Eastleigh – Now A Three Horse Race?
Data tables are here:
Our updated Eastleigh Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday, the most recent in the Eastleigh By-Election campaign (by a few hours), with only five days remaining before the ballot, shows that the race remains extremely competitive.
The current figures put the Conservatives on 33% and the Liberal Democrats on 29%.
Whilst in statistical terms this means the election is too close to call, it is clear that Maria Hutchings has not proved the huge liability to the Conservative Party that has been suggested by some in the media. Despite widespread coverage of Hutchings’ “gaffes”, she is the highest rated candidate of the four major parties in terms of being the reason voters select a particular party, with 30% of Conservative voters listing her as the main deciding factor in their choice.
The Conservative Party may have been setting her up to take the blame in case of a Conservative Party defeat, but the polling suggests she is more of a motivating factor to Conservative voters than David Cameron, who surprisingly found only 2% of supporters saying he was their main reason for voting Conservative; perhaps indicative of a strongly independent streak running through the local Conservative Party in Eastleigh.
Enter The Third Horse…
UKIP meanwhile have seen their momentum continue, currently standing at 21%, up from 16% in our previous poll only two weeks ago and an incredible nearly six times their 2010 General Election vote share. In particular UKIP have expanded their vote into two new areas – they have increased their share of Liberal Democrat defectors from 7% to 17% of the Lib Dem 2010 vote, meaning that they are now stealing almost as many votes from the Liberal Democrats as from the Conservatives.
Possibly as a result of healthcare specialist Diane James’s selection as their candidate, UKIP have also increased their vote share of women, giving them nearly even numbers of male and female voters .This could be a factor in their overall gain. With their momentum and broadening base of support it remains possible that UKIP could pull off a surprise result. But even if UKIP find the final reach difficult – it does looks like Eastleigh is on track to be their best ever performance in a Westminster election.
Four polls in one month…
When looking in total at the four polls that have been published during this by-election, two by Survation for the Mail on Sunday, one by Populus and one by Ashcroft Polling, all four put the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives within five points of each other (about the margin of error in each poll), two putting the Lib Dems slightly ahead and two the Conservatives slightly ahead.
What is clear is that this most crucial of by-elections, with huge potential impact for the future of the Coalition Government, remains hanging in the balance. The outcome of the election will now come down to a combination of a get out the vote campaign by all parties and an ability to cash in on early postal voting, with around 10% of likely voters expected to have already cast their ballots by this weekend. We would note that the Lib Dems have the best organised and staffed ground war machine in Eastleigh and have the best voter data due to their consistent and dominant local council election strength.
Labour to be squeezed some more?
The one party that seems to have no absolutely no chance of “winning here” is Labour, with their vote languishing in fourth place at 13%. Their controversial candidate John O’Farrell appears not to have had much success with the locals, with only a single respondent in the poll saying that he was their main reason for voting Labour. The extent to which the Liberal Democrats can now convince these Labour voters to lend them their support to stop the Conservatives from winning will be crucial in determining the outcome.
Survation surveyed a representative sample of 543 adults in Eastleigh by telephone between Monday 18th and Friday 22nd February. Further details on margin of error and methodology are in the tables at the top of the page.