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Is a myth being created about the impact of the debate?

April 20th, 2010

Did the move to the Lib Dems start much earlier?

It is almost becoming a short-hand to describe this election. The two party fight became a three-sided contest at 10pm on Thursday April 15th when the first polling reaction to the first leaders’ debate had Nick Clegg winning by a mile.

No doubt this is how the dramatic Election of 2010 will go down in political history – but is it actually true? Didn’t the move to the yellow team start much earlier?

For a week before the debate, on Thursday April 8, ICM finalised the fieldwork of a poll of key Labour-Conservative marginals for the News of the World. The result was quite startling and was reported on the Saturday evening here under the headline “LDs blunt Tory progress in the LAB-CON marginals“.

In seats where you would have expected the Lib Dem shares to suffer from the big party squeeze ICM recorded a share of 19% – up five points on a similar poll in the same seats in January and up even on the 2005 general election.

Then exactly a week later a ICM finalised a standard national poll and found a sharp move to Clegg’s party putting the share up to 27 points. The survey had gone on over two days and almost all of if had been completed before the session started in Manchester.

Because that poll was published two days later it became part of the debate impact narrative.

So by the time that Nick Clegg made his opening statement the yellows were on a roll anyway. His assured performance was the icing on the cake.

Looking at the post debate polling as part of broad mood change amongst voters suggests that it might be more sustained than many are predicting.

Latest SportingIndex spreads: CON 302 – 307: LAB 227 – 232: LD 83 – 86

Mike Smithson