Labour overtake the combined ConDem vote share for the first time

For the first time since the 2010 General Election (in any of the 234 polls published by an established polling company), a poll has shown Labour overtaking the combined Lib-Con vote share.

Tim Horton is Research Director of the Fabian Society

Something interesting has happened in today’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times. For the first time since the 2010 General Election (in any of the 234 polls published by an established polling company), a poll has shown Labour overtaking the combined Lib-Con vote share.

YouGov’s topline results are: Con 35%; Lab 45%; Lib Dem 9%; Others 11%.

In other words: ConDems 44%-45% Labour

As YouGov’s Anthony Wells regularly points out, any one poll could be an outlier, and we should wait and see if these figures are reflected in subsequent polls or not. But, as the graph below shows, this does seem to be the logical continuation of a trend since the General Election, of steady movement away from the coalition parties and towards Labour.

Labour and the ConDems have been neck-and-neck once before (in an Angus Reid poll on January 28th 2011), but this is the first time Labour have edged ahead. At the other extreme, in the coalition’s honeymoon period, Labour were 33 percentage points behind the ConDem share in an Opinium poll from June 4th 2010 which had the ConDems on 61% (Con 42%; Lib Dem 19%) and Labour on 28%.

Over the last nine months, attention has focused on the fluctuating levels of support for each of the coalition parties, with initial attention on the collapse of the Lib Dem vote, and then more recently on a stabilisation of the Lib Dem vote at around 10% and the beginnings of a decline in the Conservative vote share.

But, as the graph shows, underneath this churning, the shift in opinion from pro-Government towards pro-Opposition has been relatively steady throughout.

‘Others’ have also seen a small increase, from the 7-10% range after the General Election to the 10-13% range from around December onwards, with UKIP or the Nationalist parties usually benefitting, depending on which pollster you look at.

I think there is some merit in looking at the combined Lib-Con vote share, relative to Labour, as a measure of political attitudes. Given that those former Lib Dem voters who feel betrayed have already abandoned the party, it is unsurprising that polls show those remaining with the Lib Dems are much more sympathetic to the Tories than to Labour.

Similarly, with Nick Clegg now reciting CCHQ attack lines in a way Andy Coulson could have only dreamed of, it is perhaps unsurprising that many Tory voters have become more sympathetic to the Lib Dems than they once were. So it may become increasingly relevant to look at the combined vote share.

We saw this dynamic in practice with the tactical voting in the Oldham East by-election last month. While any one constituency, like Oldham, may differ from the national polling picture, the Oldham result did show a remarkable consistency with the national picture when analysed in terms of the combined Lib-Con share.

Labour won with 42.1% (+10.2 on the 2010 election); the combined Lib-Con total was 44.7% (-13.3 on 2010). The swing from Lib-Con to Lab was therefore 11.8%, which is pretty much what the national polls were showing in mid-January.

Of course, only time will tell whether this is a useful metric or not. But in the meantime, Labour can be happy at having passed another polling milestone.

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