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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    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

    Hmm interesting…probably both.

  2. Allan Christie

    “Of course I meant Labour 33% Con’s 33%”

    In today’s pantomime atmosphere, where the Ugly Sisters are squabbling over whose foot the glass slipper fits best, the only reasonable response to that is

    “Oh no, you didn’t!”


  4. Tristram Hunt denying MoS claims:

    Tristram Hunt Mp
    Just now · Twitter ·

    MoS story is total nonsense. As I made clear in a full media round on Friday, Ed Miliband is the right person to lead Labour and Britain.

  5. Richard

    That’s quite a damning article.

    Some dissident has obviously given exact quotations to the Mail, of all people. If even a word had been misquoted, a loyal Tristram Hunt would have been stating loudly “That’s not what I said.”

    Instead “Mr Hunt last night declined to comment.”

    So either the difficulties within the PLP are, in fact, severe : or the Mail has printed a tissue of lies.

    Either could be true.

  6. Catmanjeff

    That tweet from Hunt isn’t, in fact, a denial that he said what he was quoted to have said.

  7. Any yougov poll?

    Labour ahead in polls, what a load of fuss over nothing in the media. I just can’t see any party changing leader this late in the day.

  8. @Oldnat

    The situation in UK politics all round at the moment is so bizarre, it feels like being in an alternative universe.

  9. @ Hoof

    33-33… Not sure about the other parties

  10. I’ve come in after cheapo Grand Prix qualifying (Beeb highlights).

    I can’t make head or tail whether people are quoting real polls or otherwise with all this pantomime talk. Seems peculiar that Survation did a poll just after they had already done one.

  11. @ Old Nat

    “MoS story is total nonsense.”
    Tristram Hunt couldn’t be any clearer, could he?

  12. Catmanjeff

    Nothing wrong with an alternative universe!

    Hoof Hearted

    Well LiS are in the process of changing the leader of what they sometimes suggest is a “party”.

  13. @Oldnat

    Yes, well I really only posted the link to verify the Chuka poll numbers that were in question earlier and they are embedded in the story. Lets not upset Anthony by discussing who said what when.

    I found it interesting that the Tory vote share changes depending on who the Labour leader is, from 29 to 32, and Labour vote share goes from 31 to 37. It will be interesting to see happens to other parties do with each possible leader when we get the tables.

  14. I’ve come in after cheap* Grand Prix qualifying (B*eb highlights).
    I can’t make head or tail whether people are quoting real polls or otherwise with all this pant*mime talk. Seems peculiar that Survation did a poll just after they had already done one.

    Resubmitted after W*rdpress problem.

  15. ON

    Reel yourself in and have a look at what this wielding of the dagger by Hunt actually amounts to.

    “He said: ‘I never believed the answer to Labour’s problems was to show people more of Ed Miliband. It was a ridiculous idea dreamed up by his advisers who have served him badly.

    ‘It has been a complete failure. It is making things worse, not better. Ed has excellent qualities but that is not the way to show them. It is absurd.’”

    I didn’t take you for the sort to wet their pants at a ridiculously overblown Dacre headline.

  16. Amber

    Unsurprisingly Éoin Clarke ?(formerly of this parish, and an Ed supporter) had exactly the same response as I did, when he saw Hunt’s tweet –

    .”@TristramHuntMP Yes it is total nonsense, I agree. But, crucially, is it accurate? Do you deny the quotes attributed to you?”

    Reading a politician’s actual words is something I often find helpful.

  17. In previous years the levels of support the big two are getting would have been enough for a leadership challenge, but for the life of me I could not pick a better pair than we have now in EM and DC.

    That is not to say they are doing well, more like the rest are that bad.

  18. I have been wordpr*ssed so here’s another go. Are we really to believe that voters have even heard of half these people?

  19. So where are the other figures for this you gov poll?. Talk about dragging it out

  20. ON

    A) Hunt, apparently, said that the re-launch had been a disaster. Self-bleeding-evident.
    B) He said that EM has excellent qualities and had been let down by his advisers. Self-bleeding-evident.
    C) He said that the STORY in the MoS (with a screaming headline about Hunt sticking in the dagger) was nonsense. Self-bleeding-evident.

    Which of those three self-evident things are you struggling with?

  21. ON
    Good old Eoin, I miss his contributions here, especially in discussion with Rob Sheffield. Gosh -reminiscences about UKPR already.

  22. Lefty

    If you look back at my post, what I found interesting was

    1. that PLP dissidents were giving direct quotations to the Mail
    2. Hunt not denying the terms of the words attributed to him.

    I explicitly stated that the Mail being economical with the truth was not an unlikely situation.

    This site is not about the virtues or vices of particular political parties, but the effect of events on likely polling VI as well as the polls themselves.

  23. The more I re-read that MoS piece, the more it looks like another of their conditions from the “Man who hated Britain” file.

