Tactical Voting Poll September 2023

This page first posted 11 September 2023

Pollster Find Out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus have run a poll for the Independent to see how much tactical voting there might be at the next general election and who would benefit from it.

We asked 2,881 people about how they would tactically vote in the next general election. Our main findings are:

Read Archie Mitchell in the Independent on how Tactical voting could spell the Tories' worst election in 100 years.

Polling Questions

1. First and second preferences

Respondents were initially asked for their first and second preference party in the hypothetical situation that all parties would have an equal chance of winning in their area, to try to measure their true party preference before any tactical considerations.

PartyFirst ChoiceSecond Choice Either 
Conservative Party21%10%27%
Labour Party34%24%50%
Liberal Democrats12%30%35%
Reform UK8%8%14%
Green Party19%21%35%
Plaid Cymru0%1%1%
Table excludes those who refused to express a preference, and those who are unlikely to vote.

The smaller parties have more support under this question than they do with FPTP elections. The Greens have about 20pc support here, compared with about 5pc in voting intention surveys.

Regarding the second preference parties, around 50% of Green supporters have Labour as their second choice and 25% have the Liberal Democrats. This is broadly reciprocated by Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters. These findings suggest that tactical voting would likely benefit the Labour Party, Liberal Democrat and Greens far more than it would the Conservatives and Reform UK.

See Appendix 1 below for more details of voters' first and second choices.

2. Likelihood to vote tactically

Then we asked respondents how likely they would be to vote tactically. The full question was "Suppose your first-choice party is unlikely to win the seat, but your second-choice party could. On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to switch your vote to your second-choice party?".

About 35% of people answered 8, 9 or 10, which we took as a reasonable threshold for being quite likely to vote tactically. But supporters of minor parties were more likely to vote tactically.

First choice
Fraction who
would vote tactically
Conservative Party15%
Labour Party37%
Liberal Democrats48%
Reform UK29%
Green Party60%
SNP / Plaid Cymru28%
All voters35%

Our main finding was that supporters of the smaller parties were the most inclined to vote tactically. Around 60% of people whose first preference party is the Green party have said that they would vote for their second preference party in cases where they didn't think the Greens would come first or second in their seat. This number is also high for Liberal Democrat supporters, 48% of whom would probably vote tactically.

As for the major two parties, our figures show that 37% and 15% of Labour and Conservative voters respectively would vote tactically.

3. Picking the right winners

For tactical voting to work, voters need a reasonable and consistent idea of which two parties are likely to be competitive in their seat. For example, if voters disagree on who the challenger to the Conservatives is, then tactical voting may not happen or might cancel itself out.

Normally, voters might look at the last election result to give them an idea of which parties are competitive in their seat. But this is complicated by two new factors:

To explore this issue we asked people which pair of parties they think are likely to come in first and second place (in either order) in their own seat.

To simplify the results, we only looked at respondents who were both likely to vote and likely to vote tactically, and who had a definite opinion about their own seat.

We checked to see how many people matched or did not match the top two parties coming from four different methods: GE result of old seats; Current prediction of old seats; Implied GE result of new seats; Current prediction of new seats. The answers are shown in the table below.

GE result of old seat49%51%
Prediction for old seat53%47%
Implied GE of new seat49%51%
Prediction for new seat50%50%
Sample size: 566 respondents

Given the sample sizes are relatively small, it is hard to draw definite conclusions, other than to say that about half of tactically-inclined people have a good idea of which are the competitive parties in their own seat.

Electoral Impact

We can work out the likely effect of tactical voting if there were a general election. To do this, we make a few assumptions

With and without tactical voting, the election prediction is given in the next table:

PartyVote SharesPred Seats
Pred Seats
with TV
due to TV

The figures show that tactical voting could change the result in more than thirty seats, with Labour and the Liberal Democrats being the main beneficiaries. The SNP gains in Scotland are from Green supporters who vote SNP tactically, but more work is needed to confirm that trend.


Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now: "The indication that tactical voting is being used as a tool to punish the Conservatives is the most important takeaway from our poll. More broadly, this poll give us an insight into how people are working within the First Past the Post system to express their dislike for the Tories."

Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus: "Our figures show that the next election is likely to see straightforward anti-Conservative tactical voting, compared with the pro- and anti- Brexit tactical voting that was seen in 2019. Many Conservative seats, particularly in the south of England, are at risk. But the new seat boundaries will add an extra complicating factor for voters who want to vote tactically."

Technical Details

Find Out Now polled 2,881 GB adults online between 15–16 August 2023. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns. Regression techniques were used to infer projected seat results.

Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.

