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7 May 2010updated 27 Sep 2015 2:21am

What’s gone wrong for the Lib Dems?

Unless there is a major shift tonight, this might not be such a game-changer for the third party.

By Samira Shackle

At least something is going right — Chris Huhne has held on to his Eastleigh seat.

But the results so far are certainly not reflecting the “Cleggmania” that followed the leaders’ first televised debate, nor do they live up to the neck-and-neck-with-Labour ratings shown in the polls last week.

There are several possible reasons for this. It’s possible the TV debates just didn’t have quite as much of an impact as was widely expected. Respondents were likely to treat polls taken immediately after the debate as a poll of who they thought best in the debate, rather than whom they were voting for, regardless of how the question was phrased.

This leads to a second possible distorting factor — the sheer quantity of polling in this election. The introduction of the daily poll may, in fact, have been counterproductive to the aim of presenting an accurate picture of national mood or voter intention.

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Finally, Lib Dem support is notoriously soft. Many people like the idea of the party — even more so those who were exposed to the party through the leaders’ debate — but, when it comes down to it, feel that their vote might be wasted.

Both of the other main parties played on this, Labour saying that a vote for the Lib Dems would let Cameron in through the back door (certainly a potent tactic among people I know) and the Tories warning of the dangers of a hung parliament.

Perhaps this election won’t be quite the game-changer for the third party that many thought it would be just a few weeks ago.

Of course, this could all change as the night goes on. Clegg could yet be kingmaker.

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