A Timely Reform by Ian Ridley

Blog & web site of Ian Ridley

The Questions Newsnight Didn’t Ask

2010 UK Electoral MapNewsnight are having their fun with a Comres Poll showing that 40% of people who voted Lib Dem on May 6th would not vote for them now. That’s a loss of about 2.7 million votes.

What they don’t ask is how many Tory, Labour and “stay at home” voters would have switched to the Lib Dems if they’d known that they would not have been a “wasted vote” come May 7th.

The Poll gives some clues. 14% of Tory voters would not have voted Tory. That’s 1.4 million votes. I can’t believe many of those would have gone to Labour so most of these would have gone to smaller parties or the Lib Dems.

There is also an unknown number of people who didn’t vote that may have voted Lib Dem if they had known the party would be in government after the election. Again we don’t know because Newsnight didn’t ask that question.

And yes there will be some Lib Dem supporters who voted Labour on May 6th because they thought a Lib Dem vote was a wasted vote. Would these people have voted Lib Dem if they had known that the result would be a Con/ LD coalition? You might think it unlikely but again there is no Newsnight polling data.

The Lib Dem vote is always susceptible to “churn” – changes in who votes Lib Dem from election to election, largely due to variations in how well the local campaigns go and what media coverage the party can secure. Because the Lib Dems get fewer votes than Labour or the Tories, any loss is magnified.

For example if 40% of Lib Dem voters switched to the Tories – 2.7 million votes, the party would only need to get 25% of  Tory voters to switch back to recover their losses.

It may well be that the Lib Dems have lost voters since May 6th. No-one said being a junior member of a coalition would be easy. There are several things that the government is doing that I disagree with and no doubt other Lib Dem supporters feel the same.

However, it seems that Newsnight were only interested in whether Lib Dem voters have been put off by the coalition. They did not consider if the party has become more attractive to voters from other parties and none.

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