Regular readers of the Blog – and anyone not a regular reader should ask themself some searching questions – will recall discussion in May of a constituency poll in Cardiff North by Lord Ashcroft. This was one of a series of detailed polls of marginal Labour-Conservative constituencies conducted by every psephologist’s favourite former non-dom.
Now, Lord Ashcroft has released findings from a series of polls conducted in a different set of constituencies – the Liberal Democrat marginals. And one of those is also a Cardiff seat – Cardiff Central. This is a seat that was captured from Labour by the Liberal Democrats for the National Assembly in 1999, and for Westminster in 2005. However, in 2011, it was narrowly re-taken by Labour for the Assembly.
The poll was conducted (by telephone) between 3-14 September, so the fieldwork is relatively recent. A full sample of 1000 voters was obtained. (This is unlike many individual constituency polls in the past, where inadequate samples have been obtained).
As with Lord Ashcroft’s previous constituency polls, a number of different figures are reported for voting intention. Probably the most important is that which asks respondents “Thinking specifically about your own parliamentary constituency at the next General Election and the candidates who are likely to stand for election to Westminster there, which party’s candidate do you think you will vote for in your own constituency?”. This question makes every effort – as much as can be made at this stage, when we don’t have final confirmation of who all the candidates will be for all the parties – to tap into constituency-specific factors. This question can certainly produce different results from that obtained by a ‘standard’ voting intention question, which simply asks “If there was a general election tomorrow, which party would you vote for?”
Lord Ashcroft’s poll gets the following figures for the main parties (weighted for likelihood to vote):
Plaid Cymru: 6%
Plaid Cymru: 9%
There was also an interesting question about levels of local contact – asking people whether any of the parties had “contacted you over the last few weeks” by various means (including leafletting and canvassing); here, the Liberal Democrats had a clear edge, with 28% of respondents reporting having been contacted by them, compared to 18% contacted by Labour, and with all the other parties unsurprisingly well behind in what looks like a clear two-horse race.
The standard voting intention question would suggest that the Liberal Democrats are completely out of contention in Cardiff Central. The more constituency-specific question gives Jenny Willott a much better chance of holding on to the seat. Nonetheless, it still puts her some way behind Labour, who must currently be considered to be the favourites to win.
One of the problems facing the Lib-Dems is captured in a further question in the poll. This asks respondents whether there are any parties that they would definitely not vote for in the general election. Among those who report voting for the Lib-Dems in 2010, fully 36% say that they definitely would not vote for them now – almost as many as say they would not vote Labour (42%). By contrast, only 11% of those who supported Labour in 2010 indicate that they would not vote for the party now. While they continue to drain away so much of their past support, the Liberal Democrats will find it hard to hold on to many of their current seats.