    A headline designed to frame the news agenda, followed by an article that does not in any way justify the headline.

    But it works. It’s working in some supposedly intelligent people in here.

  24. I reckon what happened is this:

    About a week ago some senior Lab figures came to Ed indirectly and said Labour’s approach had to be more of a team effort as selling EM and only EM wasn’t working.

    EM responded by giving other cabinet members the freedom to appear more regularly in the media and voice their own thoughts, and appointed someone to coordinate the massage and issue more rapid rebuttals.

    That resolved matters. Then the press got win of the earlier issues and suggested they were still ongoing. They were not.

    So I guess TH’s comment in the Mail (if true) are old hat – communicating the original criticism – which has been addressed.

  25. This is a test on the word ‘pecul*ar’.

  26. Ah got it. So now you know – don’t use that one.

  27. “Conditions” = “concoctions” a few posts back.

    Bloody iPhone

  28. LL
    Regardless of the ins and outs of this – it isn’t very interesting. If you watch politicians (you do of course) they have become so used to skating around a subject, that, even when it would be in their best interests just to be straightforward, it’s just not possible for them to do so. Their problem, with which I have some sympathy, is that if they are straightforward, they are immediately pilloried by those who have it in for them.

  29. RAF
    “and appointed someone to coordinate the massage”

    Ooh Missus.

  30. Statgeek, Anthony – thanks so much for the links.
    I dug into Anthony’s links before seeing Statgeek’s. Hopefully they are similar. I then made my simple analysis (using Anthony’s article and 2010 results), which has obvious flaws as the numbers show.
    It comes out as:
    CON: 288
    LAB: 332
    LD: 0 (!!)
    UKIP: 1
    GRN: 1
    SNP: 6
    PC: 4

    The methodology was something like this:
    – Use the stats (not actual 2010 result) to find out which proportion of electorate voted for which party in 2010. Biggest discreprancy being BNP, who got 1.3% of electorate – but only 0.5% are accounted for above). Also, make up a random split of PC+SNP into PC/SNP…
    – Use the stats to work out proportional move (rather than absolute% of electorate). E.g. LDs retain 24.3% of votes (and gain zilch), or UKIP gain 7.7% of Labs votes and 19.8% of Tories votes (the 7.7% being the 1.5% of 19.4% original Lab voters)
    – Apply this to all seats

    The two obvious shortcomings (apart from using initially skewed numbers for e.g. BNP) are:
    – Incumbency effect, most notably for LDs, who will probably not retain just 24% in seats they already hold (but may well retain less than that in seats that they don’t – as seen in some by-elections)
    – Regional variation: SNP isn’t running outside Scotland (and likewise for PC/Wales), so the 0.7% of the total UK electorate moving from Lab to SNP+PC is actually one of the biggest seismic shifts, which ought easily to move some seats)

    More about the LD: The seat they got closest to keeping was (I guess unsurprisingly) Orkney and Shetland where in 2010 the count was:
    CON: 2032
    LAB: 2061
    LD: 11989
    SNP: 2042
    UKIP: 1222
    DNV: 13739
    , which in my simple analysis would switch to become:
    CON: 2749
    LAB: 5079
    LD: 2914
    SNP: 2221
    UKIP: 3580
    GRN: 1502
    PC(!): 49
    DNV: 14990
    . so a respectable third place and just 15% points away from glorious victory…

    I’d love to finetune this model and somehow adjust for incumbency+regional effect, but I guess those kinds of models are hard to get right – at least not without a different initial dataset. Still – it’s quite instructive.
    Also, I do love one thing about the model: It doesn’t end up with crazy maths like UNS does – it ends you up at the exact some number of total voters in each constituency.

  31. @LordAshcroft: I agree with @TristramHuntMP: Mail on Sunday story is total nonsense. Ed Miliband is the right person to lead Labour and Britain. Pls RT

  32. The MoS claims that Britain’s leading polling expert (Curtis) says that the Survation poll suggests ditching Miliband would give Labour an additional 50 seats – increasing its forecast majority from 40 to 90.
    They seem to have failed to realise that means an additional 25 seats – not 50!
    Furthermore if Miliband won with a 40 seat majority (51 seat majority when you add the SDLP to the Lab benches & count out 5 Sinn Fein seats) and beat the Tories by 4 or 5% – that would be broadly comparable with Blair’s 2005 win.

  33. @ Old Nat

    I’m not that fussed about who leads the Labour Party. I voted Andy Burnham 1 & Ed Miliband 2.

    Alan Johnston is a nice chap. But I doubt he’s going to be shooed in as leader.

    And we’ve seen Tristram Hunt targeted before: In Cameron’s speech to conference no less!

