Cameron’s Honeymoon

It’s two months since the coalition government was formed, what is the public’s opinion of it so far? Voting intention has followed a fairly straightforward pattern – the Lib Dem vote has fractured since the election, presumably largely due to losing the support of more left wing voters who object to the coalition deal, or to the agenda the coalition have been following. The Conservatives have increased their support to the low 40s, while Labour have moved up into the mid 30s – positions that have remained largely static over the last couple of weeks. In yesterday’s figures we showed a nine point lead, the largest since the general election, but unless that is repeated over the next few days the underlying picture seems to be random variation around a Conservative lead of about 7 points.


While these figures are positive for the Conservatives (on a uniform swing they would be enough for them to win an overall majority), there is no sign of the sort of honeymoon in voting intentions that Labour received during their first months in power in 1997 when some polls put them at 60% or above. That said, 1997 was something of a historical abberation – no previous government had experienced that scale of honeymoon in voting intention polls either (many didn’t have any at all). Where there is an much larger honeymoon effect is in David Cameron’s own personal ratings.

On leader approval rating Cameron is doing well – from 48% straight after becoming PM (when 40% said don’t know, reasonably enough), his approval rating peaked at 64% in mid-June and remains high at 58%. His disapproval rating has gradually risen over the last two months, largely as Labour supporters initially willing to give him the benefit of the doubt have shifted over to disapproval. His net approval rating is currently +28.

Detailled perceptions of Cameron underline how the mantle of office has improved the way the public see him. His ratings on being strong, decisive and sticking to what he belives in are all up significantly. The quality where he scores the least remains “good in a crisis”, followed by being in touch with ordinary people, where he hasn’t really improved since the election. The only measure where he has dropped is on being charismatic – people are starting to Cameron as a strong leader, rather than just a charming one.

In contrast Nick Clegg’s figures have been on a downwards trend since the general election – this seems to be a continuation of the decline since the the peak of “Cleggmania” after the first debate. On some ratings, including honesty, being in touch with ordinary people and sticking to what he believes in, Clegg is now back to the sort of figures he got pre-debates. On other ratings like being decisive and charismatic he is still seem considerably more positively than at the start of the year.

The only obvious cloud amongst polling for the Conservatives in the coalition so far was reaction to the VAT rise in the budget, which polls found a majority opposing, and falling economic optimism, with increasing proportions of people saying they expect to be worse off in the coming year. Despite that the budget overall was well received, and the polls show the public continue to have confidence in the coalition’s ability to manage the economy (50% think they managing it well, compared to 30% badly). We are heading towards the Summer now, traditionally a time when the political to-and-fro stagnates somewhat. While at some point the honeymoon will start to fade, barring a major crisis I wouldn’t expect any major changes until we get into the run up to the conferences and the crowning of the new Labour leader.

(This is cross-posted to the YouGov website here)

573 Responses to “Cameron’s Honeymoon”

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  1. what I do not understand are the Government approval ratings, which were 46% when I last looked on YouGov. I had assumed that it would be nearer 55% being Con vote + LibDem vote. Does this mean that there are lots of Lib Dem voters staying loyal but disapprove of the coalition?

  2. It is inevitable that the left of Labour element of the LDs will have jumped ship. However, it is clear this Tory- Liberal joint effort is not grinding to a hissing spitting halt as Labour would wish. A great deal of positives to be thankful for.

  3. AW writes
    ‘I wouldn’t expect any major changes until we get into the run up to the conferences and the crowning of the new Labour leader.’

    I cannot detect any history of major changes in *lead up* to conferences, only post them. These are always usually temporary with the notable exception of Osborne’s Inheritance tax announcement.

    To Eric I say that people do not conflate their loyalty to party with a generalised viewpoint on the Government. The Government hasn’t actually done anything yet (actually done anything) that would make voters ponder on its efficacy.

