Yesterday we had a selection of ICM polls in Liberal Democrat seats, initially released anonymously but eventually confirmed as having been commissioned by Lord Oakeshott. Oakeshott has now resigned, but left saying that Cable knew about the polls. The political row rolls on, but I’m just going to look at the polls.

Lord Oakeshott commissioned 6 constituency polls. The first was in Twickenham, and only asked about current voting intention. The other five were in Sheffield Hallam, Redcar, Wells, Cambridge and Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey and also asked about voting intention with alternate leaders. The tables are here, here and here.

All six showed the Lib Dems losing (to the Conservatives, Labour or SNP respectively). However, I’m always slightly wary of constituency polls in Liberal Democrat held seats – the effect of incumbency and tactical voting is far higher for Lib Dem MPs, and when you ask a generic voting intention I think many people give their national preference, rather than how they would actually vote in their own constituency. In most seats this is only a marginal difference – in Lib Dem held seats it can be substantial, as repeatedly shown in polls of Lib Dem marginal seats using a two-stage national-then-constituency voting intention questions (see here by Lord Ashcroft, and here by YouGov). It’s also worth noting that ICM didn’t do their usual reallocation of don’t knows according to the party they voted for the last election, and given there are a lot of past Lib Dems now saying don’t know that makes a difference. ICM specifically provided the data necessary to do the calculation ourselves in their tables, and with normal reallocation the Lib Dems would have been ahead in Twickenham and only one point behind in Sheffield Hallam.

The second part of Oakeshott’s polling was to ask how people in those seats would vote with different party leaders, which in these seats suggested they would do better with Vince Cable as leader. This is in contrast to a YouGov poll in the Times today which asked a nationwide sample how people would vote with Vince Cable as leader – in YouGov’s control question asking how people would vote with the existing party leaders the Lib Dems were on 8%, if the leaders were Cameron, Miliband and Cable the Lib Dems would still be on 8%. No change.

That aside, how would you vote if X was leader are incredibly crude tools. When a would-be leader is little known to the public they are as good as useless. Even when the would-be leader is relatively well known to the public, like Gordon Brown was pre-2007 or Vince Cable is now, they are of dubious use.

Essentially, an ordinary poll respondent who doesn’t closely follow politics might know what the would-be leader looks and sounds like, might have a pre-existing positive or negative view, they might have a vague perception of competence or incompetence. What they don’t know is what policies that new leader would announce, what direction they’d take the party, how the media would react to them and so on.

If the Liberal Democrats change leader it probably won’t be the personality and image of the new leader that makes the difference… it will be everything else that comes with it. Would it mean them leaving the coalition? Would it mean them repudiating the coalition and their role in it? Would it mean them opposing some of the policies they supported until now? And what would be the impact of that – would it win back supporters they’ve lost, or risk alienating their pro-coalition supporters too? While the departure of Nick Clegg may be a requirement for a change of direction, the big strategic question for the Lib Dems is really what attitude they take to their record in government – not which politician is voicing it.

381 Responses to “On those Lib Dem constituency polls”

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  1. It’s the sun wot promised a Newark poll. In the meantime:
    YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Labour lead jumps to seven points: CON 31%, LAB 38%, LD 7%, UKIP 16%

  2. stattsi

    “Personally, I always thought that this use of the word mare was a regional version of cow, and was generally derogatory.”

    Well, it clearly is, As I said before footy players sometimes say they had a ‘mare, which clearly means a nightmare game.

    Re the previous bit of your post, my concern is that is sensitive, intelligent people use jokes about the sexes it can then seem even more alright to the less aware.

    However, I may use all sorts of “improper” jokes in private with friends who understand and they are intended and accepted as ironic humour about prejudice – not in support of it.

  3. Where are the LibDems headed?

  4. LD collapse or post-EU returners to the Red Fold?

  5. Seven point LAB lead with YouGov… depressingly from my perspective shows that the assumptions of a smooth shift towards a CON lead of around 6 points by 2015 being put about by modellers may be wide of the mark.

    It is, of course, an odd week with much of the focus on the LDs, real voting fresh in the mind and the Queen’s Speech a week away.

