YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has topline voting intention figures, with changes from their last poll, of CON 41% (nc), LAB 38% (nc), LDEM 11% (nc). Clearly the figures are exactly the same as their last poll, conducted two and a half weeks ago for the Sunday Times.

This is the first poll for almost a fortnight and, after a period of extreme volatility in the polls, it’s makes a change to find things so static. There was potential for the Conservatives to have continued moving head, or for their leads at the start of the month to be have been nothing but a brief recovery on the back of a horrid week for Gordon Brown. On the basis of this poll though it seems to have been consolidated (there should be two more polls early next week to confirm or contradict that). To an extent voting intention polls are once again an irrelevance anyway following Sir Menzies Campbell’s resignation as Lib Dem leader. As was the position before Tony Blair resigned, we once again have a known unknown ahead of us – we know that in mid-December the Liberal Democrats will have a new leader, but we can’t know until then what effect it will have on people’s voting intentions – it may have none, it may see the Lib Dems taking support back off Labour, or off the Conservatives. Until then voting intentions figures are a bit artifical.

More interesting therefore are the underlying figures – and there is some very bad news for them for Gordon Brown. Having enjoyed strongly positive ratings so far as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s approval rating has slumped, down into negative territory for the first time as PM, with a net approval rating of minus 14, down from plus 11 last month. David Cameron meanwhile is once again back in positive territory on +4, up from a painful minus 27 last month. On the forced choice question of whether people would prefer a Labour government under Brown or a Conservative government under Cameron the 15 point lead Labour enjoyed in September is down to only 3 points. Labour’s lead on the economy last month was 8 points, now it’s only 3.

Perhaps more importantly Gordon Brown’s image is rapidly tarnishing. YouGov has asked people about the same series of paired statements about Brown, whether he is decisive/indecisive, effective/ineffective, etc, as they did before he became leader and, in some areas he is now viewed even less positively than before he was PM (unfortunately they weren’t repeated when Brown was at the height of his popularity, so we can’t see the full up and down pattern). His net rating on being able to unite the country is much the same (-32 now as opposed to -31 in May and -33 in Sept 2006). The transformation is in perceptions of Brown being effective and decisive: in September 2006 his net rating for being effective minus ineffective was plus 11, in May 2007 it was plus 10, now it is minus 5. In September 2006 he net rating for being decisive was plus 28, in May 2007 it was plus 35, now it is minus 5.

Gordon Brown’s public image was once one of strength, efficency, decisiveness and experience – obviously you can’t take away his experience, but he seems to have squandered his repuation for efficiency and decisiveness. Sadly YouGov didn’t ask if he was strong or weak, but asked if they agreed with the statement “compared with Gordon Brown, David Cameron seems a lightweight” now only 40% agree, with 37% disagreeing. When the same question was asked in September 57% had agreed, with only 23% disagreeing: Brown no longer has a substantial lead over Cameron when it comes to being seen as a heavyweight politican.

The apparant reasons for the turnaround in perceptions of Brown are predictable – 52% agree that Brown treated the public like fools by claiming he didn’t cancel the election because of the polls (32% disagreed), 51% thought Brown copying Conservative policies made him look feeble and opportunistic (29% disagreed). The question will be whether his image is now tarnished for good, or whether it will improve once the agenda has moved on and they are forgotten.

While the news is horrid for Brown, there are some worrying findings for David Cameron too. Before now I’ve highlighted a major weakness when people are asked about the Conservatives is that people don’t actually have any idea what the Conservatives would offer if they got into power and people aren’t sure if there was any substance behind David Cameron’s words. The past month may have improved the Conservatives’ polling position in voting intentions, but these underlying problems haven’t gone – 65% agree they don’t really know what Cameron in power would be like, 60% say it is hard to know if there is any substance behind his words (down from 65% last month, but obviously still very hji

Finally, the poll also asked people who out of Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne would do a better job at leading the Lib Dems. The answer only underlines the two men’s current anonymity – 10% said Clegg to 5% Huhne, with 57% saying don’t know. Amongst Liberal Democrat voters Huhne led Clegg by 16% to 14%, but naturally this is a minute sample size and the views of Lib Dems voters don’t necessarily bear the slightest relation to those of Lib Dem activists.


38 Responses to “YouGov – Brown now seen as indecisive and ineffective”

  1. as a Labour supporter I’m quite relieved the freefall hasn’t continued, given the truly wretched press Brown had following the Tory conference 38% is a reasonable base.Although, as you state, we’ll have to wait for the new LD leader to come ‘on stream’ to see if there is any effect on overall voting intention.

