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Sunday, March 29, 2015

2015 election: Voters’ shifting moods have formed a five-act drama. Will there be a sixth before the curtain falls?

After five years, can any party break the stalemate or is another hung parliament the only likely result?

This is the tightest and most unpredictable election for decades. So, over the course of the campaign, the opinion polls will be monitored even more obsessively than usual. My advice is to have a big bag of salt to hand when hearing reports about daily fluctuations. Forget the twitches; look for a trend.


Taking an overview of the movements in public opinion over the last five years, we can divide them into five phases. The significant change in act one was the rapid decline in support for the Lib Dems as they ceased to be a party of protest and became a party of power. From a vote share of 23% at the 2010 election, Nick Clegg’s party slid down to the low teens by that autumn, and subsequently plumbed even inkier depths, as leftish voters reacted negatively to their partnership with the Tories. It bore out Angela Merkel’s remark to David Cameron about coalitions: “The little party always gets smashed!” The major beneficiary of Lib Dem decline was Labour. While their coalition partners were being hammered, the Tory vote held up better than many of them expected. In the council elections in the spring of 2011, the Tories performed well for a government imposing spending cuts and presiding over a stagnant economy.


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