9 September 2013

A different perspective on the polls

Ballots & Bullets is the blog produced by members of the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham. They recently posted their 28th analysis of UK political opinion polling, Too Early to Tell Outside the Westminster Bubble. In essence, the point they are making is that whatever the “Westminster Village”, as they call the commentariat, may have been saying about the fortunes of the parties, there was no significant change in the poll data in August:
The shortcomings of “Westminster Village” groupthink have been amply on display this summer , The prevailing narrative of the summer was that Labour was divided and weakly led, and that this was harming them with the voters, a judgement which had little basis in the polling evidence. The Syrian crisis has produced a new rush to judgement in the Village, with journalists of differing political persuasions declaring it a death blow for David Cameron, Ed Miliband or both. But in reality it has not changed the political weather outside Westminster much, nor is it likely to. Most voters were against the Syrian intervention, and therefore happy that it is not proceeding. The average voter packing up her barbeque and preparing her kids for the new school year knows little, and cares less, about the obtuse arguments about motions, amendments and Parliamentary authority which have so excited the Villagers. Their judgement about the two leaders’ apparently disastrous performances has been an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. In the latest figures from the Polling Observatory, we have seen virtually no change since the start of August. …
And this is the chart, “pooling together all the available polling evidence” they published to illustrate their point:

I happened to be reading this post on my iPad, so selecting the chart enlarged it nicely to full-screen. Keeping the iPad horizontal and rotating it by 90 degrees anticlockwise, gave a perspective more like this, but better:

It looked to me as though there were two axes of near-symmetry: the brown one between the Lib Dem and Labour levels of support and the grey one between the Conservative and UKIP levels.  If so, it could be interpreted as Labour’s rise in the polls since 2010 being gained largely at the Lib Dem’s expense and similarly UKIP picking up mostly Tory votes. Of course, some people who voted Lib Dem or Labour may have moved to UKIP, and some Conservative voters to the Lib Dems, but I would be amazed if there were that many.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that Ed Miliband wanted nothing to do with Syria, given the dislike among Lib Dems (erstwhile Labour voters possibly) of the UK’s previous involvement in Iraq. And the Tories have made no secret of their intention, with the encouragement of Lynton Crosby (reportedly no admirer of the commentariat) to go after UKIP.

I continue to think that a sustained economic recovery in the next couple of years is the biggest risk to Labour’s chances in 2015. But it will have to come in a form which encourages disillusioned 2010 Lib Dem voters to return to their fold – difficult, or UKIP enthusiasts to go back to the Tories – less so. Neither may be sufficient to produce the lead which the Tories require to form a majority.

It was Osborne’s inheritance tax proposal which wrecked Labour’s plan to call an election in 2007, as discussed here before (towards the end of this rather long post). I wouldn’t be surprised to see this particular carrot reappear before 2015 in view of its attractiveness to the UKIP age group. The headline to Kellner’s comment that UKIP voters are poorer than Tories derives from a smaller proportion having household income less than £40k per year. But for the age group (71% over 50, as opposed to 46% of all electors) many will be pensioners who have lower incomes but will have acquired capital, primarily in the form of housing.

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