The Boris bounce: where are the votes coming from, and where might more be available?
As you’d expect on the Sunday after a new Prime Minister takes office, there are a raft of new polls out in today’s newspapers, each trying to judge what impact Boris Johnson’s arrival in Downing Street is having on the electorate.
The four polls vary in various details beyond being from different pollsters – some include different lists of parties (Greens or no Greens), some are based on more recent fieldwork than others and might therefore pick up the effects of more news about the new Government, and they each test rising or falling vote shares by comparing back to differently dated previous polls, ranging from earlier this week to all the way back to the start of June. Here are all the details:
Conservative: 28 per cent (+3)
Labour: 27 per cent (-1)
Liberal Democrat: 19 per cent (+2)
Brexit Party: 16 per cent (-3)
Green: 4 per cent (-1)
Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Thursday 25th July. Changes compared to 16th July.
Conservative: 31 per cent (+6)
Labour: 21 per cent (+2)
Liberal Democrat: 20 per cent (-3)
Brexit Party: 13 per cent (-4)
Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 24th July.
Conservative: 30 per cent (+10)
Labour: 25 per cent (-1)
Liberal Democrat: 18 per cent (+2)
Brexit Party: 14 per cent (-10)
Poll undertaken Thursday 25th July – Saturday 27th July. Changes compared to 1st June.
Conservative: 30 per cent (+7)
Labour: 28 per cent (+3)
Liberal Democrat: 16 per cent (+1)
Brexit Party: 15 per cent (-7)
Green: 5 per cent (-3)
Poll undertaken Wednesday 24th – Friday 26th July. Changes compared to 5th July.
There are few things to note.
First, the Conservative vote is up in each poll. Which you believe, +3, +6, +7 or +10, is up to you, but the presence of a shift in the same direction in the findings of each company is hard to ignore.
Second, the Brexit Party appears to be being squeezed, with changes in their vote share of -3, -4, -10 and -7. Watch how closely those match the Tory rise in each respective pollster’s results.
Third, the Liberal Democrat vote is essentially unchanged across the board: +2, -3, +2, +1. They gained a new leader this week, just as the Conservatives did, but Jo Swinson appears not to have changed their standing much at all as yet.
Fourth, Labour is essentially unchanged, too: -1, +2, -1, +3.
So what we’re currently seeing is not a single, two-sided race, as is traditional; nor a simple free-for-all melee in a country which has become a four-way marginal.
Rather, there are two electoral contests underway. The Conservatives under Boris Johnson are squeezing the Brexit Party, to try to reunite the old Vote Leave majority for getting out of the EU. At the same time, Labour and the Liberal Democrats are battling over territory which is varyingly lefty and Remainy.
In the former contest, Johnson’s early days show some promise, but in the latter it appears Labour are unable to win back the votes they lost to the Lib Dems, while Swinson is in search of a moment to cut through to further eat into, and maybe even overtake, the Labour vote.
Each race has one new participant within it, which makes both unpredictable and subject to potentially swift change as voters get to know the new leaders. While the Conservatives have made early progress, any actual seizure of voters from the Brexit Party at the ballot box is for obvious reasons dependent on actual results in delivering Brexit. By contrast, Swinson inevitably had difficulty cutting through in the media in a week dominated by Boris Johnson, but as the only female leader among the four top parties, and the youngest leader too, she has a clear chance to differentiate herself if she gets and seizes the opportunity. She must be hoping hard for a TV debate along the lines of the one that created Cleggmania in 2010.
The final thing to consider is that while these early stages of Johnson’s leadership involve a battle for votes with the Brexit Party, there’s nothing confining the Prime Minister to that conflict forever. If – and it’s not a small if – he can really squish down Nigel Farage’s vote, or somehow form a pact with him, then he can turn, secure in his Brexit flank, to focus more fully on Labour. The nightmare scenario for the Opposition is one in which they lose Remainer and moderate left ground to the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Leaver plus working class ground to the Conservatives.
In a four-way contest, currently divided into two skirmishes, the race is on to find who will be trapped fighting two opponents at the same time.