May 2013 may go down as the most jaw dropping poll in the 30-year history of the Guardian/ICM polling series. This month we see all of the three main parties dropping by 4-points in the aftermath of the recent local council elections, with emergent UKIP doubling their Westminster share of the vote from 9% to 18% (after securing 23% of the local council share of the vote where it stood candidates). The shares of the vote for publication are:
Con 28% (-4)
Lab 34% (-4)
LD 11% (-4)
UKIP 18% (+9)
BNP 4% (+3)
SNP/PC 3% (nc)
Other 0% (-1)
The poll sets recent Guardian/ICM precedents left, right and centre. The previous highest share for UKIP was 9%, but their record share surges to 18%. That implies an historic level of ‘other’ party support of 27% (including a surprising increase to 4% for the BNP) compared to the previous net others record high of 16% most recently recorded last month (April 2013).
The Conservatives, reeling at present over splits on Europe, stand at 28%, which is as low as they have achieved since 2002. Labour should take little solace in this: despite retaining the 6-point lead they also fall by 4-points to 34%, a share they last had in July 2010 just after David Cameron’s coalition had settled into Downing Street. The 4-point drop in Liberal Democrats share takes them to 11%, a share only 1-point above their historic low of September 1997. For the three main parties, this poll is the stuff of nightmares, and a true reflection of the public’s current rejection of three party politics.
As we might expect, respect for the coalition has ebbed away. In the immediate aftermath of the decision by Cameron and Clegg to govern collectively, public endorsement for the decision was as high as +27, but now when asked the same question disapproval outweighs approval to the tune of -13. Women (-16) are twice as critical as men (-8) on this measure (which aligns with the current ‘gender gap’ with Labour only 4-points up amongst men, but 11-points up among women).
Leader ‘approval’ ratings can only be legitimately called so for UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who can claim to be the only party leader to enjoy any kind of public affection (Boris Johnson may well be the only other politician of note to have a positive public rating). Farage stands on +17 with 40% of the public approving of his performance (50% among men, but women are decidedly unsure about him). Cameron’s rating drops to -15 which is a new low score for the PM, with exactly 50% disapproving of his performance of late. Ed Miliband continues to not impress the public, with his rating of -22 only one-point shy of his worse ever rating in April 13.
With UKIP surging, and Tory grandees and senior ministers alike emerging to declare their rejection of Britain’s membership of the European Union, the public are reminded of splits that previously tore the party apart on the European question, and thus it’s no surprise to see the party tumble in the polls. While it is never a good thing to be seen as disunited, it could be said that the party’s position is no more than a reflection of the public’s own indecision over the EU. While there is no doubt they want a referendum (and more want it now (35%) than agree with Cameron’s position that it will only come after the next General Election and after renegotiation of our membership (30%)), the public just don’t know which way to jump. Four in ten (40%) would stay in the EU, but slightly more (43%) would opt to leave. With one in five unsure (17%), any future vote on British membership would be completely in the balance.