Myths-Busted: Lib Dem voters twice as likely to back Labour before voting Conservative

A major new poll involving all Westminster constituencies in England has revealed that people who usually vote for the Liberal Democrats are twice as likely to vote Labour than Conservative at the next General Election.

  • New polling shows Liberal Democrat and Labour voters almost twice as likely to vote for an opposition unity candidate over the Conservatives
  • The findings debunk myths previously and currently used by Labour and the Lib Dems to argue against opposition cooperation at general elections.
  • The findings are consistent in marginal seats and in ‘Blue Wall’ and ‘Red Wall’ constituencies.
  • Unaligned internationalist campaign group Best for Britain is calling on opposition parties to organise agreements now to be ready for the next election.

The figures show that if their preferred party did not stand, 41% of Lib Dem voters would back a Labour candidate with just 19% saying they would vote Tory. Similarly, Labour supporters are almost twice as likely to vote for the Lib Dems (40%) than the Conservatives (25%). In this scenario, a further 30% of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters would transfer to the Green Party, suggesting a unity candidate between the three parties would enjoy a much greater support from voters of other parties than the Conservatives in almost all marginal constituencies.

The new data comes amid continued disagreement on whether Labour, the Lib Dems and Green Party will form an alliance in a minority of marginal seats to avoid splitting the opposition vote and allowing Conservative candidates to be elected in constituencies where they do not have majority support.

At their respective conferences in September, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats seemed to pour cold water on the idea of opposition cooperation at the next general election. The Liberal Democrats voted in favour of standing a candidate in every constituency, while the Labour Party defied 80% of their local party delegates by voting down a motion on proportional representation.

The findings are consistent across ‘Red Wall’ and ‘Blue Wall’ constituencies, dispelling claims that Lib Dem voters are more likely to back the Tories if they are left with a choice between Labour and the Conservatives. This has been used by some within the Liberal Democrats and Labour to argue against agreeing unity candidates or non-aggression agreements. 

Naomi Smith, Chief Executive of Best for Britain said,

“From food and fuel shortages, to tax hikes, cuts to support, pay freezes and an increased cost of living, the Conservatives have delivered extreme hardship on people and businesses across this country and by refusing to take the action required to remove this government, Liberal Democrat and Labour leaders are condemning the UK to a bleak future.

“You can argue about what people are saying on the doors but you cannot argue with the data and the data clearly shows that Labour and the Lib Dems are the net beneficiaries when the opposition works together, not the Conservatives.

“The Tories always benefit when other right leaning parties stand down for them and the time has come for the opposition parties to fight fire with fire and do what’s right for the country and for themselves. That work needs to begin now”

Previous polling from Best for Britain in May 2021 showed that 64% of voters want parties that broadly agree with each other to work together at election time rather than stand against each other, including 70% of Labour supporters. In the same month, A Political Studies Association report showed that more than 60% of voters in England & Wales could not correctly name the parties that finished second in their constituency, debunking another argument used by Labour and the Lib Dems against cooperation, that voters know how and when to vote tactically without the need for formal unity candidates.

Contrary to received wisdom, that Labour’s rulebook prevents stand asides, the progressive parties all stood aside for independent candidate Martin Bell in the 1997 General Election, which he won from the Conservatives on an anti-sleaze platform.

Caroline Lucas, Former leader of the Green Party and MP for Brighton, Pavilion said,

“The leaders of Labour and the Lib Dems need to understand that we are now out of time, the climate crisis is here and we do not have the luxury of another election cycle for more tribalism when the stakes are life and death.

“In the face of this existential crisis, this government has offered false targets and half measures, and only by working together can we make sure we don't have another Conservative government.”

Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon said,

“This nativist government is attacking our rights, is trashing our reputation abroad  and has cost thousands of lives by mismanaging this pandemic. By failing to work together to remove  them, we are abdicating our responsibility to the country.

“We need to harness the power of the majority in this country who are embarrassed by this government. My view is any coordination be done constituency by constituency depending on local factors and led by the grassroots."

About the polling

These charts below illustrate how votes transfer in an average constituency amongst opposition parties. They are based on polling and MRP undertaken in September 2021 by Number Cruncher Politics and Focadata on behalf of Best for Britain and seat level analysis by Best for Britain, based on a poll of 12,816 adults in Great Britain.

We asked people to tell us which party they feel best matches their values, which party they would vote for if there were an election tomorrow and then we asked those who told us they would support Labour or the Lib Dems to tell us what they would do if their preferred party did not stand a candidate in their area. 

When the Lib Dems don't stand

In an average constituency, that is taking an average of our analysis across all constituencies in Great Britain, when the Liberal Democrats do not stand a candidate the Labour and Green vote shares are the main beneficiaries. The Conservatives receive only a 19% increase, where Labour's vote share increases by over 40%.

When Labour does not stand

If Labour does not stand a candidate, in an average constituency the result is that the Lib Dems and Greens are the main beneficiaries of increased vote share. With just a 24% increase for the Conservatives on average against almost 40% and 30% increases for the Lib dems and Greens. 

What about the 'Red Wall' and the 'Blue Wall'?

Received wisdom is that voters in these areas behave differently. We tested that theory using the definition of the Red Wall by James Kanagasooriam et al and of the Blue Wall by YouGov's Patrick English.

These charts below show what happens in average Red Wall constituencies, Blue Wall constituencies and the average of seats that fall into neither category. There is no significant difference between the three categories in how vote shares change when the Lib Dems or Labour don't stand a candidate. In both the Red and Blue walls, as in the rest of the country, the Lib Dems and the Greens benefit when Labour does not stand and Labour and the Greens benefit when the Lib Dems do not stand.


Liberal Democrats