New Westminster Voting Intention, Proportional Representation Experiment:
June 17th, 2022.
It has been around 6 weeks since we published a UK wide Westminster voting intention. Since our April 29th update, we’ve seen a government-bruising set of local elections, the final Sue Gray report, eye watering inflation figures and energy bill increases. The government took steps to reduce the burden on energy consumers while 41% of Conservative MPs voted no confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership.
Despite all of that, today’s polling shows very little change in terms of the state of the parties. The Labour Party will welcome the 7 point lead over the Conservatives, who are down, but not out. 34% of those stating a voting intention would vote Conservative in an election “tomorrow”.
Conservatives down, but not out
In terms of “down but not out” for the Conservative party, there remains a reasonable pool (26%) of voters currently voting for another party that told us they would consider voting Conservative at the next general election – . This consideration level is not especially lower than that for Labour at 29% or the Lib Dems (32%).
It should also be noted that the Conservatives are on 34% share in a poll that also carries a -28% net favorability for Boris Johnson (vs -4% for Keir Starmer who is winning the “least worst” competition of the public approval). Significantly, a third of those who voted Conservative in 2019 hold an unfavourable view of the Prime Minister along with 43% of 2016 leave voters. There surely remains the potential to improve the Conservative party’s approval rating (21%) and the government’s (-27%) with a new leader and fresh set of cabinet faces.
No overall majority = Electoral Reform?
Were the Conservative to not improve their standing at a General Election in comparison to today’s polling, this type of Labour / Conservative picture would deliver some form of Labour-led government. It would not necessarily push the party into overall majority territory.
If Labour did require the support of other parties to form a government at the next election, such as the Lib Dems – the question of proportional representation would likely be back on the agenda as a requisite for supporting a new Labour government. With that in mind, we have, in this poll, asked an additional voting intention question along the lines of party list proportional representation (PLPR).
Party List Proportional Representation (PLPR) Experiment
We put the concept or to those polled as follows:
“Now imagine that the system for electing MPs to parliament in Westminster was not the current ‘first past the post’ system, and was instead a Party List system, where seats in parliament closely match how many votes each party receives from the public – a form of Proportional Representation. Each party publishes a list of candidates for their region of The United Kingdom. On polling day your ballot paper has a list of parties. You vote to mark the party you support. In this system, the party you vote for will get seats in parliament roughly in proportion to the total number of votes it receives, because all the votes received by a party are added together to decide the number of MPs from each party in your region”.
We re-asked likelihood to vote:
“Considering this system, if there were to be a general election, on a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 is would not vote and 10 is certain to vote, how likely would you be to vote?”
And then a voting intention question:
“Considering this system, which party would be your first choice to have their MPs represent you in Westminster?”
Results under PLPR
What we found was interesting, in that it should expose the level of (overall) tactical voting that each party does or does not currently receive as voters are put into a conceptual position of being able to vote for their favourite party (generally speaking). It also provides some clues as to what the make-up of the House of Commons might be under PLPR.
For now, we’ve elected not to make the regional estimations that such a system would likely use in practice.
The Conservative and Labour parties would see some small overall vote share loss nationally under such a system, losing (1.8% and 2.5% vote share respectively). A surprise perhaps was that there did not seem to be a vote share benefit for the Lib Dems under PR, which was around 10% under either system – the party would of course welcome having 10% of the MPs in the Commons!
The beneficiaries in terms of vote share under PLPR were for the smaller parties (ex Plaid). This polling showed the Green Party almost doubling their vote share to towards 6%, which, while perhaps smaller than might be expected, would likely be over a potential minimum vote share threshold of 5% used in such systems and deliver perhaps 30-40 MPs.
Reform UK saw their vote share double from 2-4% under the PLPR question, perhaps not enough to reach a 5% threshold in an election. UKIP received a bump from 1 to 3% which might indicate a “united right” grouping of such parties under PLPR has more potential to gain MPs.
Of course, such a polling question can only generate clues about what might happen in the UK under a different voting system, the UK’s election system would have changed dramatically – support for smaller parties could be hugely energised. Finally the ability to project one’s future behaviour has considerable limits but we provide these data in response to interest and feedback.
Damian Lyons Lowe
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- Survation polled 2,053 UK residents online on June 10th. Data tables for all questions asked can be found here:
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- BPC Statement: All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.