A convincing case for change?

With the Liberal Democrats' voting intention numbers trapped in the doldrums and Vince Cable famously “available”, our latest poll will make ominous reading for Nick Clegg.

We asked the British public how they would vote in a General Election if the current party leaders remained as they are now and if, instead, the Liberal Democrats were led by Vince Cable.

Under Clegg, the survey found that the party would achieve a 14 per cent share of the vote. However, if Vince Cable were leader, that figure would increase to 18 per cent.

This may sound small, but a 4 percentage point rise could make a big difference for the Lib Dems in 2015. Under current constituency boundaries, the party would potentially win just 23 seats under Clegg’s leadership, but could hope to achieve 39 seats under Cable.

Current Voting Intention (VI) – asked naming political party only (1) VI – asked naming current leader of the political party (2) VI – asked naming current leaders for Con / Lab, and Vince Cable for Lib Dems (3)
Conservatives 35% 35% 34%
Labour 42% 39% 38%
Liberal Democrat 12% 14% 18%
Other 11% 12% 10%

1. Turnout weighted, but only those who are certain to vote ‘other’ (10 at Q2). Includes ‘squeezed’ voting intention for those who say don’t know what party they would vote for or refuse to name a party.
2. Turnout weighted, but only those who are certain to vote ‘other’ (10 at Q2).
3. Turnout weighted, but only those who are certain to vote ‘other’ (10 at Q2).

With Cable as leader, the Liberal Democrats would do better, both in shoring up their own support and in taking votes from disaffected supporters of the other parties. Our figures suggest that Cable would attract 4% of current Conservative voters (to Clegg’s 1%) and 9% of current Labour voters (to Clegg’s 3%).

The draw of Vince Cable compared to that of Nick Clegg is particularly strong among men (6 percentage point rise), young voters and older voters (5 percentage point rise each).

However, even a change in leadership would not return the Party to 2010 General Election levels of support. The damage caused by going into coalition appears serious and lasting. Our recent poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror shows that only 18% think that ‘being in coalition with the Conservatives has shown the Liberal Democrats to be a credible party of Government’ – a decline even on September 2011 levels of agreement (24%).

The party will need more than Vince Cable to remain a force in the next UK Parliament.

ComRes interviewed 1,002 GB adults by telephone between 31st August and 2nd September 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at comres.co.uk.

Data compiled by Senior Research Analyst Coralie Pring.