by Atul Hatwal
Important new analysis from YouGov today. Peter Kellner has looked at all of YouGov’s polls across January – a sample of over 37,000 voters – and crunched the numbers to understand the shifts in voting intention for those who voted in 2010.
This is important because it gives a good idea of the core support for a party and the volatility of the electorate.
For Labour, the common refrain is that our core support is near the level of the vote at the last election. Last year, Marcus Roberts at the Fabians produced an interesting analysis which exemplified this view – he pitched Labour’s core vote at 27.5%.
Around the same time, Uncut commissioned some YouGov polling which found that Labour had lost 26% or just over 1 in 4 of its 2010 vote. Today’s findings from YouGov confirm this figure.
This places Labour’s core vote at 21.5%. The Fabian analysis suggests generational churn (e.g. older Tory voters dying and younger Labour voters coming into the electorate) could add roughly 2% to Labour’s core total, but even allowing for this, a Labour core vote of 23.5% does not set the party up for victory.
In fact, if all other elements of the Fabians analysis were proved to be correct (and this includes a debatable target of attracting an extra 3% of support from the ranks of non-voters ), the absolute maximum Labour could hope for at the next election would be 35.5%.
If this is the ceiling, its not difficult to see a potential, even likely, outcome where Labour posts a result in the low 30s.
Today’s YouGov figures do not contain much cheer for the other parties either. The Tories have lost 36% of their 2010 vote while the Lib Dems have been hit by the defection of 73% of their vote at the last election.
In the main race between Labour and the Tories, these figures mean the Tories have a higher core vote than Labour.
Applying the defection rate to the Tories 2010 total gives a core vote of 23%, 1.5% ahead of Labour. It could well be that the generational churn identified by the Fabians evens out this Tory advantage, but in terms of actual voters who participated at the last election, YouGov’s analysis shows us that the Tories have a clear core vote lead.
As Peter points out in his commentary, these findings do not necessarily reflect the outcome of the next election. The level of movement in voting intention suggests all is still to play for in an extremely volatile electorate. For example, the high level of 2010 Lib Dem voters who now describe themselves as “Don’t Knows” – 1 in 5 fall into this category – suggests there is a route back for Nick Clegg’s party if they can persuade enough of these former voters, in their key seats, to return to the fold.
But, the figures on the parties’ core vote shares do give us a good idea of the starting point for each party. And for Labour, this is further back than many had thought.
Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut