We still haven’t seen a post-election Populus voting intention poll (though to answer Mike Smithson’s question here, I understand they are still doing them, they are just having a quiet period following the election), but Lord Ashcroft has commissioned them to do some polling in marginal seats, with some interesting findings.

Firstly, in Conservative -vs- Labour marginals the Conservative vote is largely unchanged from the general election, but the Liberal Democrat vote has dropped to the benefit of Labour, this means on a uniform swing Labour would gain about 28 seats from the Conservatives (though these would be seats that the Conservatives gained at the last election, so in practice the Tories would be helped by the incumbency bonus of the new MPs).

In Conservative -vs- Lib Dem marginals the Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed towards the Labour party, presumably partially as Labour voters who previously voted tactically for the Liberal Democrats cease to do so (thought it would be interested to know how the questions were worded, since unless prompted people don’t necessarily consider the tactical situation in their own constitency when answering voting intention polls). On a uniform swing, this would give the Conservatives about 30 seats from the Lib Dems. The poll did not cover Lab -vs- Lib Dem marginals.

Populus then asked how people would vote under AV. Exactly how they asked this is unclear from Lord Ashcroft’s report, but the ultimate effect is that the Conservatives hold onto an extra 12 seats in Con -v- Lab marginals (implying that Lib Dems and others’ second preferences broke in the Conservatives favour), and the Lib Dems hold onto an extra 11 seats in Con -v- LD marginals. Once again, we have no indication of what would happen in LD -v- Lab seats.

UPDATE: The full tables are now available on Lord Ashcroft’s website (see the links at the bottom of this document). A few things worth pointing out. First, the AV questions were done in much the same way as the YouGov polls on it – people had AV explained briefly to them, then asked how they would cast their first and second preferences under that system (as opposed to making the often false assumption that people would cast their first prefences under AV in the same way as their vote in FPTP).

Secondly, this is the first AV polling I’ve seen that asked about third preferences. So far only 32% of respondents actually give a third preference (and a third of those were to minor parties who it is unlikely to benefit). At present of course it really isn’t comething respondents will have given any thought to, so it won’t necessarily bear any relation to how people would actually cast their other preferences, but it’s something that would need to be taken into account if AV did come to pass.

Thirdly, the voting intention questions for FPTP were just the standard Populus VI question. That should be okay in the Labour -v- Con seats, but as I’ve said before, I’m not sure how good marginal seat polls in Lib Dem marginals they. Even when the Lib Dems are riding high in the polls they tend to show the Lib Dems doing badly and Labour gaining, probably because some people give their voting intention as their real first preference, rather than their local tactical one. My suspicion is that the FPTP position in those Con -v- LD seats may be unduly negative.

278 Responses to “Populus poll of marginals”

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    Oh for Christ sake come off it, I made no comment about your father, I made a comment which mocked the usual Labour “how down trodden are we” rubbish.
    I dont suppose your mother was on the streets either, and I am sure you did not go to school in a sandwhich board, just to clear that up. By the way where was it ? Loretto ?

  2. Quit squabbling both of you, or you’ll be on the naughty step.

    Great post at 4.41pm. (That doesn’t imply the others are not so good, btw.)


    Nice analysis

  4. @ Billy Bob

    I hadn’t heard that, but that idea is based on the fallacy that AV will always mean more votes for the Lib Dems – thus giving them a stronger position. In truth that only works if the Lib Dems are everyone’s second choice – principally from Labour but given the way their all acting towards the Libs at the moment, it looks more likely that their second votes will go to the Tories ;p

    If the Lib Dem decline continues like this then there is a real chance that AV could obliterate them.

    Your post on CLASS was much more even handed than you original comment. I agree with much of it. It was only the other day I was complaining about Tory failed Estate Agents and Labour failed Polytechnic Lecturers. I was saying more or less exactly what you are saying, but applies to both sides equally.

  6. @ Colin, Sue

    Sorry to butt in on your little squabble/fight/war/ but (as a relevant piece of information) Alan Budd (as head of the OBR) stated that [according to the OBR’s figures] Alistair Darling’s budget would have “eliminated the bulk of the structural deficit by 2015”

    Again, my apologies for butting in but I’ve been waiting for about a month to use that throwaway piece of information ;)

  7. @Alec

    I totally agree. The important inflation rate is the one that applies to the goods/services that govt has to buy.

    I understand your point about mentally separating spending from services i.e distinguishing the cost from the volume. Any loss of services is an actual cut irrespective of the monetary over/under spend but the scrapping of a proposed project like the schools building program is a moot point: maintenance or upgrade? We could also have a spending decrease but volume increase that would not be a cut but the elusive ‘efficiency saving’.

  8. Virgilio
    The only case where they had good results is the Netherlands, where both VVD and D66 increased their votes in May’s GE

    Don’t be mistaken Virgilio. The VVD are to the right of 80s Thatcher Con – well to the right even though they shed (twice) even more right wing rebels (latest is Wilders).

  9. Billy
    Nowill not because the electorate will be extremely grateful to them!

  10. @ WollyMindedLiberal

    I suppose


    “Ben Bernanke saying more stimulus is necessary.”

    Bernanke is Chairman of The Fed-equivalent to Governor of BoE.

    His sphere of influence is MONETARY policy-not FISCAL policy.

    His remarks were thus about further monetary measures to help USA’s floundering economy. The trouble is that his committment was half hearted-recognising as he did, the ultra low interest rates already reached & the massive QE in place.

    Thus , his negative comments on the US ecopnomy spooked the markets-because all the signs are that despite truly mamoth fiscal stimuli, and as Bernanke acknowledges-very significant monetary stimuli-the US economy is floundering.

