Lib Dems on 10% in Poll of Polls: Inaccurate by 2% which more accurate sums show

Much is made of the polls and in many ways they are important as they are a barometer to how the public are feeling about the party at the time. We can dismiss them as irrelevant or inaccurate but the reality is that if they were higher we would be using them as evidence we were doing the right thing so the reverse must also be true; just look at how UKIP are using the polls, this is not dissimilar to how Clegg portrayed it when we beat Labour in the local elections a few years ago. One of the issues with polls is the discrepancy between polling companies which shows a 5% difference in Lib Dem support. Many people then look at the poll of polls to get an average and UKpollingreport keeps a running score on its site. This is currently 10% and he has recently come out to defend this despite the party securing higher in both local elections. But there has got to be a question around the methodology to create the average which shows a depressed Lib Dem score.

“on average Liberal Democrat support has been seven points higher in local elections than what they were polling at the time. Over the same period, polls have been largely accurate in predicting Liberal Democrat support at general elections, with the exception of 2010” UKPollingReport

This is more or less true for the general election results where we see that in 2001 the poll of polls was 1.3% lower than the result, in 2005 the poll of polls was 0.2% above the result and in 2010 it was 3.3% higher. However, in Scotland the polls in 2001 were 6.1% lower than the result and in 2005 5% lower. In local elections the poll of polls have indeed been lower but in the last 10 years the gap has been closer to 5% than 7% as UKPollingReport states (even if you look at his own chart):

So let’s assume that the poll of polls is more or less accurate for a general election result and 5% lower than for local elections, the poll of polls often reports the Lib Dems on 9-10%, even on UKPollingReport’s site (today it is 10% but it often moves to 9%) when according to the election result it should be reading 11-12%. Now this may be insignificant and may even be a change in pattern now we are in government but maybe the poll of polls is depressing the Lib Dem vote?

We have had more polls in the first 2 years of this government than we have ever had in a whole term. YouGov have been particularly prolific and often report a lower score for the Lib Dems than other polling companies. However, because they release a poll nearly every day when you come to make the average this actually decreases the Lib Dem average. However, it is not an average of the polls, it is an average of the results which includes the same result many times over. An average of the polls would be to take the same number of polls by different polling companies over the same period and make an average. If you do this, and I have (using the results from the UKPollingReport site), what you find is that the Lib Dem poll of polls is 11-12%. In fact there is another poll of polls run by Electoral Calculus which is more accurate than the UKPollingReport one, which shows exactly this result.

Not that this is anything to get excited about as it is still 10% lower than we are used to in recent years but maybe it’s a straw we can try and grasp at?

Europe: If we are bold this is a chance to take 15% of Tory voters from the Tories

The Lib Dems have lost almost 50% of voters between elections only to pick up new voters to replace them. We have obviously been good at attracting new votes but not so good at retaining them. Now we are in Government it may be that this fact is our achilles heal? It is rare for a Governing party to attract new voters, let alone in significant numbers that we need. So what are we to do? Get more strategic.

The first Liberal party to be in Government that anyone can remember and we preside over a damaging position on Europe. But this gives us something to play with. We need to be more strategic over who we stand for and aggressively attract them to the party. We stand for all those in the country who want to see the UK as a strong member of the EU. We stand for those who believe in international co-operation to tackle issues which now transcend national borders. We stand for a strong EU in the world. So where are the people who believe this? Many already vote for the Lib Dems but many more vote for the Tories, Labour or the Greens. So helpfully we have a new poll which shows the views in the Tories:

Clearly those at the left end of the spectrum would fit well into the Lib Dems and they seem to match the 15% of Tory members who share Liberal Democrat concerns that there are dangers in being outside the EU’s inner group. So 15% of the Tory vote should be a direct target for the Lib Dems. We need to see some targeting of them in 2012.

So Chris Huhne’s call that the Tory right wants UK to be semi-detached member of EU was a good one. This focuses attention on the Tory position and gives legitimate fear to those who do not share this view with use of language such as ‘destroy the Union’. However, we would also be wise to take a critical stance towards the EU’s more ridiculous aspects to show that we are not anything-goes-EU plaudits.

It may be that 92% of the Tory party believe Cameron was right to use the ‘veto’ but 5% do not and 54% regard the veto as the start of Britain becoming “more detached” from the EU. This should be used to make those in the Tory party think about why they vote for the Tories. 15% of them should leave, they need to know why and where to go.


A new year – time to take stock: What Opinion Polls teach us from being in Government and what it says we should do in 2012

As we say good bye to 2011, it is time to take stock and look forward to what we need to do in 2012. As politics is all about the poll on polling day lets have a look at what we can learn from the polls since we have been in Government.

Polls are relative to the opinion poll company undertaking the poll so if you look at polls, make sure you compare like for like i.e. the same poll against the same poll. Also look at the poll that gets it right most often as a comparison to the actual vote. For this reason I use ICM and I have written about using the ICM polls to chart how we are doing here.

