Let's start with the performance of the LibDems in Sunderland local elections in the data period, 2004-2012. This shows the average percentage vote in all Sunderland wards for the 7 elections. Perhaps you can tell which ward was consistent in electing LibDem councillors for a number of years.
Unfortunately, in the 2012 elections, the last elected member of our party lost his seat. However, there are a lot of LibDem voters out there - if you work out the average over this period, with its admitted highs and lows, it works out at about 12.7%.
Let's break it down into the average vote per ward for our time period.
As you can see, the average % vote over the whole borough was fluctuating between 13% to 18% when LibDem candidates ran in a ward. Contrary to expectations, 2010 was a fairly normal % of votes, very similar to 2004 and 2006. There was a drop to around 7% after the Coalition came to power. The price of government!
Now here's where it gets interesting - if you look at the official data in 2004 for example, you might think that the ward average was 8% because this is the average vote % taken from the number of votes counted across the borough. However, this is totally wrong - it's not the ward average - because the LibDems didn't put up candidates in all wards, which changes the way the ward average is calculated.
Actually, if you calculate, taking this into account, a much healthier vote 18.2% is given. The same statistical error as appeared in the quoted national PCC election results. How many times... You can't take an average vote from somewhere where no voting occurred! It's not the same as zero votes, which is when no-one chooses to vote for a party.
No of wards contested
So how many people in Sunderland are LibDem voters? Let's leave aside the issue of swing voters, the undecided and the like and just look at pure numbers. I took the average of LibDem votes for 2004-2012 in each ward to try and get a representative percentage, though it's not weighted for % turnout which would obviously skew the data. (Also my days of using SPSS programs are but a distant memory). This is just a rough average count of bodies actually seen in the polling booths rather than a hypothetical figure like that. Let's call this the average active voting population then.
And of course, you'll want to know the total, which is 11,393. Remember, that's an average of actual votes/ward. In 2010 the actual overall vote for the borough, for the party, numbered 20,247, and in 2012 that had become 3,818. I don't find this depressing, because there are still many thousands of us left in Sunderland, even if the % has dropped. Plus, that's a lot of swing voters who can be won back.
There were in fact wards where the LibDem percentage vote was in double figures, and in one ward it reached 38%. You can probably guess which from the spike on the graph. Yes, for whatever reason, that ward bucks the trend. I like to think that it's the effort put into the campaign, so you have to ask yourselves, what could we achieve if we put a similar effort into wards like this at the next local elections. Not necessarily winning, but building up the support, and encouraging the party's supporters who want electoral representation for their views. So the next question is, how can the data help target efforts?
My next post will be on ways of statistically measuring the effectiveness of a candidate, with real life Sunderland examples.