Opinion polling, leaflets, podcasts and the general election: LDN #132

Liberal Democrat Newswire #132 came out at the start of the week. You can now read it in full below, but if you’d like the convenience of getting it direct by email in future just sign up for it here.

Dr Mark Pack's Liberal Democrat Newswire - email header


This edition of Liberal Democrat Newswire takes a look at how the Liberal Democrat election campaign is going. Of course, the final result will depend not only on progress so far but also what happens between now and the close of polls. Lib Dem supporters can help influence that with these links:

The count for the Party President election, by the way, will be held after the general election.

Happy reading,


In this edition:

Jo Swinson being interviewed by the media on the Lib Dem general election bus - photo copyright John Russell johnrussell.zenfolio.com
Jo Swinson being interviewed on the Lib Dem general election bus. Photo copyright John Russell.

How is the Lib Dem campaign going?

A good starting point to answer that is the big YouGov/MRP election poll, released last week showing the Lib Dem vote share doubling compared with 2017 but the party’s seat tally only going up by one.

Here are five key points about that finding…

1. It’s only one poll and this particular MRP model has only been used in one previous general election. That said, it’s a big poll, the overall voting intentions are in line with other polls and the one time this MRP model was tried before, it got things spectacularly right.

2. The more detailed figures are also generally plausible – such as the Conservatives winning over Leave voters but shedding some Remain voters. How detailed though can MRP get with specific constituencies? Here’s my rule of thumb (which Ben Lauderdale, one of the brains behind this MRP model tweeted his agreement with):

My super-rough rule of thumb is to look at the average sample size in each seat (about 130 in this case); see how many multiples you need to get up to 1,000 (8 in this case); and then concluded that if a factor is present in that many seats then MRP should be able to cope.

— Mark Pack 🔶🎒 (@markpack) November 28, 2019

There’s definitely a difference in what Liberal Democrats think is happening in some areas (backed up by constituency polling results) and what the YouGov/MRP data shows. But given these margins of error for very specific local circumstances in such MRP analysis, it’s possible both that and the constituency polls will turn out to be right.

3. Overall, the picture shows the problem the Liberal Democrats face in starting first-past-the-post elections with such a small core vote compared with other parties. It makes the party far more prone to being squeezed, as I warned about before the election.

The big challenge for the party is to start future elections with a larger core vote.

Even so, the party is on double the level of national support than last time, though this turns into only one extra seat thanks to first-past-the-post.

Interestingly, one point John Curtice made when I did a podcast alongside him last week was that he thought the Liberal Democrat manifesto, or at least the way the party is promoting its contents, does not do enough to emphasis the other distinctively liberal aspects of the party’s position in addition to Brexit.

4. However, in several dozen seats the current vote shares – Conservatives ahead, Liberal Democrats not that far behind, large Labour vote still in play – are of the sort that, in a Parliamentary by-election this far out from polling day, would make you think the Lib Dems have an excellent chance of winning. Particularly because when the tactical vote squeeze works really well, it often also happens late in such a campaign. But will this general election play out like a series of Parliamentary by-elections? (2015 of course, very notably didn’t.)

For Liberal Democrat supporters, of course, the way to help make that answer to be ‘yes’ is to double-down on helping in target seats.

Overall, the MRP model puts the Liberal Democrats in first or second place in 134 seats compared with 50 in the 2017 general election.

5. The MRP results are not a prediction of the general election result for two reasons. First, they are based on what the public was saying at the time of the polling rather than a projection forward to what the public will do. But also, second, parties, candidates and voters can react to the results and change what they do.

In particular, it’s worth noting that Labour is planning to emphasise it is offering a route for Britain to leave the EU while Conservative Remainers may now be less worried about the prospect of Prime Minister Corbyn. That, in turn, could change people’s support for parties and so change the election result.

Jo Swinson being filmed on a smartphone - photo copyright John Russell johnrussell.zenfolio.com
Jo Swinson being filmed on a smartphone. Photo copyright John Russell.

How does the Lib Dem campaign look to those outside the party?

Stephen Tall and I discussed all this in greater length in the latest episode of the podcast Never Mind The Bar Charts, which you can listen to here.