  2. With Ming as leader the Lib Dems were marooned on 11% as we all know, but what has only just occurred to me is that with no leader at all for quite a sustained period now, encompassing the whole of November and a lot of December, there is the danger that their ratings could slip into single figures for the first time in about 16 years.

  3. that’s a point.What is the lowest ever poll rating for the LDs/SLDs? I can only ever remember them being somewhere around 12-18% during their entire existance.

    I doubt it’ll fall much lower due to the publicity they’ll get from the leadership contest, although I don’t expect itr to return to 2001/05 levels either.

  4. Andy, agree with you there especially as neither candidate is well know. If the media continue to sideline them it will be difficult for them to get their message across.

    Brian, as a Con supporter I am happy that their share has remained at 41 and not began to sink.

    Could be a very interesting 6 month period to see who can establish themselves

  5. looking at the voting intentions on the left they were around 5% in early 1990 (if I’m looking at it correctly)

  6. What is the lowest ever poll rating for the LDs/SLDs?

    I remember in their early days when they were very low in the polls Paddy Ashdown said that with their margin of error they might not even exist. :)

  7. Their lowest was 4%.
    Single figures often between 1988 and 1990.
    Still some way to go.

  8. LOL! Some of those personal ratings for Brown really are terrible. His honeymoon is definatly over, and already people seem fed up with him! Imagine what his position will be like by 2010…. ;)

  9. There’s hope for the Libdems, the US sanctions against Iran and the immediate support from Gordon Brown sound very similar to the situation in 2002, if they take the same line again as over Iraq they may do better.

  10. Bear in mind this is a Yougov poll, and these tend to show the highest Labour ratings. I expec the Tories to be further ahead in the next ICM poll.

  11. Keith,

    Sanctions are by no means are precursor for WAR.

  12. Luke,

    Further ahead than the last ICM poll or further ahead than this YouGov poll?

  13. Luke – I wouldn’t count on it. YouGov showed the biggest Labour leads during the “Brown bounce”, but not previously to that. Now Labour are no longer ahead, it’s not certain that the same trend will continue.

  14. Anthony

    Since YOUGOV take no account of turnout one might expect even larger Tory leads in other polls over the next week or two; eg MORI which records only those ‘certain to vote’ and ICM which applies a turnout filter.

    As for the LD leadership findings I attach no significance to them given the tiny number of people we’re talking about. No doubt the Clegg campaign could trumpet that twice as many support their man whilst the Huhne campaign can boast of a marginal lead among LD supporters ( but not necessairliy members.)

    I suspect Clegg will win. Can members completely ignore his massive lead among MPs; is it 29 to 10? However, there have to be uncertainties with tens of thousands voting. Clegg’s current odds aren’t exactly generous taken in that light.

    By the way can you explain why YOUGOV don’t apply any weighting to turnout?

    You’ll be familiar with the argument that much of Labour’s apparent recovery from last May’s lows was based on increased likelihood to vote rather than any net switches from those who voted in 2005.

    If that’s true doesn’t YOUGOV methodology risk inflating Labour’s ratings at the moment?

  15. bluemoon- it doesn’t necessarily follow. If the only difference between the pollsters was was their treatment of likelihood to vote then you could always be pretty confident that YouGov would show the largest Labour leads and MORI the smallest. However, it isn’t the only difference, there are other differences in sampling, weighting, etc that often work in the other direction. Prior to the last few months YouGov historically tended to produce some of the better figures for the Tories.

    The lack of turnout weighting is because Peter Kellner claims it doesn’t make a huge difference. This is strange, since we know it does make a large difference in other companies polls, but is also feasible given the other differences – just because a poll conducted amongst a sample of the whole public, using live interviewers to whom which people may be embarrassed to admit to not voting, is drastically changed by applying a turnout filter, it doesn’t necessarily follow that a poll conducted amongst a panel of volunteers, using self-completed surveys, would behave in the same way.

    The YouGov poll last month had breaks by only those 10/10 certain to vote which did make a difference, but that would have been a very extreme filter – were they to use a turnout filter it would be more a more modest one like ICM’s or Populus’s, weighting by likelihood or taking only those 7/10 or above likely to vote. They did apply a moderate filter in their last poll before the 2005 election and, IIRC, it cut Labour’s lead by 2 points.

    (And no, if Labour’s increase was all due to increased likelihood to vote than YouGov’s methodology would have risked under-reporting it, not inflating it!)

  16. Anthony

    Of course your last paragraph is spot on!

    I’d be interested to hear Peter Kellner’s assessment of why he thinks a turnout filter doesn’t affect YOUGOV but does affect other polls quite markedly. I note your point there but it would be interesting to hear his take.

