A new opinion poll showing Eastleigh’s voter intentions in 2015 General Election suggests that the Liberal Democrat MP Mike Thornton will comfortably hold onto his seat.
The poll sponsored by Lord Ashcroft looked at 17 constituencies that were Conservative/ Lib Dem marginal seats in 2010 – although in the 2013 Eastleigh by-election it was Ukip’s Diane James and not the Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings that came a close second.
The latest poll contradicts a poll by Survation in April that suggested Ukip could win the seat next year in a tight contest.
When the Survation poll was published just before the May elections it led to speculation that Ukip leader Nigel Farage might choose to stand here.
Eastleigh was already a Ukip target seat following the 2013 County Council elections which saw them win three of Eastleigh’s divisions from the Lib Dems.
But despite this boost, in May Ukip failed to win a single seat on the borough council although they contested every single ward.
This led to accusations from the opposing ‘big three’ parties that the Ukip “bubble’ had burst in Eastleigh even though the borough’s electorate had voted overwhelmingly in favour of Ukip in the Euro elections held the same day.
That the section of voters should choose to vote so differently suggests there is a section of floating voters who will switch allegiance depending on circumstances and the Ashcroft poll has attempted to factor this in by asking two different questions regarding voting intentions.
The first was enquired as to overall national party allegiance ,the second was constituency specific.
The results in Eastleigh were markedly different.
In the answer to the question:
If there were a general election tomorrow which party would you vote for?
The result was:
22% Lib Dem
This is quite close to the Survation survey except the Conservatives switch place with Ukip.
But when asked:
“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?”
The results were as follows:
39% Lib Dems
Compared to the April survation survey
27% Lib Dems
Ashcroft believes that the second set of results showing a large Lib Dem majority is closer to voters actual intentions and he predicts Eastleigh will be a hold for the Lib Dems.
Even though the Lib Dems are trailing in national opinion polls (the latest You Gov poll has them on 7%) Ashcroft says where they are the dominant force in local government (as in Eastleigh) they are immune from national fluctuations in popularity.
Commenting on the poll Lord Ashcroft wrote on his blog:
“At the 2010 general election the Liberal Democrats won 24% of the popular vote. By the end of that year the party’s share in national polls had fallen by half, and it has since shown no sign of recovering. Whether this collapse in national support means the Lib Dems lose a proportionate number of seats is one of the most important factors that will determine the outcome of the next election.
The Lib Dems are famously tenacious local campaigners. Their strategy has long been to build support at constituency level through by-elections and local government, and once elected their incumbents have proved hard to shift. Last year’s Eastleigh by-election showed the party can still mobilise its council base to hold on to a Westminster seat in spite of wider conditions. If they are able to repeat this feat at a general election, could there be rather more Lib Dem MPs in the new House of Commons than the current national polls imply?”
Eastleigh’s Lib Dem leader Keith House told Eastleigh News
“This independent polling confirms that the race for Eastleigh will be between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives with Mike Thornton and the Lib Dems set to win again.
UKIP and Labour are again out of the race for next May’s General Election.”
Of course at this point the only certain candidate is Mike Thornton although Ukip MEP Diane James seems likely to stand here.
She has been active in the locality and her sister Sandra – a West Sussex County Councillor – has already been adopted as the Ukip PPC for Romsey.
The Ashcroft Poll offered other fascinating glimpses into the minds of Eastleigh’s voters.
Only 19% believe Ed Milliband would make a better PM than David Cameron.
Most voters are elderly with 73% of over 65s saying they will vote compared to just 37% of 18 -24 year olds.
When it came to contact with the electorate 66% of respondents in Eastleigh said they had heard from the Lib Dems in the last few weeks with 55% having heard from Ukip, 38% from the Conservatives and 31% from Labour.
Around 70% of Eastleigh folk polled believed the UK economy would improve over the next 12 months.
Lots of information in the poll here– see what you can find!