political

The evidence that Lib Dems can still squeeze Labour in Parliamentary by-elections

Polling station sign. Photo courtesy of nilexuk on Flickr. Some rights reservedAn ability to massively squeeze third-placed Labour voters has been hugely beneficial to the Liberal Democrats in the past in Lib Dem versus Conservative contests. Are things different now there is a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government?

Evidence from council elections and council by-elections suggests it very much is still possible and in a few weeks Eastleigh will give us the first good Parliamentary by-election evidence.

In the meantime, we have some striking polling results from YouGov which are good news for both the Liberal Democrats and also those on the centre-left who would rather see Lib Dems than Tories elected. It is also therefore rather bad news for the Conservatives.

YouGov polled a national sample of people and found their current voting intentions to be Conservative 33%, Labour 41%, Liberal Democrat 11%.

Then they asked, “Imagine that political commentators and opinion polls were saying that only the CONSERVATIVE and LIBERAL DEMOCRAT parties had realistic chances of winning the by-election in your seat – how would you then vote?”.

The result: Conservative 34% (+1), Labour 23% (-18), Liberal Democrat 23% (+12).

In other words, when faced with a Lib Dem – Conservative race, a large chunk of the Labour vote switches, mostly to the Liberal Democrats and a little to a smattering of other parties. Labour voters who switch prefer the Lib Dems to the Tories by a large margin.

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4 comments
Nicola Prigg
Nicola Prigg

I broke down the preferential profile information for the ward I stood in, which is Con leaning and hasn't seen a Liberal in decades. Whilst our 1st pref count was low, 11.5% of Labour voters gave me a 2nd preference. Since there was an independent standing as well, I took the Indy out of the equation whilst the SNP/Con only gained maximum a percentage point from taking out the indy, we gained another 5% that took us to 16% of Labour voters willing to give us a 2nd pref ahead of the other parties. That being said the SNP still had the lead of 21% and Cons were stuck on 11% or so. Don't know how this changes across Scotland & obviously there is no such information for England.

Peter Reisdorf
Peter Reisdorf

I hope this is true. We haven't found it to be the case in 2011 or 2012. In fact in the neighbouring Ward to the one I used represent (I lost in 2011 to the Tories due to a rise in the Labour vote) Labour actually won last year although we used to squeeze the Labour vote to beat the Tories! A lot of Labour inclined people won't read our leaflets or even talk to us - what is it that people are doing to counter that? I'd love to know!

Iain Donaldson
Iain Donaldson

This sort of potential for switching was very evident in the second choices cast at the PCC elections where Labour voters who expressed a second preference invariably made it Lib Dem, and Tory voters who expressed a preference split roughly 1/3rd each to Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP.

Mark Pack
Mark Pack

Good point Iain. Useful data in those preferences.