  17. It is all very subjective at this stage. But, given the News headlines these days about the un-sustainability of the Planet in relation to its resources, we will need a Government that has a clear message and a strong resolve. Your comments in the penultimate paragraph are therefore very important ” — about the Conservatives is that people don’t actually have any idea what the Conservatives would offer if they got into power and people aren’t sure if there was any substance behind David Cameron’s words”

    The next election, and the compostion of Parliament, is up for grabs.

  18. Anthony,

    I can’t seem to find the full results tables with the regional breakdowns, so I’ve no way of seeing how we are doing.

    Peter.

  19. What was most shocking about the poll was the appalling piece of spin put on it in the Telegraph. By comparing the poll to the the last Yougov/Telegraph poll (and ignoring the more recent Yougov/Sunday Times) they effectively rebroadcast the now old news that Labour’s 11 point lead had turned into a Tory lead of 3 points. They could just have easily reported the poll as marking a stalling of the Tory advance with the Labour vote remaining stubbornly high. It reminded me very much of Anthony’s comments about the power of those who report the polls rather than the contents of the polls themselves.

    There is reason to cheer and to worry for both Brown and Cameron. The drop in Brown’s personal ratings are an obvious reflection of the abysmal headlines he has had over the past few weeks. Even after the election fiasco and the pre budget report, the press are hungry for “Brown in the sh*t” type headlines. This is not dissimilar to the tough press that Cameron got before the conference season where every word he uttered was reported as a gaffe or a sign of division. For this reason Brown will be pleased that his party are still polling 38% and that the Tory lead is almost within the margin of error. He will be less pleased that he has spent the goodwill that he had built up and that while he still leads Cameron on strength and on a forced choice of a Brown or Cameron government, that lead is much reduced.

    The LibDems are the real wild card and until we know which party (if any) they will recover votes from, it is almost impossible to forecast what will happen. Of course everyone on here will predict the outcome most favourable to their party but the reality is that we are all guessing.

  20. Next week’s polls will help to put this in some sort of context hopefully.

    As has been said people are certainly re-assessing Brown.But they are not removing more support from labour-which is not good news for the Conservatives.

    I was intrigued by the question “It’s hard to know what a Conservative Government under DC would actually be like”.
    65% yes seems a very fair-and almost blindingly obvious response? I would be interested to know how New Labour/Blair would have looked on that question in 1995/1996 ?

  21. Arnie – the Telegraph always compare their polls solely to their last one, rather than to more YouGov polls for other clients, so it’s not just to make the Conservative look good this time round, it’s their normal editorial policy.

    Not that it means I like it. It is one of the reasons why I started blogging about polls – a single poll rarely gives you a good idea of what is going on, you need to bring them all together and look at the broad overview. I don’t think newspapers looking at their own polls in isolation is giving readers baised views, but it is doing them a disservice by giving them a more shallow and limited view than one which took into account the broad range of polling available.

  22. Agreed Colin.

    Actually if you look at how Yougov framed those questions about both parties, they almost beg negative answers. I always place more trust in the plain vanilla questions such as best party on particular issues, best leader for certain characeristics.

    Contrary to expectations, the current era is turning out to be one of the most interesting periods for politics for 10 years.

  23. “Their lowest was 4%.
    Single figures often between 1988 and 1990.
    Still some way to go.”

    wow, I must have expunged that spell from my memory.Unpopular Tory government, popularish Labour opposition must put the skids under the LDs.

    Yougov: I’m not sure when yougov started reporting larger Labour percentages but I’ve always regarded them as the most stable and reliable of the pollsters since they more or less called the 2005 election correctly. Despite this, even yougov have been all over the place in the last few months. It may be a case of waiting for the party conference ‘spike’ to ease away, see the new LD leader installed and then let the public digest all available info. With no election until 2009 it could well be politics as normal during 2008.

  24. I disagree with Arnie – it is well worth noting that the Conservatives have gone up by 9% since 4 weeks ago. I can only think of the Major Bounce of 1990 or the Falklands War that have culminated in such a huge Conservative boost in such a short period of time. This poll confirms the shift has not been a flash in the pan.
    It is interesting to note that the LibDems have remained unchanged. Clearly Sir Menzies’ resignation has given the party no boost – maybe a new leader can provide that.

  25. I would have been surprised if Ming’s resignation had given the Lib Dems a boost – I don’t think he had any sort of negative effect on them, he wasn’t disliked, he was just anonymous.

    It wasn’t that people were saying “I can’t vote Lib Dem because of Campbell”, it was because they’d been sidelined and people forgot about them or didn’t see the point. I’d expect them to recover somewhat when they are able to get back into the game and get some coverage, which will need a leader (though a high profile contest may itself help them).

