim!
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    .
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    ..
    ……………………for Ed

  46. Old Nat,
    I have already made the calculation – the average figure shown is based on the chart figures shown – and is gibberish!

  47. Ok, so Burham has foiled the coup by saying he’ll challenge Johnson for the leadership? That’s still not great though.

    Not sure the Morning Star is helping much if they’re the only publication supporting Miliband. Whatever happened to Labour’s media management?

    Perhaps they’re framing the narrative soley through social media.

  48. Especially for Allan Christie –

    Sunday herald tweeting

    “Revealed at last … the actual number of members Scottish Labour really has … in tomorrow’s paper …”

    That’s either a brilliant bit of investigative journalism, or a wind-up lead to a cartoon!

    I suspect the latter.

  49. Graham

    Ta.

  50. Of course I meant Labour 33% Con’s 33%

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