    His remarks were certainly not an indication that further fiscal stimulus is needed. It is not his brief.

    At the DC/BO Press Conference, I actually heard BO acknowledge that their Total Debt had to be reduced-even whilst “coming out of recession”-which, he said “would be difficult”. He was questioned afterwards as to his timetable-his answer was -he plans to halve the deficit in four years . I wondered where I had heard that before.

    Up thread , economic policy was categorised as “left wing” or “right wing”. As is clear across the Atlantic, even a Democrat President has come to see the limits-and risks -of throwing more debt on the pile, in a vain hope to kick start an economy.

    There is “liberal” economic policy & there is “socialist” economic policy-There is “prudent ” fiscal policy & there is ” demand management” to quote a left wing contributor here.

    But these approaches cross political divides , as is evident now in EU, and on the horizon in USA.

  12. @ Colin

    One can hardly call the Democrats left wing by European standards and Keynesian demand management is not socialist in itself, merely one means of managing capitalism. There has been no Socialist economic policies offered to the electorate by a mainstream party in Britain since before Blair and probably not since 1983.

  13. Anthony – Lol.

  14. Billy – Tis a war there is no escape from, no matter what I do.

  15. He has taken agin me (love that phrase)


    “Keynesian demand management is not socialist in itself, merely one means of managing capitalism”

    I was trying to test the “left wing” “right wing” view of economic policy.

    Before doing so I did a quick trawl of stuuf on Google.
    One view gave Keynisan/socialist as an approach which is different to Liberal.

    But I agree that these labels all get blurred-the point I was trying to make-obviously very badly! ;-)

  17. Would agree colin Keynesian is not Liberal and as I said earlier the left right split is far too one-dimensional to characterise politics. There are many different levels with social policy and economic policy not always in agreement.

  18. Can anyone tell me if you have to make a second choice with AV or can you leave a blank?



    Just watched Geithner being interviewed on Bloomberg TV. Fascinating & very nuanced :-

    Infered end of Big Fiscal Stimuli.
    Targetted tax breaks to encourage growth.

    But-unemployment stubbornly high-so extended unemployment benefits.

    Balancing act between encouraging growth in private sector , and reduction in burden of state debt .

    Exports vital-China etc etc.

    And-interestingly-the political will & willingness to act cross party (!)

    He said all countries were facing the same balancing act-some like Greece just don’t have the flexibility that others do.

    The whole thing is a matter of political as well as economic judgement

  20. Yes Roger, leave it blank by all means… nothing wrong with that.

  21. Thanks BB, now if I go canvassing under AV I will be able to say to my supporters dont make a second choice you may let the Tories in.

  22. Re Roger

    I am glad ot hear that. when Roy Jenkins was formulating a PR system 1997 he proposed that if you did not excercise all your options your vote would be invalidated. Nasty.

  23. @Billy

    You said “…I hadn’t heard that, but that idea is based on the fallacy that AV will always mean more votes for the Lib Dems – thus giving them a stronger position. In truth that only works if the Lib Dems are everyone’s second choice…”

    Good post. A desirable characteristic of an electoral system is that MPs elected should accurately reflect votes cast (you’d think that’d be an uncontroversial statement, but when you look at behavior over the decades,…well, where do you start… :-) ). As you point out, it is a mistake to assume that electoral reform in general, or AV in particular, will automatically advantage the LIBs.

    All parties are eventually disadvantaged by an unfair voting system: those who are helped by FPTP in Year X will eventually be hurt by FPTP in Year Y. This is why I insist that electoral reform is not a party political issue.

    Regards, Martyn

  24. @Roger

    You said “…Thanks BB, now if I go canvassing under AV I will be able to say to my supporters dont make a second choice you may let the Tories in….”

    Roger, I think you’ll be inaccurately advising your supporters. If you want to keep party X *out*, then the correct method would be to register a preference for all the other parties (in order) and *not* register a preference for party X. I’m sure other people on this board will correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s my current understanding.

    Regards, Martyn

  25. @Roger/Martyn

    Martyn is right. The best anti-technique is to vote for every other party in your prefs.
    If your second prefs are not needed because you have backed the winner or runner-up then it doesn’t matter. However if your first choice is knocked out then you want your pref to go through as often as possible otherwise you have no further say.
    In a contest where the second and third are very close together then the final outcome can be very different depending on which is eliminated first. Your prefs could determine this even if you had voted for the fourth/fifth party.

  26. I’m wondering how much longer counting of votes will take under AV as compared to now. Any ideas anyone?

  27. Mike N,

    Difficult to say with any certainty. Only thing we can be sure of is that counting will take longer. It depends on two key factors – % vote of leading candidate and number of candidates standing. It can also get complicated if candidates 2 and 3 are close together. Basic rule is that the fewer votes being redistributed, the quicker it will be

    For seats where the victor scores over 50%, then it should not take very much longer than FPTP (just takes longer to validate the votes).

    For those where first placed candidate has a share in upper 40s, or where there are only three candidates standing, then a result will be obtained after first elimination / second count.

    In Scotland / Wales and in parts of England where there are several candidates each with significant share of vote (in double figures), then clearly the redistribution process will be lengthy. Thus we could see more seats where the final result is not declared until Friday afternoon, but in truth this will probably remain the exception affecting very few seats.

    Of course it may be possible to speed up the process by introducing electronic voting systems – but that may be a step too far – both culturally and in terms of cash investment needed.

  28. @PAUL H-J
    I imagine that the number of recounts will increase.

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