Is the ‘Green surge’ real?

The media are slowly waking up to the fact that it’s not only the kippers who have raised their profile this year. On the left, there’s excitable talk of a ‘Green surge’. Party membership is reported to have doubled this year to 27,600, which is not far behind Ukip (on 40,000). The party is intending to stand in three quarters of constituencies next May, compared with just over half last time and is busy raising money on crowdfunder to help it do so.

The Labour Party is beginning to take this seriously at least, worried that voters on its left might no longer be taken for granted. They’ve set up a ‘Green Party Strategy Unit’, which rather humorously begs the Greens not to split the ‘progressive vote’. Its argument is that a vote for the Greens is actually a vote for David Cameron.

Back in the real world, something happened two weeks back which has been hardly reported at all beyond Green party websites. In the average of the daily polling undertaken by You Gov in the first week of December the Greens overtook the Liberal Democrats. And this week they were level.

The Greens first pulled level with the Lib Dems on September 26th. They then had to wait another month for this to happen again. Then, on October 29th a poll put them ahead of the Lib Dems for the first time. This month, so far they’ve been ahead of the Lib Dems in four daily polls, level in another four and behind them in just two.

The graph tracks the weekly polling average.

VI Dec

Labour peaked in the summer at 37-38% but has fallen back to 32-33% now as voters worry about its capacity to eat bacon sandwiches properly. Support for the Tories has been fluctuating between 31 and 34% and they’re now neck and neck with Labour. Ukip’s support rose a notch in September in advance of the publcity around the Clacton by-election. After that it peaked at 17-18% but has since fallen back.

For a better picture of the minor parties, look at the graph below.

VI Dec minor

The Lib Dems slumped badly after the disaster of the European and local elections in May. Their support fell below 8% in late September and they’re now polling just under 7%. In contrast the Greens have seen their support rise from 4-5% in the summer to over 5% in September, over 6% by the end of October and touch 7% in early December. Meanwhile, the boost to the SNP from the referendum can be clearly seen.

This definitely looks like evidence for a Green surge. And yet it doesn’t seem to be reflected on the ground. The Greens have contested ten local by-elections in the past three weeks. Their highest score was just 12% in Adur (in West Sussex). In all the rest, including three in Oxford, one of their best areas, they polled less than 10%. Their median score across these elections was an uninspiring 4.3%. Not too much of a ‘surge’ there.

And what about Cornwall? The Greens have rather optimistically included St Ives as one of their 12 target seats. It’s difficult to see why. Even within Cornwall, they were polling better in Truro & Falmouth back in June (at 8%). Two polls taken in St Ives in May and August gave them a mean score of 7%.


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