The Lib Dem election campaign was also covered in two other podcasts I did last week:

  • The UK in a Changing Europe: “In this episode, we are joined by Professor Sir John Curtice, senior fellow at The UK in a Changing Europe, Mark Wallace, executive editor of ConservativeHome, Sienna Rodgers, editor of LabourList and Mark Pack, editor of the Liberal Democrat Newswire with podcaster James Millar. They discuss all things elections and Brexit including emerging trends and changes in the polls, impact of the manifestos and TV debates and the state of the political parties.”
  • CapX: “With the general election just two weeks away we wanted to get the inside track from three party political experts on how their side’s campaign has gone so far, and what they expect to happen on December 12. From the Lib Dems we welcomed Mark Pack, the Editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire. From Labour, Sienna Rodgers, the Editor LaboutList, and completing the line-up was the regular CapX contributor and Assistant Editor of ConservativeHome, Henry Hill.”

📱 Find Never Mind The Bar Charts on Twitter, give feedback and send in questions for future shows at @barchartpodcast.

🎧 You can also find Never Mind The Bar Charts on AcastAnchorBreaker, Google Podcasts, iTunes, Overcast, Pocket Casts, PodBean, RadioPublic, Spotify and Stitcher.

Liberal Democrat Newswire is provided for free. Thank you so much to all the kind readers who donate to help cover its costs. It’s quick and easy to sign up for a small regular donation with your debit card using GoCardless:
Thank you! (Other donation options, including by PayPal or cheque, are here.)

Tom Brake and Siobhan Benita pick up coffee lessons on the campaign trail - photo copyright John Russell johnrussell.zenfolio.com
Tom Brake and Siobhan Benita pick up coffee lessons on the campaign trail. Photo copyright John Russell.

Key election snippets

🔶 The full Liberal Democrat manifesto, including costings, is out. You can buy a printed version here.

🔶 That manifesto is more generous to the poorest than either the Conservative or even the Labour manifesto – so says the Resolution Foundation.

🔶 Two Liberal Democrat party political broadcasts are out – one about Jo Swinson’s background and one about the impact of Brexit on people across the country.

🔶 Quite the range of former Conservatives are now backing the Liberal Democrats in various forms: a Conservative peer, a former Conservative MP, a former Conservative MEPa former Conservative minister, another former Conservative minister – a trade expert no less, and even a former Conservative Deputy Prime Minister.

🔶 But there’s support too from other political viewpoints, including one of the most famous figures of the New Labour eratwo well-known TV presenters and a famous actor turned campaigner. The Women’s Equality Party has also stood down in favour of the Lib Dems in some seats and the founder of the Renew Party is now a Liberal Democrat candidate.

You don’t have to wait a month for the next Liberal Democrat Newswire email for further news and resources. You can check out the other email lists I run at www.libdemnewswire.com and you can also find online my guides to canvassing and leafleting, my guide to what the Lib Dems believe and my collection of online campaigning tools and resources.

Waterside Focus leaflet - photo courtesy of ALDC

No, you’re not getting too many leaflets

In case you missed them the first time around, here are highlights from my websites since last time:

⭐ Q. Are we delivering too many leaflets? A. No, and here’s why…

The very different reactions of Remainers and Leavers to Jo Swinson.

What will the impact of the late surge in electoral registration be?

Caroline Voaden is the new leader of the Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Antoinette Sandbach goes full Liberal Democrat.

📺 Media has a fair share of the blame for fake news about ITV election debate.

How political pundits are ignoring a third of people.

🚪 10 ways to get more people canvassing.

What the voters are saying, part 1

Latest national voting intention polls as of 1 December 2019

For all the constituency opinion polls, see my round-up here.

To get updates about voting intention opinion polls, sign up for Polling UnPacked.

To see all the historical trends for voting intention polls back to 1943 see PollBase.

What the voters are saying, part 2

Only three weeks of by-elections since last time, but plenty of seats changing hands:

🗳️ Lib Dems gain two seats from Conservatives in England but miss out on Scottish gain by two votes.

🗳️ Strong Conservative showing in this week’s council by-elections.

🗳️ Liberal Democrats gain council seat from Conservatives with huge swing.

Outside of elections, Liberal Democrats in Derby picked up a new councillor from the Conservatives.

To get the full council by-election results every week, sign up for my blog posts digest and to be prepared for a council by-election in your patch, see my 7-step guide to getting ready in advance.

@goknockdoorsld tweet about Lib Dems not always holding posters the right way up

Other Liberal Democrats in the news

Layla Moran warns of Brexit brain drain as EU academics quit.

Ed Davey calls out Boris Johnson as possibly ‘most untruthful’ PM of all time.

Dominic Raab’s Lib Dem challenger warns him: “We Are Going To Win”.

Thank you for reading

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Best wishes,


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