Are polls underestimating Green support?

10:00 am - June 4th 2009

by Rupert Read    

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Nothing is certain until the votes are cast, but the polls over the last fortnight have been very encouraging to the Green Party, putting us on an upward trend. UKIP last week commissioned a ComRes poll that put the Greens across the ‘South East’ (which includes my Region, Eastern) in third position on 16%, and on 11% nationwide. This week, the Green Party commissioned a ComRes poll that had UKIP on 17% – and us on 15%, only just behind UKIP – and ahead of the LibDems! That hasn’t happened since 1989.

In fact polls ahead of European elections usually underestimate the actual Green performance. It’s worth remembering that before their historic 2.2 million-strong vote in 1989 the Greens were polling at about 7-8%, but the actual vote turned out to be 15%.

Then, under first-past-the-post, the Greens returned no MEPs. Now, under a proportional system, a smaller vote than this would give the Greens MEP seats in several more regions beyond their existing foothold in London and the South East. If we get 15% plus, then look for a Green landslide.

The polls do very much seem to show UKIP as a major beneficiary of the current deep disenchantment. But of course there is a powerful irony in the notion that UKIP might benefit from an anti-sleaze vote. UKIP, the party that five years ago set out to clean up Europe, and since then has lost a quarter of its MEPs in unhappy circumstances, including one who was jailed for fraud. And it still sends nine MEPs to a parliament it considers pointless. I wonder what do they do there, besides collect their expenses?

What about trust? A YouGov poll commissioned by the Green Party asked which party’s politicians would be most likely to put their own financial interests before their country’s. A staggering 45% said Labour and 40% said the Conservatives. Next there were the BNP, The LibDems and UKIP, on 20%, 16% and 15% respectively. Only 5% thought Green politicians would put their own interests before Britain’s.

We have also been encouraged that newspapers as far apart as the Guardian and the Sun have been publishing articles calling for fundamental constitutional reform to make British democracy more accountable, more responsive, more representative. The Green Party has had such reform on its agenda for a generation.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments

I certainly hope so, Rupert. A big, progressive Green vote would be a little bit of good floating in the sea of political crap at the moment.

We’ll see on Sunday. I’ve predicted the Greens will get 10.5%, and I see no reason to change that prediction.

Around 10% for the greens, with several gains, is looking likely. Well done chaps. It kinda makes sense for hard left supporters-of-labour-in-good-times to vote green in a PR election, if they don’t mind the lack of humanism.

And liberals among them should vote Lib Dem of course.

I know plenty of humanists in the Greens.

What was the Green percentage at the last Euro elections?

How are the Greens lacking in humanism?

Rupert, has there been any polling in the NW constituency recently? I keep seeing recommendations for people to vote Green to keep out the BNP – but this will only work if we’re confident that the Greens will poll more than the BNP, presumably. Have any polls been published from that region?

You must be right

We all know the public is crying out for the abolition of zoos.

James, I was perhaps being a little terse, but I suggest there is a lack of humanism in green thinking and the green agenda.

Rowan, on a uniform swing, Greens would be well ahead of the BNP in the north west, and the BNP are not winning one. If the BNP do take one, it will probably be at the expense of any one of: The third Tory or Labour, or the second Lib Dem (and another one of those 3 will be lost to reapportionment).

So if the polls are right, the Greens and UKIP are winning a seat anyway, and to keep the BNP out you should vote Tory, Labour or Lib Dem. But I think simply voting for whoever you actually support would be fine.

Thanks Joe – but does it make sense to assume a uniform swing in the NW? Isn’t it a BNP stronghold? (I’m not actually in the NW myself – happily voting Green in the SE.)

I’m just surprised, given the attention paid to the NW seat, that there doesn’t seem to have been any polling there.

I’m interested in your ‘lack of humanism’ point. I think the Green agenda – certainly the version of it espoused by the UK’s Green Party – is perfectly pro-human. It’s not a deep-green, who-cares-as-long-as-the-bacteria-survive stance.

To put some numbers on that. Polls are basically showing Greens +5, Labour -4 and everyone else -1 compared to 2004.