What we can do from historical charts is see how we are doing from a historical perspective (good poll ratings in green, poor in red):

We can then use the opinion polls since being in Government to have a look at patterns of when we are doing better and worse in the polls to see if this helps inform what we need to be doing:

I have put the events that were happening at the time next to where it happened so we can look for patterns and what we can see if this:

I’m not sure there is a distinct pattern for falling opinion polls but there are lessons. In the first year we had the budget, spending review and the tuition fees to deal with. In all of those cases the general perception was that we were ineffectual. While we know that there have been some Lib Dem gains and improvements to the proposals, the major issue in all of them was the shock at the extent of the cuts and rise in the fees. We failed to get a Lib Dem headline through the shock and we generally came across as very defensive, particularly Clegg (to be mocked for it). From February 2011 to June 2011 we were seriously attacked by the Tory machine in the run up to the referendum and elections and the extent of the cuts continued to create fear. The Lib Dems failed to show we were making a difference.

Interestingly, the attacks on the NHS reforms didn’t really give the Lib Dems a boost. Only once the issue had gone away did things start to improve. Equally, September to October saw falling poll ratings too, despite the conference. This was a relatively quiet period for the party and we failed to get many headlines which showed we were making a difference. The conference generally came over as defensive of our record (not easy, but right) and if there is anything to learn from the down periods in poll ratings it is that being defensive on our record does not work.

The upward poll ratings are more interesting. January 2011 to March 2011 saw the largest improvement in poll rating since we have been in Government yet this was perhaps the period where the leadership was least in control. Lord Oakeshott made significant criticisms of the Government and resigned from the Government. He was making regular appearances on the TV and radio and had a knack for easy one liner. At a similar time there was a lot of criticism of the cuts from local Lib Dems and Shirley Williams and others in the Lib Dems started to give serious criticism of Lansley’s NHS reforms. Together this seemed to give a sense that the Lib Dems were different from the Tories and had influence in Government – even if Clegg didn’t want them to be making these criticisms.

The phone hacking and the response to the summer riots saw the Lib Dems assert our more distinct identify which stood out from those of the Tories and from Labour, although I notice that Miliband did try and copy the Lib Dem positions (a new threat). And more recently we have seen a new assertion of Lib Dem values from vetoing the Beecroft proposals on employment law changes, attacking the eurosceptics and setting out the open society i.e. liberal society, which has benefited our poll ratings.

So what have we learnt?

  • Owning all decisions the Government makes does not work. This has been the biggest mistake we have made since the formation of the Coalition.
  • On big decisions announced by the Government, there needs to be at least one major Lib Dem concession, directly attributable to the Lib Dems, which shows our influence.
  • Asserting how we are different to other parties, including attacking the Tories, works.
  • Having the leadership attempt to control the party does not work. When other people have set out Lib Dem positions, even when it has been against Clegg, the message has got through.

So what does this mean for 2012?

  • Lib Dems should disown what we don’t like that the Government is doing.
  • Lib Dems should aggressively promote policies we have implemented.
  • Lib Dems should speak with more than one voice.
  • Lib Dems should continue to set out independent values.
  • Lib Dems should not be defensive of decisions we have had to take.

Good luck.

A poll of 5.9% in the by-election: Even putting it in context it is bad

In politics the final poll is what matters but polls can only really be understood in a context of how the party has been doing over the years. By taking a long term view of the polls we can see how one poll relates which will give us a idea of how good or bad we did in context. So this is what our polls look like in context:

The recent result in Feltham and Heston gained the Lib Dems 5.9% which in context puts us smack bang in the bottom part of the bottom part i.e. that is not good at all. I know there are many reasons for this and I know we as a party will give these reasons, some of which may make us feel better, some may not, but the bare fact of the matter is that this is not a good result, which ever way we look at it.

It was a good campaign by the Lib Dems with a good candidate and so we should see this a call to do things differently.

Is the Coalition changing the Lib Dems? Polling data shows people more confused by the Lib Dems

Is something strange going on? Nick Clegg and many others have called Ken Clarke a Lib Dem. Now Ken Clarke is calling Nick Clegg a One Nation Tory. The Tory conference didn’t ridicule the Lib Dems and Labour conference wanted to rule out a Coalition with the Lib Dems. With so many people having an opinion of the Lib Dems having now gone into Coalition, there maybe signs that the party itself is changing?

For Labour, the Lib Dems have been a left leaning political party that should really be a wing of the Labour Party. For many in the country the Lib Dems were an independent centre-left party. Labour and many on the political left have been confused by the Coalition with the Tories. If we look historically at the leanings of Lib Dem support we see that in recent years there was a tendency for the Lib Dems to favour Labour:

But you can also see that in 1983, 1987 and 1992 the Lib Dems favoured the Tories so it has not always been the case that the Lib Dems have been a left leaning political party, more of a centrist party. So have things changed back to a pre 1997 state? PoliticalBetting report that

there’s been a big change in the views of Lib Dems supporters. Back in August the split was 45%-27% in favour of the Tories/Dave. In the overnight poll that’s moved to 53%-18%.

