Is Alex right about the “system bias” towards Labour?

Is Alex right about the “system bias” towards Labour?


Do the Tories really need a 10 point margin?

A couple of weeks ago alex posted this on a thread during a discussion about the much talked about “bias to Labour” in the electoral system – something that has become more relevant with the hung parliament talk.

He wrote:-“..the claims for “bias” are based on the theory..that the Conservatives need a 10% lead for an outright majority whereas Labour only need to be about level. Confusing cause and effect. That is what tends to happen to opposition parties when they are extremely unpopular (and the effect is made much worse because almost all LibDem seats are in areas of Conservative strength). It is quite likely IMO that after the next election the situation will look somewhat more even..”

Alex might have a point for the “most disliked party” tag seems to have moved from the Tories to Labour.

Thus in the latest ICM poll twice as many of the respondees said they would be “disappointed” or “angry” as said they would be “pleased” or “excited” when this was put. “Imagine it is the morning after the General Election and you wake up to find that Gordon Brown and the Labour Party are to form a government. Do you feel…?

Similar polling ahead of the 1997. 2001 and 2005 elections found that the overwhelming mood was against the Tories and there was a lot of negative voting. This is where many voters chose in their constituencies to back not their first choice party but the option that would stop another party winning.

One study just as the 2005 campaign was coming to a close found that one in ten of those voting Labour had another party as their first choice – but had switched to Blair’s party for negative reasons in their specific constituencies.

Will that segment do the same again or are we going to see a “negative vote unwind” from at least some of the voters?

It does not require much of an unwind effect and much negative voting against the government for a whole batch of marginals to become more vulnerable. So we could see a sort double whammy which would play havoc with the seat predictions

The big challenge is how we measure this affect. Some of this will be showing in the polls already but my guess is that people only start to think about what they will do in their specific seats when it’s quite close to the election. For the essence of negative voting is that it’s local and seat-specific and the constituencies most likely to be affected are the marginals.

Mike Smithson

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