  26. Anthony: That is why I expected at least some movement in the polls this time. Not because Campbell was unpopular, but because the Lib-Dems have been getting a lot more publicity lately.

    The contest does appear to me to be taking on a lower profile than I expected or than it did post-Kennedy though.

  27. What a tremendous turnaround.it is win win for cameron.
    Clegg would have less country support,as is a cameron clone.could also go into a government with cameron.
    hume more party support as they are reactionary lefties.they are in real trouble,and should not be getting the press they do on 12%.the greens are just as important as they are.

  28. ” This poll confirms the shift has not been a flash in the pan.”

    I’m sure Brown was saying the same when he was considering calling an election a mere 5 weeks ago.I couldn’t disagree more with your assessment, we are in 100% flash in the pan country for all parties.The public is volatile,soft and wavering with no strong opinions on any one leader or party.I think the polls from the last six months bear this out completely in my opinion.

  29. You’re right Brian. I am of course referring only to the last four weeks.

  30. I saw David Cameron being a bit evasive about whether he would hold a referendum if elected. I wonder how he would fare being asked awkward questions as PM. Hopefully he might not get so angry. Having some sensible answers, rather than waffle and spin, to issues that concern voters is extremely important these days. Presumably Gordon Brown’s wobbly performances at the despatch box have been noted.

  31. Brian: I disagree, brown’s lead was not a “flash in the pan”. A bounce maybe, but a mere flash? No.

    Being more steady than not being a flash != being long-term sustained of course, but that is not what’s being said anyway.

    As far as referendum after the treaty’s already gone through, its a silly question. Truth is we can have a referendum now and a No vote would mean we reject it and it falls through, continue with the status quo. After the next election if its forced through Parliament, the status quo would be same as a yes vote though. Its too late then.

    Be about as useful as holding a referendum on should we close the metaphorical barn door years after the horse bolted.

  32. I think you miss the point about Cameron.

    Cameron is not good or even very good. Cameron is a truly gifted communicator not seem in modern politics almost anywhere in the known world. He is a perfect PR man and highly intelligent to boot.

    Almost to good to be true. He is all of these things and much better then that. The Tory Party could not come up with a better candidate for PM if they had manufactured him in Central Office themselves.

    However

    It is not Cameron or the British electorate who will get or keep the Conservative Party in government.

    It is the media and the money supply and most importantly those that control both that will elect David Cameron or not.

    I think the polls over the last few weeks very well indicate this to be a simply enormous fact.

    A simply enormous fact that has to be taken into consideration when trying to understand what POLLS are really intended to tell us.

    Which is how well is the propaganda working.

    Which is also a measure of; How totally confused people are. How stupid people are. How disinterested people are. How depressed people are. How desperate they are, and most of all how likely they are to riot if the powers that be really start taking the piss.

  33. I wonder if part of the Libs problem is that they are seen as a spending party and the voters seem to have decided that they don’t want to pay any more tax? Also while they can get elected at local level they don’t seem to be particularly good at running things? Still the only politician who was a success at local government was Paul Beresford and he seems to have sunk without trace at Westminster.

  34. Interesting article in the Guardian today by Iain MacWhirter
    (Saturday October 27, 2007)

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2200304,00.html

    He covers similar ground to me here in the past in argueing that the SNP offers traditional Labour voters an option they just don’t have in England.

    With the UK LibDems getting squeezed and seeming to move to the right (and losing their second Scottish party leader), it’s perhaps not surprising that they have been recording single figures in Scotland.

    However as we haven’t had a decent poll for some time up here or seen the details from the YouGov SNP poll at the end of the conferences in England, we’ll just have to hope that we get one to coincide with the SNP conference.

    Peter.

  35. Peter
    Instead of whining about how few polls you get “up there”, why don’t you get Alex to cozy up to Scotland On Sunday and ask them to commission one?

  36. John T,

    The SNP commissioned one from YouGov in September, but Yougov haven’t put up the full results. I was hoping for one this week seeing as it’s our conference, but no such luck.

    If it keeps up like this I am just going to get the phone book and phone up 2,000 people.

    Peter.

  37. Peter – they should be up on the website tomorrow, if not, drop me an email and I’ll dig them out.

  38. Anthony,

    Thanks, I know I’ve been a bit of a pain about it but we are increasingly two seperate countries and the dearth of data is annoying.

    It must be really frustrating for people in specific regions of England, like the North or South West, who have a dstinctive politics but very rarely
    get any specific information on their area.

    I quite like the idea of the German system of 5,000 plus member polls where you have decent regional samples.

    Lets home Yougov gets to a 50,000 panel some time soon so that we can get more accurate national figures and meaningful regional ones ( although as you all know Scotland isn’t a region it’s a country……..)

    Peter.