  6. Top 5 list of websites Lib/dem MPs visit

    Jobcentre Plus – GOV.UK

    Career search UK.

    Famers Weekly.

  7. YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Labour lead jumps to seven points: CON 31%, LAB 38%, LD 7%, UKIP 16%
    Labour’s slogan for 2015.

    Vote for us in real elections… please… you know you want to… go on, just actually turn out & vote for us, it’ll only take a few minutes…

  8. Better news for the Tories in the Newark poll. An 8 pt lead over UKIP. As suspected this isn’t really particularly strong UKIP territory, at least relative to the more run down towns a bit further east.

  9. Cons have an 8 pt lead in the Survation Newark Poll

  10. Worth saying that the CONs are down a lot in %age terms from 2010 in Newark on that poll, but that is to be expected in a by-election.

  11. 8 point lead…doesn’t sound convincing to me!

    Anybody got the percentage figures for the parties?

  12. : Survation/Sun poll on Newark by-election – CON 36%, UKIP 28%, LAB 27%, LD 5%

  13. I always tune in about now and grateful to LizH. We really do need to await post Newark. Has there been a YG 7 for LD before?

  14. AC – people say LOL when they don’t but i did with your post above.

  15. The official title has now been changed to the “Yes Mrnameless is bothering to go to Newark this weekend” poll.

    Anyone else (from any party) also going?

  16. con 36
    ukip 28
    Lab 27

    Ld 5 or something

  17. Didn’t survation have oldham & saddle worth neck-and-neck?

  18. Sun just published @Survation Newark poll
    CON 36 -18
    UKIP 28 +24
    LAB 27 +4
    LD 5 -5
    Changes are on GE10

    The momentum is with UKIP possible that they will close the gap by next week.

  19. @MSmithsonPB

    Sun just published @Survation Newark poll

    CON 36 -18
    UKIP 28 +24
    LAB 27 +4
    LD 5 -15
    Changes are on GE10

  20. amber – sorry i bust your bubble last night, maybe it was the start of a bounce back after all?

    Need 1 or 2 more though.

    Re Slogans my favourite was a Democratic party badge acknowledging that John Kerry was not that good but at least he wasn’t GWBush.

  21. Survation tend to have UKIP on the high side, do they not?

  22. @couper2802

    Beat me to it. That does look closer for UKIP than I expected.

    The Lib Dem drop needed correcting too.

  23. Good Evening All.
    Funny YG Poll and Funny Newark Poll.

    They look like outliers.

    I am not sure what to make of the LD figure.

    Very anxious about Simon Hughes.

  24. sparkly new thread

  25. Hi Liz

    Newark sounds dreadful for Cons but with Lab and UKIP tied for second they may scrape home because the tactics of tactical voting will be hard to get right.

  26. @mrnameless

    “Anyone else (from any party) also going?”

    I’m not from any party, and I’m not going…if that helps. :))

  27. Hi Paul. Hope you are feeling better.

    Can’t wait for Newark to be over. Will give us a better idea of where all the parties are heading.

    I sense Pressman is feeling a bit despondent.


    Your discussion stirred up ancient memories in me:

    I hadn’t seen the video but I remember the story (and being pretty confused by the idea) from a comic when I was a nipper.

  29. @ Jim Jam

    amber – sorry i bust your bubble last night, maybe it was the start of a bounce back after all?

    Need 1 or 2 more though.
    3 weeks worth, according to Howard. :-)

  30. @lizh
    “I sense Pressman is feeling a bit despondent.”

    Dunno why. Tiz clear that the mega-super-duper-campaign he is involved in has worked a treat and boosted Ed’s team. That’s what he really wanted isnt it ?

  31. Ozwald

    I just feel that a chance to get after Miliband and expose divisions within Labour has been lost with the UKIP success and then the Clegg furore.

    You can see Farage dominating the debate further and taking it away from the ‘who leads’ question that we want the election to be about.

    Labour have one of the worst leaders to ever front an Opposition and he should be smashed all over the park by a sitting PM but because of an extraordinary set of circumstances electorally, he could win because so many factors are working in his favour.

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