Polling in ‘peacetime’

Joe TwymanHead of Political and Social Research (EMEA)
December 01, 2010, 8:23 PM GMT+0

Over recent polls, voting intention figures have fluctuated slightly but generally remain around our most recent result: 40% for both Labour and the Conservatives with 10% for the Liberal Democrats and other parties combined.

In political polling we sometimes (semi-jokingly) refer to the period outside election campaigns as ‘peacetime’ – as opposed to the ‘wartime’ footing we adopt during the weeks leading up to polling.

The election itself provides an irrefutable measure of who won the war but, when continuing the military analogy, there is always the question of who is winning the peace. The continual stream of voting intention and government approval ratings that our daily polling gives helps us provide an answer, both with respect to short-term fluctuations and also longer-term trends.

Clearly when taken in isolation there is no obvious winner of the peace between the Conservatives and Labour as it currently stands. However, when these figures are considered with reference to the election result the story can be interpreted differently.

  • Based on yesterday’s data the Labour share of the vote, for example, has increased by 10% compared to the election result from May.
  • The Conservatives too have managed an increase over the same period, though only a more modest 3%.
  • The share of the other parties, meanwhile, has remained constant at 10%.
  • In contrast, a figure of 10% for the Liberal Democrats is less than half the 24% the party managed at the polls.

Based on such an analysis many would conclude that currently Labour are the big winners and the Liberal Democrats are the big losers.

But as Harold Wilson (pictured) famously remarked, ‘a week is a long time in politics’. We will have many ‘long times’ before we know who has truly won the peace.

See the survey details and latest full results