So a hardening of the support for the Tories over Labour by Lib Dems? This could be explained by the positioning of the other parties – The closer Labour or the Tories are to the centre ground the more support for them by the Lib Dems. So when Labour moved to the left we saw people move to the centre:

When Labour moved to the centre people went with them:

So with Labour moving to the left surely this means people should be more attracted to the Lib Dems? Apparently not as we are constantly reminded everyday by opinion polls. So maybe Labour’s taunts are true – that we have moved to the right leaving people to move to Labour? If this were the case then our support would be going to Labour. In fact what has happened is that Lib Dem support has deserted in all directions:

YouGov are showing that 35% of Lib Dem voters have moved to Labour and 17% to the Tories and 11% to other parties. If this was all about political posturing then the picture would be very different. If we had moved to the right then why would 11% move to the Tories, even while we are in Government with them? Surely it can’t just be about political posturing? And this is where we need to look elsewhere to see the bigger picture

At the General Election people did not know what the Labour party stood for and people were more sure about the Lib Dems. Now we see a reversal of this trend with people saying they know what the Labour party stands for more now and the Lib Dems less. It is interesting that the Labour party vote is higher than the vote for Ed Miliband, maybe a sign they have more trust in the party and what it stands for than him? Whereas for the Lib Dems people are saying they don’t know what the Lib Dems stand for, or Clegg for that matter. The Tories have remined fairly consistent in this area and so have their poll ratings – so it maybe an important indicator?

So as attitudes in the Lib Dems change towards the Labour party, potentially due to changing in political posturing, this is being seen as a change in what the party stands for, and this is damaging. If we want to regain voters, we need to show what we stand for and that this is consistent. We need to stop talking about left/right/centre and more about values. We need to focus on a small number of topics and get the message out. We need to show people that we are consistent and we need to accept that we have not been consistent over the years.

In Praise of the FT: Finding strengths in Nick Clegg

The Financial Times write Is Nick Clegg getting back on the front foot? where they suggest that Clegg’s tactics are improving his own ratings as well as those of the Lib Dem Party:

It is all part of Clegg’s attempt to carve out more of a Lib Dem voice within the heart of government following his painful drubbing at the polls in May. And the evidence suggests that such broadsides are beginning to pay off: this month he enjoyed an uptick in approval ratings among the party, after hitting all-time lows at the beginning of the year.

More than half – 55 per cent – of his own party’s supporters are now satisfied with his performance, while the dissatisfaction ratings are also well below a third, according to figures released this week by Ipsos/Mori. At his all time low in February, 43 per cent of his supporters were dissatisfied with him.

With significant debate about the differing polls (YouGov show 9% while ICM show 17%) and political betting have a good post on this here where they conclude:

For years, as PB regulars will know, I’ve said that ICM is the “gold standard” irrespective of whether I have liked their findings or not.

Opinion Polls show Clegg leading Miliband with younger voters to get rid of this corruption

A major pillar of appeal Clegg gave the electorate at the General Election, in the shadows of the expenses scandal, was that the Lib Dems are the party to clean up British Politics. With the election of Ed Miliband he has sought to attract this vote from the Lib Dems opening up new battlegrounds between the parties. ComRes have some interesting findings on this issue worth highlighting as they are buried and have not seen much airtime.

On the face of it, the result that 8% think Clegg is the man to get rid of corruption in politics compared to 12% for Miliband and 24% for Cameron, is not good news. However, this is wholly consistent with low poll ratings of the perceived talent of the Lib Dems and confirms the general trend.

However, what is interesting is the scores of those aged 18 – 34. Following the tuition fees debacle there has been a fear that this would decimate Clegg’s ratings with the younger voters and Miliband has attempted to attract this vote throughout his leadership. Liberal Conspiracy wrote about the Lib Dem vote being lower than that for UKIP amongst younger voters earlier this year and so it is clearly a worry. Yet, now Clegg leads Miliband with 18-24 year olds and they are equal with 25-34 year olds.

While this can be as a result of so many factors it is hard to pinpoint exactly why so many younger voters still believe in Clegg, but it is still an interesting one which Clegg and the Lib Dems can build on, even in Government. While there are reports that younger people are more liberal than older people (who tend to become more conservative as they get older), this is not necessarily shown in the research.

There is limited support for the idea that voters necessarily become more conservative as they age.  Instead, most argue that much of the difference between older and younger voters should be attributed to cohort effects; people who grew up during a certain period (e.g. during the depression and WWII) are more likely to be conservative than those who grew up during a different period (e.g. post-WWII affluence)

Therefore, these younger voters are indeed vital to a full scale re-emergence of Liberal Britain.


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