The detailed polling by Lord Ashcroft published today on ConservativeHome brings some encouraging news for the Liberal Democrats.
In a set of key marginals held by the Conservatives and where the Liberal Democrats were second in 2010, there has only been a modest swing to the Conservatives since May 2010.
In the eight seats polled, the Conservative Party has a lead of 8% compared to an actual lead in May 2010 of 2%. This swing of 3% is much smaller than national opinion polls show. The vote share figures are:
Conservative 39% (-2% on May 2010)
Liberal Democrat 31% (-8%)
Labour 19% (+6%)
Con lead 8% (+6%)
Points to consider when interpreting these figures:
- The seats polled were Camborne & Redruth, Harrogate & Knaresborough, Montgomeryshire, Newton Abbot, Oxford West & Abingdon, St Albans, Truro & Falmouth, Watford.
- In the party’s internal polling during previous Parliaments, the level of support in held and target seats has often fallen significantly during the Parliament before recovering sharply as the next polling day nears. On that basis, these figures are comparable with previous situations the party has been in.
- A major part of the story previously has been squeezing the third-party vote as polling day nears. Looking at these figures there is plenty of scope for squeezing the Labour Party vote, but that may be harder in 2015 than it has been in any other general election fought by the Liberal Democrats.
- In seven out of the eight seats, the Conservatives gained the seat in 2010. Therefore their new MPs should be building up personal votes based on incumbency. That makes the 2% fall look very poor for the Conservatives as their vote share has been heading in the wrong direction. However, it also means there may be more scope for the Conservative vote to increase during the rest of this Parliament.
- Despite this incumbency advantage, across the seats, people reported consistently having had more campaigning contact with the Liberal Democrats than the Tories in “the last few months” (polling was carried out in August). For example, 21% had been door-knocked by the Lib Dems compared to 16% by the Conservatives and on leafleting the Lib Dems lead 54% – 47%.
- I have taken for the voting figures the question “Thinking about your own constituency and the parties and the candidates who are likely to stand there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency at the next general election?” as, on past experience that is a better guide to marginal seats than the generalised “if there was a general election tomorrow… ” voting question. On that question the voting figures were Con 41%, Lab 26%, Lib Dem 18%.