For the first time there are now two Kippers for every Lib Dem
You might expect that the polls for the first month after the Euro-elections would show a drift of support back to the main three Westminster parties, as UKIP and the minor parties receded in media and campaigning prominence. If so, you’d be wrong. The June figures, with changes on May are:
Lab 34.3 (+0.6), Con 31.4 (-0.1), UKIP 15.8 (+0.8), LD 7.9 (-1.5)
All three parties are again at or near their lows for the parliament adding to the evidence of a deep lack of enthusiasm for any of the established parties. Labour may take a little comfort from their increase but only a little: May was the first month since Miliband’s election that Labour’s average fell below 35%; June, though a little better, is now the second. The Tories meanwhile continue to flatline at around 31.5%, with June’s figures firmly within that trend.
By contrast, the big mover of the month is the Lib Dems. Unfortunately for them, it’s the wrong way. Prior to June, they’d never recorded a monthly average lower than 9%. Now, they’ve not only breached that benchmark but the 8% one too. That’s come about because of a whole series of poor polls, including equal or outright lows for the parliament with YouGov, Opinium, ComRes, ICM, Populus, Survation and TNS BMRB.
The question is whether this is a blip or a genuine step-change. While the most dramatic fall in Lib Dem support occurred in 2010, it’s been followed by a very slow but very steady decline in the three years since then too, with their rating dropping at about 0.05% per month. Indeed, so steady has been the erosion that such a trend, starting in June 2011 tracks their six-month rolling average almost exactly. If this June’s figure is not atypical, then that trend has ended and there’s been a sudden big drop.
My own view is that all or most firms are under-polling the Lib Dems by not picking up sufficiently on areas of local strength. We know that the Yellows poll better when people are reminded to think of their own constituency, something many people will do come polling day but are not necessarily doing at the moment. With their national baseline now so low, that difference has a real effect on the implications of the overall figures: 8% is just not enough votes to go round to hold many of the Con-LD seats, never mind Con-Lab or Scottish ones; 11% might be if local factors are strong enough. That said, the month-to-month changes in vote share should be reliable.
On the other side of the equation, UKIP continued to put on support, recording their second-best ever month and their best ever single poll, 23% with TNS BMRB (a firm not included in the pbc average). A little of that may be the afterglow of the elections but if so, it’s in contrast to 2012 and 2013, when the UKIP share declined in both Junes (and by nearly 2% last year).
Similarly, the implied figure for Others has hit a new high for the parliament for the second month running, up from 10.4% to 10.6%. Of itself, that’s a small change but it does confirm that last month’s jump wasn’t a one-off and suggests that there’s a deeper effect being felt than just election season and voter awareness.
The overall picture seems to be one where many more voters than normal are unenthusiastic about all the options on offer. Will that lead to a low turnout, will hostility to one prompt a grudging tactical vote for another, or are we about to see an unprecedented shift away from the Westminster parties? There’s evidence to support all three possibilities, though they’re mutually contradictory. But the system is under tremendous stress and it would not take much more to break it.