Nigel Farage’s Ukip support has plunged back from its high point of the European elections, giving a boost to all the established Westminster parties and pushing the Tories into the lead, according to a new Guardian/ICM poll.
Ukip drops back into single figures to stand on 9%, down seven points from last month’s score of 16%. The Tories pick up the lion’s share of these deserters, gaining three points to climb to 34%, enough to put them a single point ahead of Labour, even though the opposition also edges up one to 33%. The Liberal Democrats also climb two, to 12%.
As David Cameron prepares to shuffle his ministerial deck, he will be relieved to have the edge, but the one-point margin between the Conservative and Labour parties is a statistical dead head. This is the third straight month in the 30-year polling series in which the race has been virtually tied, after a statistically insignificant lead for the Tories in May was followed by a similarly tiny advantage for Labour in June.
Ten months ahead of a general election, Martin Boon, director at ICM research, said: “We used to talk about parties getting themselves through the ‘magic’ 40% threshold before they would be in serious contention to win, but less than a year before a general election, both the big parties are currently struggling to get themselves into the middle 30s, which, of course, only the Tories managed in 2010.”
Although the collapse in Ukip support is sharp this month, Boon suggests it is “pretty typical” of what happens to them as the spotlight cast by mid-term elections recedes. “This time last year,” he says, “Ukip also dropped to a similar extent, from 18% in the ICM/Guardian May 2013 poll to 12% the following June.” The more striking thing, as he sees it, is the failure of the declining protest vote to split decisively in any direction. Too many voters, he says, see “no reason to commit just yet”, instead “holding off, perhaps until the end of this year, to see whether they can really feel the recovery in their pockets or not by that point”.
ICM research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 11-13 July 2014. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.