The political dramas of 2022 have been reflected in large-scale changes in public opinion. At the last election, the Conservatives were over 10 points ahead of Labour and at the end of the year they are now nearly 20 points behind.
In terms of the one-dimensional swingometer, that is a swing of about 15 points from Conservative to Labour. In other words, about fifteen voters out of every hundred are presumed to have changed allegiance from the Conservative party to the Labour party.
But the truth is a bit more complicated than that.
Using polling data from our colleagues at Savanta, we can estimate what these typical hundred voters have actually done, and how many of them have changed their minds.
The graphic below shows how people have changed their minds. Each little figure represents about one in a hundred of GB voters. Grey figures represent voters lost to a party, and figures with a plus-sign on their chest are voters gained since the last election.
We see that the Conservatives have lost voters in almost all directions. Their support at the previous general election has reduced to 28pc, without about 15pc of voters defecting. Of these, only about half (seven voters in every hundred) have gone directly to Labour. Another three have gone to the Reform party, one has gone to the Liberal Democrats, and four prefer to stay at home rather than vote Conservative again.
Conversely, Labour has gained voters from many sources. As already mentioned, it has gained seven defectors directly from the Conservatives. But it has also gained three from the Liberal Democrats and five voters who did not vote in 2019. Those incomers may well include many traditional Labour supporters who did not want to vote Labour in 2019 either because of worries about Jeremy Corbyn or because of Brexit. The fact that so many are returning to the Labour fold is good news for Keir Starmer.
The Liberal Democrats have not made much progress since the last election. Although they have gained some support from the Conservatives, and gained one voter from the pool of non-voters, that has not been enough to compensate for their losses to Labour.
The Reform party have gained support from the Conservatives, but that mostly has the effect of splitting the right-of-centre vote and letting Labour win more seats. The Greens are fairly stable, as are the SNP and Plaid who are not shown for reasons of space.
The overall picture is good for Labour and bad for the Conservatives. Labour are gaining votes from almost as many directions as the Conservatives are losing them. It also shows the importance of turnout. One of the reasons Labour lost in 2019 was that many of their supporters stayed at home. The same could happen next time to the Conservatives. We predict the next election will include big get-out-the-vote pushes from both parties.
Voter migration numbers are based on a Savanta poll of 6,237 GB adults conducted from 2-5 December 2022. See full poll details (Savanta website).
The numbers on which the graphic is based are given in the table below. Note that the numbers given are percentages of the likely voters in 2022, which is slightly different from the actual voters in 2019.
Here's how to read the table.
Each row represents one political party (with 'NAT' standing for both SNP and Plaid Cymru), and an extra row for those eligible voters who choose not to vote. Each diagonal entry represents the number of votes (out of a hundred) which that party received in the 2019 general election. The off-diagonal entries on each row represent the net migration to and from all the other parties. A positive value on a party's row indicates that it is gaining votes from the party of that column, and a negative value indicates that it is losing votes. The total projected vote share for each party is shown in the right-hand column.
For example, for every hundred people who are likely to vote in 2022, 43.8 of them voted Conservative in 2019. Of those people, 7.4 are likely to defect to Labour, 0.7 to the Lib Dems, 3.1 to the Reform party and so on. A further 4.0 people are likely not to vote in 2022. That leaves 28.2 voters who are likely to vote Conservative.
For Labour, they start with 32.3 people who voted for them in 2019. They gain 7.4 voters from the Conservatives, plus 3.0 from the Lib Dems, 0.4 from the Greens, etc. They also gain 4.5 voters who did not vote in 2019, and they have a total current vote share of 48.2.