Apply this to North West 2004 you have

Labour – 23.4
Con – 23.2
Lib Dem – 14.9
[Labour seat 2 – 11.7]
[Con seat 2 – 11.6]
UKIP – 10.7
Green – 10.6
[Labour seat 3 – 7.8]
[Con seat 3 – 7.7]
—–cut off – winners above losers below —-
[Lib Dem seat 2 – 7.45]
[Labour seat 4 – 5.85]
[Con seat 4 – 5.8]
BNP 5.4

I expect the Lib Dems to do a little better with the decline of the little liberals who took 4.6% last time. But clearly, even if the BNP poll 2-3% better than this, they are competing against Labour, Tory and Lib Dem for the last seat, not the Greens or UKIP.

Rowan, to my amazement my collection of blog comment on the green party (here: ) doesn’t directly address the lack of humanism point. Do read it anyway, and I will get round to writing on that point some time after the election.

@8 “there is a lack of humanism in green thinking and the green agenda”

Joe, if you do make an effort to flesh out this major error in your perception & understanding, then I would strongly encourage you to address Green thinking of today, not some half-remembered half-imagined version of 1970s/80s thinking.

Bah, I put the cut off in the wrong place in comment 10 – there are of course 8 seats in the NW this time, so the cut off should be above Con seat 3 not below it. This doesn’t change the conclusions.

14. John Meredith

Well I won’t go anywhere near the Greens until they drop their ludicrous opposition to animal research which places them firmly at the Geroge Bush end of the scientific respectability spectrum. Any vote for the Greens as they currently stand is a vote for intellectual disgrace.

I live close to a polling station, I’ve never before seen so few people voting, I know it’s early but at the other times these polling stations have a stream of people coming and going, so far a hand full of people have voted.

@12 – can you point me to an analysis of the changes in Green thinking since, say 1989? Or if you like, since 1999, since I was involved in writing their manifesto that year.

I think it says a lot that a Lib Dem blogger, belonging to a party that has 60+ MPs and 11 MEPs, with thousands of councillors, is trying his best to rubbish a smaller party with only 2 MEPs and just over 100 councillors. The Liberals are rumbled – they know with a strong Green Party, there’s no need for a Liberal Democrat party. They get this petty at a local level too, when Greens win council seats – as if the seats belonged to them by birthright.

Across the polling districts I’ve worked at this morning, no other parties were bothering with polling day operations. It’s as if they’ve given up.

Greens should thank the Liberals for taking Otten – you’re welcome to have him!

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, there’s a new progressive force in town. Vote Green today, people!

Voted at my normal time – 8am – this morning (St Giles church in the Barbican).
As busy as last time – which was mayoral election – but who can say?

Might the Greens be underestimated? Possibly.
Though I’m not sure voting Green really generates the same “kick ’em in the balls” satisfaction of voting UKIP or BNP, somehow, does it?

As I am optimistic that the BNP will not win a seat, I suspect that UKIP will be the biggest beneficiary.

Rayyan, I don’t think there is a rule in politics that you should only express your disagreements with parties larger than your own.

But you may be right that I was holding the Greens back. I remember voting at a Green conference against a policy of compulsory “re-education” for anglers, hearing a collective gasp, looking round, and noticing that I was the only person voting against it. To be fair, a few members said privately afterwards that they agreed with me, but that they didn’t have the nerve not to sell out to the animal rights crowd.

Joe – so I am right in my prejudice that underneath the reasonable Lucas-esque surface there lurks a wonderful collection of nutters?

(I’m sure that could be said for most parties…)

@14 – I don’t agree with their vivisection policy either, but I agree with so many of their other policies that I’m prepared to take that one on the chin. I don’t expect to be able to wholeheartedly endorse every single aspect of any party’s manifesto.

Joe, why don’t you read the manifesto? I do remember reading somewhere recently (can’t put my hand on it now) that a lot of people within environmental pressure groups used to refuse to vote Green ‘because we knew what their policies actually were’, but that many of these people are now happy to vote Green.

Well, I think 10% is probably about the greens level of support, and represents a strong performance. However, the Green Parties own poll did not including the types of mathematical weighting used in essentially all other polls to make sure the sample is politically balanced. This means that it is unlikely to be accurate so doesn’t really give any indication of your support being underestimated.

@20, yes we all have our nutters. Did you see James Graham’s account of attending a Tory conference:

Smaller parties have the problem that there is less competition for responsible posts, and they are therefore statistically more likely to have nutters doing damage. So I’ll cut them some slack on that score.

But this is a whole different issue to that of the centre of gravity of the party’s position being way out there.

