I’ve already reported some nuggets from the September Populus poll, but hte full tables are now up on their website here. Populus normally carry out a special extended poll for the party conference, with some regular trackers on things like party image. This year is no disappointment.

Tactical voting. For Conservative supporters, 41% would vote Lib Dem if the Conservatives couldn’t win in their seat and it was the only way of stopping Labour. For Labour supporters it’s much the same, 35% would vote Lib Dem to stop the Conservatives winning. For Lib Dem supporters it’s a pretty even split – if they lived in a seat where the Lib Dems couldn’t win 18% would vote Labour to stop the Tories, 16% would vote Conservative to stop Labour.

It would appear that tactical voting is now working pretty evenly against the two main parties. I would add a caveat though – those questions went to people based on their current voting intention, and its possible that was already tactical. There could in theory be lots more Lib Dems who’d vote tactically against the Conservatives… but are already doing so and answered Labour in the first question (or vice-versa). It’s a surprisingly tricky thing to measure.

Party image. In my big round up of where the parties were before the conference I referred to Populus’s annual question on party image, so I’m delighted to find it’s still there. People’s perceptions of the Conservative party have continued to creep upwards – this year 53% said they had a good team of leaders (up 4), 42% said they shared their values (up 2), 55% said they were competent and capable (up 2) and 43% said they were for ordinary people, not just the better off (up 6). Honesty was unchanged on 41% and there was a slight drop in the proportion of people who saw them as united, down to 55% from 60%.

Labour’s ratings too were up slightly on last year, albeit from a much lower base. 31% said they had a good team of leaders (up 5), 33% that they shared their values (up 4), 32% said they were competent (up 2), 48% that they were for ordinary people, not just the better off (no change). Only 22% saw them as united (down 1) and the proportion of people seeing them as honest fell 5 points to 28%.

The Lib Dems had some significant increases on their party iamge, and on many measures had the highest ratings (though lagged behind the Tories on leadership, competence and having clear ideas). Their rating for having a good team of leaders rose 10 points to 44%, competence rose 7 points to 44% amd unity rose 8 points to 50%. Overall their 2009 ratings are their highest since 2005, but they still have some way to go before matching the sort of party image ratings they used to get before Charles Kennedy’s removal.

Best party on issues. Asked which party is best on particular issues Labour were behind on everything. The Conservatives had large leads on their traditional issues like crime (18 points ahead) and immigration (20 points ahead), but lead Labour even on the NHS (3 points ahead). The only issue where they didn’t have an overall lead was the environment, where they were second to the Liberal Democrats.

Leader image. These figures were uniformly hideous for Gordon Brown. To be honest, reading through them I started to feel sorry for the man – it’s getting to the point where asking questions about how the public sees Gordon Brown feels like kicking an ailing puppy. He had a negative net rating on every single measure. His highest rating was actually being “likeable” where his negative score was only minus 16. After that was substantial, where his score was minus 21.

On what were once Gordon Brown’s strengths he trails David Cameron badly. Cameron was seen as stronger, as more decisive and as more substantial. Far more people saw him as up to the job of PM where he got a net score of +25 compared to Brown’s minus 38. Cameron’s only negative score was that people thought he was more likely to say what people wanted to hear, rather than what he really believed. His highest ratings were on being likeable (+49), charismatic (+48), decisive (+42) and strong (+44).

Nick Clegg’s ratings were more mixed. His highest ratings were on being likeable (+40) and in touch with ordinary people (+14). His negatives were that he was seen as lightweight (-29), unlikely to get things done (-19) and not up to the job of PM (-39).

Note that Populus asked people to pick one of the pair of words even if neither exactly fitted their views, hence the rather high figures!

(On an unrelated issue, sorry for the downtime on the website this morning. I’ve upgraded the server that UKPR runs on, so hopefully things should be a bit more robust from now on).

59 Responses to “Populus Conference poll”

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  1. Sorry, I meant Peter (SNP) not Colin.

  2. That’s all right…. George.


  3. Perhaps I should add, they are particularly sick of a Labour government led by Gordon Brown.

    It was astonishing that after the terribly, terrilbly poor Euroelection result that the Labour MPs did not force Gordon Brown out.

    It was surreal in its wake to watch the MPs complaint about themselves not properly being listenened to by the leadership while turning a deaf ear to the public cry for a change in the leadership.

    Never will we having a governing party going into an election with a leader who has such a badly damaged reputation. I am staggered that the Labour MPs failed to see that under Gordon Brown they are doomed not simply to lose but to lose badly.

  4. Philip,

    If you are a Labour MP and you doomed to lose badly anyway, do you oust Brown and hope a new leader does well enough to get you personally above the cut off point so you can get your £65k over the next four years or do you stick with him and get another year on £65k and take your chances.

    If before the election 100 or so Labour MP’s are going to jump ship why do it now when by waiting you can get a years salary and a pay off for being defeated as a candidate.

    It’s a sad reflection if it’s true and here again as I am openly an SNP people are free to say ” Ah well he would say that”, but it could well be that currently the parliamentary Labour party break down as follows;

    True Labour who want to stay and fight and believe in the party, and back Brown.

    Blue Labour who hate Brown wanted Blair and don’t care if Labour lose if it gets Brown.

    New Labour who are careerists who have options elsewhere and might leave early as they don’t need the money.

    Few labour who haven’t got anywhere to go so are milking it while they can.

    Between the four no group can gather enough to secure Brown from attacks or gain enough to oust them.

    It’s just a slow motion car crash.


  5. Nobody in the Labour party WANTS to lead Labour into the next election. Far better to get the leadership AFTER a defeat than before it. For that reason, if for no other, Brown will lead Labour into the next election.

  6. I’m in complete agreement with anyone who supports ending the present situation where MPs get a payout for deciding not to face the voters’ verdict.

  7. Thanks Anthony for your intervention; my wife is devastated that some one has usurped her name for me that I use on this site. (not really but a bit annoying)
    The ‘Libetarian’ Jim Jam seems to think pinching my sign on is OK.
    If he (or she persists) I will have to change mine.
    It will be interesting to see how the first post LD conference poll looks, my guess is no lift for them as the mansion tax announcement and subsequent bickering will not have played well.
    They seem to attacking the cons more, either they have judged Labour finished or they are trying to protect (I guess unsuccessfully) some South West seats.
    In this they are being short term; their best bet would be to accept a Tory victory and some losses to them but go after Labour with the aim of over-taking them at the 2014/5 Election in votes if not seats.
    If some of their attacks on the Cons resonate (IHT for example) Labour will benefit more than them.

  8. Jim Jam (proper)

    I agree with you re LD policy position – but it seems the first post-conference poll suggests otherwise. Of course, the LD boost may well be down to the old adage that all publciity is good publicity, and will prove purely transitory anyway.

    But it may also mean that the LD leadership judge their new mansion tax policy a success – which could rebound rather badly on them when the GE campaign proper starts and it is too late to ditch it.

    It comes down to how good Clegg is at strategy rather than tactics. In my view, he has not shown that sure a grasp of strategy (or his party).

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