A new YouGov poll shows David Cameron overtaking Blair as the party leader people think would make the best Prime Minister. 30% chose Cameron compared to 28% for Blair and 6% for Menzies Campbell. While Michael Howard did briefly match Tony Blair in the same question, this is the first time a YouGov poll has shown the Conservative leader enjoying a lead over Blair.

The poll also showed the two parties neck and neck on economic competence, both on 31%. This is mostly due to a sharp fall in the percentage of people who have faith in Labour’s ability to run the economy (down 18 points since the election), rather than any great increase for the Conservatives (up 4 since the election).

The topline voting intention figures in the poll show Labour up marginally but, unsurprisingly, there is no significant change from the YouGov poll last week, with CON 39% (nc), LAB 33%(+1), LDEM 18%(+1). The “other” share of the vote is down to 10%, and has consistently fallen in the last few YouGov polls, down from 15%, to 14%, to 12% to 10% as the boost the minor parties received at the local elections has declined. Compared to last month, the Lib Dems also seem to be recovering slightly – up 2.

The Telegraph has also published more findings from the poll conducted last week, covering attitudes towards Gordon Brown. Opinions are divided over whether Brown will be a good (38%) or bad (43%) Prime Minister, and on whether he will be better (24%) or worse (23%) than Blair. Given a list of paired words and asked which applied to Brown, the same familiar pattern arises – people think Brown is competent (53%), decisive (56%) and effective (45%), but don’t find him caring (33%), likeable (32%) or trustworthy (29%).

In contrast, when Tony Blair first became Labour leader Gallup found comparable figures to Brown on whether he was decisive and effective…but found that 70% of people thought he was caring and likeable. If public perceptions of Brown don’t change, his popularity as Prime Minister will be an interesting psychological experiment. Rationally, people should value competence, effectiveness and so on more in a potential Prime Minister than if they are a nice person. Arguably though people tend to make judgements on far simpler things, like whether they look the part (what Malcolm Gladwell calls the Warren Harding Error), or come across as likeable people. We shall see…

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