  34. Oh – a few more notes:
    – The UKIP gain was actually missing data (and UKIP being the “default winner” because it gains the most from “DNK”).
    – But UKIP did come close in a few places:
    – Closest of all Buckingham, where they’d by 2.8% points from taking a seat from CON
    – Followed by the impossible Orkney (close to Lab – see previous post)
    – And then Thurrock (4.5% from Lab).
    – UKIP has three seats less than 5% points away and around 75 seats less than 10% points away.
    – Grimsby is the Lab 2010 held seat, which UKIP is closest to taking. 6% points away (Lab 11400, Con 8442, UKIP 8013 in my fictional Oct’2014 figures)
    – There was not a single CON gain from LAB, but quite a few CON from LD (33), but obviously outweighed by the abundant LAB Gain from CON (51) and LD (23)

    So this does reveal quite interesting figures (however problematic some seats certainly are), and makes me think it can’t be hard to cook up some convincing stats that would look impressive enough to talk about UKIP having some 50-100 target seats in six months.

    (I should maybe add that I’m left of Labour, so am not trying to promote UKIPs chances – I’m just fascinated by these stats now that I had a closer look)

  35. Ann in Wales

    “These labour figures who are feeding this media frenzy should have the decency to say who they are”.

    I don’t think expecting “decency”, in the normal use of the term, can ever be expected from plotters in any party at any time.

    What I find incomprehensible is that it is happening at all, 6 months out from an election.

    Back-stabbing and the pursuit of personal advancement is hardly unknown in politics, but this is being done through the media via journalist briefings.

    It seems an insane way for MPs who hope to sit on the other set of benches to behave.

  36. Long detailed piece from Survation about their results:


    with link to videos, tables etc.

  37. Old Nat,
    I quite agree.I am watching or hearing this whole business in disbelief.What on
    earth do they hope to achieve?

  38. From Survation:

    If the election was a head to head contest between David Cameron as Conservative leader and Ed Miliband as Labour leader, how would you vote?

    Vote for David Cameron – 35%

    Vote for Ed Miliband – 35%

    Would not vote for either – 22%

    Don’t know – 7%

    Obviously I must have missed all those pieces about Cameron’s leadership crisis.

  39. Frankly tonight’s polling figures are in totality better than I had expected for Labour after such a sustained and exceptional onslaught on Miliband over the past week. I don’t think that it can go on for much longer at such intensity provided that the party collectively continues to hold its nerve and doesn’t provide any real news to give it substance. There is also a limit to how far these stories can be sustained without invoking some sort of reaction from the public along the lines of empathy for Miliband from those prepared to give Labour at least the time of day. (A point which seems to have eluded Pressman.) In the circumstances 32% to 34% isn’t that bad if it’s viewed as a floor from which to try and recover the extra 2% or 3% that is all that’s needed.

  40. Roger Mexico

    Thanks for the link.

    A couple of points occurred to me as I skimmed it

    1. The right wing assumptions in Q7 that these would be “good things” or priorities – Standing up to the Unions : Reducing the level of immigration to the UK : Reforming our welfare system to reduce cost and abuse

    2. Concentrating on the views of current Labour voters as to their views of Ed. These are people who plan to vote Labour anyway. Of more value would have been the views of those who might (but don’t currently have) a Labour VI.

  41. @NottsDave

    I posted mine without reading yours but that’s an example of exactly what I meant.

  42. The last couple of postings sensible and balanced as regards EM “leadership crisis”. I agree with AW – some of the partisan postings on here recently not worthy of this site – some names I now see and simply skip and do not even bother to read any longer.

  43. The ICM poll has surfaced in the Telegraph.

    However it is not a VI poll but a Wisdom Index poll. The Tories lead Labour by 31-30.

    Do newspapers regularly publish the Wisdom Index?

  44. RAF

    Yes, the Wisdom Index appears regularly. In that article I linked to last night, there were persuasive arguments that in the context they were examining, predictions were more accurate than VI.

    Unfortunately, for those looking at them now, that really only applied to those taken a month out from polling, or later!

    So worth looking at them again in late March/early April might be useful.

  45. In these circumstances one would expect a massive closing of ranks. I think I’ve heard Ed Balls and David Blunkett make supportive noises in the last few days.

    If Burnham, Cooper, Umunna, enough shadow cabinet members and Labour officials (as well as Johnson) present a united front tommorrow that will be the end of the matter.

  46. RAF – only when it suits and opinion polls not shifting in the way they think they should have!

  47. A reporter called Giles Dilnot has tweeted –

    Tomorrow a Labour MP tells me on camera that for GE2015 “the answer isn’t more Ed for the next six months”

    Presumably that’s either a sane Lab MP saying that this nonsense can’t go on for the next 6 months, or (just possibly) a plotter raising his nostrils above the water?

  48. I should of course have included Harriet Harman in that list… she hasn’t been in the news since wearing a t-shirt.

  49. You old tease ON !

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