25. CarbonCoach

And here’s why not voting green is heartless, souless, gutless and frankly, brainless!

How would we vote if we loved the children, our own, and the worlds?

• Policies on the same scale and the same planet as the problems

• ‘No change’ – not an option. This is a time for bold new green beginnings

• Lib Dems ‘dissing’ Greens is like someone ‘shopping’ their sister!

• The only future is green. So let’s face it now

• Will those who held true to the dream of a brighter cleaner greener world be rewarded on June 4th

Here’s my opinion fwiw

One of the commenters on that Times article said it well (quoted below). Have you seen/read the online “MfSS” of the Greens … it’s tens of thousands of words, changed twice a year at spring and autumn conferences in a bottom-up participatory way. It’s more of an ideal sustainable society, rather than what will happen tomorrow.

Interesting article but some selective quoting:
“ban on the harmful use of animals” – yes it’s in the manifesto.
“abolition of all zoos” – partial quoting: “The abolition of zoos (except for the benefit of the animals concerned)
“ban all experiments on embryos” – misquote: “ban on all cloning and genetic manipulation of embryos, whether for research, therapeutic or reproductive purposes”
“complementary therapies within NHS” – yes, but NICE have also suggested this – admittedly to the distain of professionals

I talk about the MfSS in my latest blog post

And although many lib dems, labour, etc will agree with them, their knee jerk opposition to GM and nuclear power does them no credit – if they are supposed to have a better understanding of environmental issues than the rest of us.

On alt-meds, the thing is that conventional medicine has to be shown to be effective before the state will pay for it. If alt meds were to meet the same standard, they would become “conventional”, and I would have no problem with funding them. As it stands the Greens want a double standard, where alt meds don’t need to be shown to be effective, just approved by the alt practitioners “professional” groups.

28. Dekka Draper

Alex, the article you linked to is interesting, as were the comments below. I was cheered by some sane-sounding Greens who seemed to acknowledge that their science policy is a little crazy.

Hopefully, more elected representatives would mean more scrutiny, more competition for posts ( as aram says) and better policies.

@27 interesting non-woo piece on the limits of EBM
@28 libertoonians in ‘are paranoid and tell lies’ shock.

Just held my nose and voted Green. To be honest there’s nothing wrong with being anti-nuke and anti-GM, that’s an opinion shared by plenty of respectable (in the relevant fields) scientists, and anyone who says it’s dark-ages-ery is a dishonest hack. I’m pro-nuke and GM-agnostic myself, but either side is a respectable, evidence-based position to take.

The embryo cells and woo-woo quackery are much more depressing; it doesn’t matter in the context of a couple of EU seats, but if the Greens start becoming a more mainstream voice of the left then non-quacks will need to join up and actively knock some sense into them.

Yes there is respectable opposition to GM and nukes (eg if you’re convinced that CCS will work and on the scale required), and there is also blind fury. One Green PPC said something positive about nuclear power and there were calls for him to be disciplined. (Does anybody know how this turned out?)

On GM too, there is a reasonable argument to be had over whether any GM products so far invented are worth the candle, or the risks. But to predict that all future GM will necessarily be useless and dangerous, because of something intrinsically wrong with GM, is wishful thinking crystal ball stuff.

32. Shatterface

I’ve a lot of sympathy for the Greens but their attitude to medicine and genetic research is, as suggested above, worthy of Bush.

Alternative medicine is either beneficial but under-researched (otherwise it wouldn’t have the prefix) or outright quackery; and while GM and nuclear power clearly have potential to cause great harm, refusing to consider them at in the hope we can switch off a few bulbs and wait for starvation and disease to thin the human population to a more managable level doesn’t sound much of an alternative.

I love the Greens – they are a bunch of hippies who make Ukip look sane! Of course they’re not all bad, but that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Their standard criticism is that everyone is the same and they differentiate themselves as the only non-grey party (well them and and the OMRLP anyway). I have to laugh at them because they can only say as much from a position of ignorance unless they are lying deliberately.

I have seen, heard and read nothing about the Greens which give any worthwhile reason to vote for them, and if the best they can do is that they’re not the others then they are a protest vote, pure and simple.

They’ve been around in one form or another since the mid-1970s and they’re still struggling to put down roots – maybe they should stick to gardening.

I think the Green Party is at best semi-detatched from the environmental movement & contains too many people who are not so much about protecting the environment as advancing far-left causes which I don’t agree with.

