Thursday, September 19, 2013

A polling analogy: 2001-05 and 2010-15

Robert Ford, Will Jennings and Mark Pickup discuss the habit of drawing analogies between the next election and previous ones. They mention 1992 and 1983 as options but they don’t seem convinced. And quite right, too: no analogy is perfect and all sorts of things could still change between now and 2015.

But I’d suggest a partial analogy between the current parliament and 2001–05, although with roles reversed.

  • At first, the public gave the government the benefit of the doubt but without a huge amount of enthusiasm. (In 2001 this was because Blair had already had his honeymoon; in 2010 Cameron had a much smaller and shorter honeymoon.)
  • Satisfaction with the government gradually fell, although this didn’t lead to a significant swing between Labour and Conservative.
  • One big event caused a big swing between Labour and Lib Dem. (After 2001, this was the Iraq war; in 2010, it was the coalition deal. And of course the direction of this swing has reversed.)

  • In 2001, Labour had a huge majority; they could afford to lose ground and still win the next election. Now, the Conservatives don’t have a majority and need to gain ground. In fact, they need to gain ground relative to Labour – which the swing from the Lib Dems makes even harder.
  • UKIP are also making life much harder for the Conservatives than Respect did for Labour in 2005. Yes, UKIP have taken support from all other parties and yes, some of that support will return home. But the biggest share of UKIP support has come from the Conservatives and some of that will stay UKIP

So while the dynamics of the two parliaments may have quite a bit in common, the end result – the government re-elected – is a lot less likely this time.