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The minor parties – A quiet consolidation?

April 27th, 2014

Election analysis by Corporeal

The long term trend through the seven European parliament elections we’ve had since 1979 is the growth of minor parties. Even with the rise of UKIP the level of dominance of the vote share by the parties in the top two, three, or four positions is in long term decline.

Or at least it has been, the most recent opinion poll ratings suggest that this trend will be broken with a sharp jump upwards (I’ve used the most recent ICM poll, but the figures are similar in polls from other companies and have been quite consistent for some time now).

We have an unusual wealth of polling for this particular European election cycle, for the 2009 elections the first poll was conducted on the 8th of January 2009, with regular polling beginning a month before polling day. For the 2014 elections the first poll was on the 5th of January 2013, a full year further out, and the regular polling has also started much earlier. This increase is an early sign of how much the profile of the European elections has risen, amongst the poll commissioning classes at least. I have also looked for polling done in the run-up to the 2004 election and struggled to find more than a couple (it is entirely possible I have missed some polls, but I think the level of difference is sufficient to demonstrate the point).

So what we have is two separate sets of polling, the near election polling of 2009 and the further out polls of 2014. Here I’ve dated each poll by the last day of their fieldwork and the number of days between that and the election date in order to overlay them. I’ve used the aggregate polling for the parties in 5th place and lower, but the numbers for 4th and lower, or 3rd and lower show very similar trends (day 0 is the actual election result).

The dull and sensible answer is we lack the comparative data to say whether 2014 will see a repeat in the rise of the minor parties, but it is at least something to consider. If we don’t see a rise by election day then it will be a decades-long trend being bucked and a possible reversal of the vote fragmentation that’s been happening.

I’ve tried and failed to find any betting markets implicated by this, so I can only offer it as an interesting talking point for use when chatting with friends and family about the European elections (use at your own risk).