The first results from Populus’ grand conference poll are starting to come out in the Times. Every year Populus do a larg poll before the conference season and drip-feed out the results that are relevant to each party in the run up to their conference. Amongst other things, this is one of the few times we get poll questions devoted to the Liberal Democrats – though there aren’t any yet!

The first set of results is the question Populus have asked for the last 5 years on how people place each party and party leader on a left-right political spectrum. People might argue, with some justification, that a one axis left-right spectrum is far too simplistic to actually place parties these days. I’d agree, but these polls are still very useful, since they tell us how close people see parties to their own position.

The poll suggests that people are starting to see more contrast between the political parties – both Brown and the Labour party and Cameron and the Conservatives are seen as having moved away from the centre. Gordon Brown is seen as being to the left of the Labour party as a whole.

More interestingly David Cameron is seen almost exactly the same as his party. In the past he used to be seen as to the left of the Conservatives, and I pondered whether he could bring perceptions of his party with him. In fact the opposite has happened, perceptions of Cameron have moved to match ideological perceptions of the Tory party as a whole. This is an interesting development – the difference in perceptions between Cameron and his party was a potential point of vulnerability that the Labour party were apparently planning to target (“David Cameron might be a nice centrist, but look at the scary gargoyles behind him!”). This suggests that opportunity has closed.

Meanwhile, despite perceptions that he has tried to move the party to the right, Nick Clegg is placed in almost exactly the same place on the left-right spectrum as Ming Campbell and almost the same as Gordon Brown. The exact figure for the Liberal Democrats doesn’t seem to be the article, but it’s implied that they are still seen as to the left of Labour (Labour are on 4.82, and the Lib Dems are reported as being slightly to the right of Clegg’s 4.66).

As Guido comments here, all these perceptions – that Cameron is not to the left of his party, that Labour and the Conservatives are moving further apart, that Nick Clegg is to the left of the Labour party, let alone his own party – are somewhat questionable to say the least. It just underlines that people’s perceptions don’t necessarily match parties’ policies.

2 Responses to “The 2008 political spectrum”

  1. Anthony,

    As it’s the same format as before can I assume that it’s just for the three UK conferences and that the SNP/PC aren’t specifically asked about.


  2. All this shows is the inadequacy of trying to analyse political ideas via a simplistic single-dimensional left-right spectrum.