Full Data Tables are available for download as an Excel spreadsheet.

Electoral Calculus

Electoral Calculus is a political consultancy specialising in quantitative analysis and modelling for electoral and other market research projects. Its pre-poll prediction for the 2019 general election was the most accurate published forecast. It was founded by Martin Baxter, its CEO.

Electoral Calculus is a member of the British Polling Council.

Find Out Now

Find Out Now gathers poll responses from Pick My Postcode, a daily panel from 2.8 million members. Highly profiled respondents can be targeted instantly, and at scale to deliver reliable results fast.

More than 124 million responses have been received to Find Out Now's polls since it launched in November 2018. Find Out Now are Market Research Society Company Partners and a member of the British Polling Council.

Appendix 1 - Tactical Voting Matrix

We asked people for their first and second preference parties. To simplify the data, we removed those who didn't know, refused to say, had no preference, or gave the same party as both their first and second preferences. The remaining respondents can be counted on a matrix where each row represents their first choice party, and each column represents their second choice party.

Sample size: 1,132 respondents in England only

To see the meaning of the table, consider the first row as an example. It says that of those voters whose first choice party is the Conservatives, 12pc of them have Labour as their second-choice party, 46pc have the Lib Dems, 23pc have Reform, and 12pc have the Greens. For first-choice Labour supporters, only 6pc have the Conservatives as their second choice, but 48pc have the Lib Dems as their second choice.

We assume in our model that when voters choose to vote tactically, when their first-choice party is unlikely to win the seat, they will switch to other (competitive) parties in proportion to the numbers shown in this matrix.

Some notable political features of this table are

Broadly, there are two groups of parties where voters are happy to vote tactically. A left-of-centre group made up of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens; and a right-of-centre group with the Conservatives and Reform UK. There are also some Conservative supporters who would vote Lib Dem to stop Labour, but this is not reciprocated.

The centre-left bloc is more likely to be benefit from tactical voting, since it is more divided to start with. Many of its voters realise this, and are more supportive of tactical voting.

Appendix 2 - Seats at risk from Tactical Voting

At the start of September 2023, the Electoral Calculus monthly poll-of-polls shows a Labour lead of 17pc over the Conservatives. This would translate into a substantial Labour majority in the House of Commons, with Labour winning 414 seats, the Conservatives 159 and the Liberal Democrats 26.

But if tactical voting took place along the lines indicated by our survey, then Labour would win 26 more seats and the Liberal Democrats would win 6 more seats.

The list of seats whose result could be changed by tactical voting (as at September 2023) is:

SeatMP as at 2019Winner
GE 2019
Pred Winner
Pred Winner
with TV
Bedfordshire North EastRichard FullerCONCONLAB
BracknellJames SunderlandCONCONLAB
Bury St EdmundsJo ChurchillCONCONLAB
Cambridgeshire North WestShailesh VaraCONCONLAB
Cambridgeshire South EastLucy FrazerCONCONLAB
CheadleMary RobinsonCONCONLIB
ChelmsfordVicky FordCONCONLAB
ChippenhamMichelle DonelanCONCONLIB
Devon CentralMel StrideCONCONLAB
Devon NorthSelaine SaxbyCONCONLIB
Dudley SouthMike WoodCONCONLAB
Esher and WaltonDominic RaabCONCONLIB
Folkestone and HytheDamian CollinsCONCONLAB
Great YarmouthBrandon LewisCONCONLAB
GuildfordAngela RichardsonCONCONLIB
Haltemprice and HowdenDavid DavisCONCONLAB
Hertfordshire North EastOliver HealdCONCONLAB
Hitchin and HarpendenBim AfolamiCONCONLAB
Leicestershire SouthAlberto CostaCONCONLAB
Norfolk SouthRichard BaconCONCONLAB
Northamptonshire SouthAndrea LeadsomCONCONLAB
ReigateCrispin BluntCONCONLAB
RomfordAndrew RosindellCONCONLAB
Ruislip, Northwood and PinnerDavid SimmondsCONCONLAB
Runnymede and WeybridgeBen SpencerCONCONLAB
Skipton and RiponJulian SmithCONCONLAB
Somerset NorthLiam FoxCONCONLAB
Staffordshire MoorlandsKaren BradleyCONCONLAB
Suffolk CoastalTherese CoffeyCONCONLAB
Thanet NorthRoger GaleCONCONLAB
Thornbury and YateLuke HallCONCONLIB
WantageDavid JohnstonCONCONLAB
WokingJonathan LordCONCONLAB
YeovilMarcus FyshCONCONLIB
Yorkshire EastGreg KnightCONCONLAB