Mark Gettleson is an elections and polling analyst, focusing on British and American politics. He writes for PoliticsHome.com and ‘The Knowledge’ in The House magazine. He is also a Liberal Democrat councillor. Follow him on Twitter.
When considering the effects of a possible meltdown in the Liberal Democrat vote on Conservative prospects at the next election, it is crucial to consider the kinds of voters sticking with Mr Clegg, as well as those moving away from his party in droves.
Nate Silver, the extraordinarily insightful elections analyst at the New York Times, has coined the term ‘voter elasticity’ to describe the extent to which people in swing states actually change their voting habits. Why, for instance, is Obama neck-and-neck with Romney in both Wisconsin and North Carolina, when in 2008 he won the former by 14% and the latter by 0.3%? Largely because while North Carolinians are fairly set in their party loyalties (inelastic black voters and liberal urbanites vs. rural white conservatives), Wisconsinites are far more open to persuasion.
Such concepts clearly have a part to play amid the shifting tectonic plates of a post-Coalition electorate. Those people who have moved towards the Liberal Democrats in recent elections are among the more disloyal in their voting patterns. They are influenced by new political information and therefore the most likely to be pushed back into their former voting patterns by something they disagree with.