I can envisage myself voting Green at some stage in the near future, but I deem them unworthy of my support until they fully dismiss the woo-mongers & solidify their support for evidence-based policy.

@34: I deem [the Greens] unworthy of my support until they fully dismiss the woo-mongers & solidify their support for evidence-based policy.

Well said. A lot of people in the Greens are emotionality uncomfortable with science. They are as bad in their way as right-wingers like Sarah Palin, who also reject reality.

Yes, but I think the environmental movement as a whole have a lot of worthwhile views, which is why I do regard it as possible that the Green Party can capture my support in the near future if they undergo a bit o’ change!

Name me one such actual person, ideally an elected Green.

I can’t think of a single issue where I’m uncomfortable with science (and yes, that means I don’t believe homeopathy has any non-placebo effect). And in fact, we grasped climate science and the scientific concerns about GM crops long before anyone else.

Who is this ‘we’ you speak of, James? Do you include people like John Ruskin who died before the green movement was a twinkle in his grandchildren’s eye?

Considering climate science hasn’t yet been fully grasped by climatologists I think it is a bit arrogant to say that prospective politicians have grasped the science ahead of the wxpwrts… which kinda means you don’t really get science, despite your protestations. Green: fool.

I’m not claiming we worked out climate change before the scientists, but it’s not particularly new science. James Hansen’s paper in 1981 was key, but it took years for anyone else to listen on to the experts on this issue.

There is still uncertainty (and there probably always will be – you try modelling something the size and complexity of the global environment), but the level of urgency reported by the scientists is rising all the time. The March pre-conference in Copenhagen confirmed this again.

I dunno, we’ll never persuade the climate sceptics, but hopefully there’s enough other people out there who accept the science and want to see real action, not more coal plants, air expansion and motorways.

either you got there first or you didn’t.
Either you are claiming credit or you aren’t.
Either you have all the answers or you don’t.
Either the Greens represent the whole environmental movement or not.

Which is it?

I find your arrogance laughable – you’re trying to have it both ways at the same time.

But, seeing as you brought it up, let’s talk about action. The Green party is not in a position to introduce legislation or decide national policy, so this means you think the Green party are an irrelevance where it comes to real action and your argument is actually against votes for them.

Climate change denial is a fringe opinion which none of the major parties subscribe to. So why not instead engage with the real debate about whether it is preventable or whether we need to adapt and how this may be possible. Like one party holds a monopoly on ideas anyway!

I think it is unrealistic in the extreme to think the challenge of climate change can be addressed successfully without ensuring economic prosperity at the same time and that the economic opportunities which exist to enable us to address it actually indicate the way forward.

The interdependent world brought about by globalisation may mean that we are prevented from undertaking unilateral action, but the challenge exists on a global scale therefore it is impossible to find a workable and effective solution without reaching agreement with all international partners irrespective of individual ideology.

There is a massive tension between Green party proposals (such as the Green New Deal) and the philosophy which informs Green attitudes. I think it is this which the public recognises and is holding back a breakthrough for the Green Party at the ballot box. Until this tension is resolved Greens will remain unable to attract mainstream support, as Asquith indicates.

I can envisage myself voting Green at some stage in the near future, but I deem them unworthy of my support until they fully dismiss the woo-mongers & solidify their support for evidence-based policy.

Does that principle apply to all parties, or only the Greens?

Depressing to see people still supporting animal experimentation: one of the reasons I voted Green was their pledge to stop this disgusting, barbaric and outdated practice. It is a common misconception that animal experimentation is actually of benefit to humans:

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.’

– Alice Walker

Omerald: It is a common misconception that animal experimentation is actually of benefit to humans

Do you genuinely think that animal experiments don’t further scientific understanding, which in turn leads to enormous benefits to humans, for example in medicine? If that’s the case, why do you think scientists continue to do it? Do you think they just enjoy torturing fluffy bunny rabbits?

Scientific and technological advances are of great benefit to humans, which ought to be obvious to you since you are no doubt reading this on a computer. So long as the Greens reject science and reality, they are unfit for government.

@41: Does that principle apply to all parties, or only the Greens?

It certainly ought to apply to all of them. Actually, evidence-based policymaking should be the norm. All policies, where ever possible, should be trialled in an area before being rolled out across the whole country. Better still, trial different candidate polices in different areas, then pick the one that works best.

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