Published:


AshcroftLord Ashcroft KCMG, PC.

The
day after a by-election it rarely helps to panic. Neither does it help to
speculate about who voted for whom, or why. To avoid the need to do so,
yesterday I polled people in the Eastleigh constituency after they had cast
their vote. The sample of 760 is inevitably smaller than usual, given the time
constraint, and though it is not politically weighted in the usual way it is a
fair representation of those who voted.

This
is what I found.

Only
51% of those who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 did so again yesterday. They
were heavily supported by 2010 Labour voters, 23% of whom voted for Mike
Thornton. Only half of 2010 Labour voters turned out for John O’Farrell.

The
Conservatives turned out a higher proportion of their own 2010 voters (59%)
than Labour or the Lib Dems. Just over a fifth (22%) of those who voted Tory at
the last general election voted for Diane James; perhaps more surprisingly,
just under a fifth (19%) of 2010 Liberal Democrats did so too.

UKIP’s
claim towards the end of the campaign that they were enjoying a late surge is
borne out by the fact that nearly a third of their voters (31%) made up their
minds in the last week – indeed nearly a fifth (18%) decided on the day. This
also helps to explain the bump in their support since my final pre-election
poll
, taken last weekend.


Our
question on why people voted as they did suggests a high proportion of the UKIP
voters wished a plague upon all parties’ houses: 83% of them said they were
sending a message that they were “unhappy with the party I usually support
nationally”, and three quarters wanted to show they were “unhappy with all the
main parties at the moment”. Notably, the proportion saying they voted UKIP
“tactically to try and prevent another party from winning” (40%) was nearly as
high as the proportion among those who voted Lib Dem (43%).

While
the great majority of those who voted Tory said they had done so because the
party had the best candidate locally, the best leader nationally, and were the
party they wanted to win the next election, for Lib Dem voters having the “best
candidate locally” was by far the most important factor.

The
single most important issue for Lib Dem voters was local services. 26% of them
said this unprompted (which is exactly 26 times the proportion of UKIP voters
who said the same). Housing and planning issues were next for Lib Dems.
Conservatives were more motivated by the economy, with housing and planning
also second. For UKIP voters, immigration and the EU were the only issues to
register.

As
people ought to know by now, a by-election is not necessarily a good guide to
the next general election. Only 43% of Lib Dem by-election voters said they
expected to vote for the party again in 2015. 13% would go back to Labour, 7%
would move to the Tories and a third didn’t know.

Ten
per cent of those who voted UKIP yesterday said they would probably vote
Conservative in 2015. And to look at it from a different angle, ten per cent of
those who told us they would vote Tory in 2015 also told us they had voted UKIP
yesterday. One third of UKIP by-election voters said they did not yet know how
they would vote at the general election. As with the Lib Dems, only 43% of UKIP
by-election voters said they would probably party with the party.

Last
night’s result was a dramatic event but it does not change the fundamental
strategic challenge facing the Conservative Party. We must look at the evidence
and resist learning the wrong lessons. My study at the end of last year, They’re Thinking What We’re Thinking,
shows the attraction is not mainly about policy. It reflects a frustration with
the political class and with the way they think things are going in Britain.
Our task is not to become more like UKIP, the party of easy answers, but to be
the party of government that people want to vote for. Let’s hope there’s still
time.

CLICK ON THE CHARTS BELOW TO ENLARGE THEM.

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Here is a PDF of the full callback survey.

Go to LordAshcroftPolls.com for the full poll data and
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