  4. These are always usually temporary

    Sorry about that

  5. In political terms, DC has impressed me since the coalition was announced. He has managed to tame the right-wing of the Tory party, no mean feat.
    Clever me. Before the polls started to show as much, I predicted the coalition would be good for the Tories because it puts them on the centre ground.
    I also predicted the coalition would be a disaster for the LD’s.
    Labour is polling remarkably well, even without a leader.
    Well and truly back to two-party politics in the long run.

    You, young man have cracked it. Where are the wicked, horrid, nasty, uncaring, Tories? They are snuggled up with the soft, sweet, caring, lovely LDs.
    This is not class cruelty it is good govenment, based on inherited circumstance.

  7. @ROLAND -“Where are the wicked, horrid, nasty, uncaring, Tories?”
    I don’t know. On holiday in Belize?
    I’m not all that young but thanks anyway. 8)

    “The deal” has put to death the allegation that the Conservative Party is in some way evil because it refuses to throw money (we do not have) at every issue from the NHS to stranded winkles at half tide.

  9. Eric –

    The premise of the question is wrong – but it’s a common mistake, because it’s easy to forget that voting intention is repercentaged to exclude don’t knows while other questions are not.

    While the two governing parties have a total support of 58% in the voting intention polls, that doesn’t mean they have the support of 58% of the public, just 58% of people who give a voting intention. In the last YouGov poll 8% said they definitely wouldn’t vote and 12% said they didn’t know who they would vote for, so the 58% is 58% of the 80% who gave a voting intention. So roughly 46% of respondents to the poll.

    That figures isn’t actually much different from the 44% who said they approved of the government… but that doesn’t mean they are the same people. Not all people who say they would vote Tory or Lib Dem tomorrow say they approve of the government’s record – 85% of Conservatives do (5% don’t and 10% don’t know), and 60% of Lib Dems do (18% don’t and 22% don’t know). Note there are also some Labour voters who approve of the government so far – 6% of them

  10. @ Anthony

    Note there are also some Labour voters who approve of the government so far – 6% of them
    That 6% just clicked the wrong button when completing the survey. ;-)

  11. I know I’m biased but I was struck that the Coalition frontbench, during yesterday’s PMQ’s, didn’t look very “women friendly”. I thought, when answering HH’s questions, DC adopted a tone which could be construed as bullying. While GO was grinning away, NC didn’t look like he was enjoying it.very much.
    I have a hunch that DC’s stance won’t endear him to female voters. It will be interesting to see if this is reflected in future polls.

  12. I just don’t buy the standard line about left-leaning voters abandoning the Lib Dems. Under current figures (compared to general election):

    Lib Dems -9
    Cons +5
    Lab +5

    If we are all concluding that the Lib Dem left has abandoned them for Labour then we must assume that the Lib Dem right has abandoned them for the Conservatives, and also that contrary to general wisdom, there are as many (former) lib dems leaning left as right.

    I think a large proportion of this is just the lib dems fading from view. Even with being in government too many voters just view the government as a tory government. Should the libs panic though? No. This happens after every election, and they always bounce back when it gets time for elections and people actually have to think about whether they can stand voting tory or labour.

  13. @VALERIE
    If Cameron is attacked by a daft woman, which is what Harman is, what is he to do? Treat her as daft, or say you are a woman, therefore I will not treat you as daft?
    Its a tricky one. The voters will not give a flying kcuf, since they will see him loving Sam to bits.

  14. If you go to Yougov’s own site (look under archives – politics), you can see a break down of the approval ratings against voting intention, gender, age group, social class, UK region.

    There’s no need to try and work out the permutations; it;’s all there in pdf.


    Interesting post.

    Good points

  16. @Roland

    I don’t recall DC being attacked by a daft woman. HH asked him a question about his previous declaration that the NHS had suffered enough reorganisations. She asked him why he had changed his mind? What’s ‘daft’ about that?

  17. And given the fortune Sam brought him, it’s not surprising DC ‘loves her to bits”
    It’s like something out of Trollope – Anthony, not Joanna

  18. Excellent post Anthony

    Exactly how I see it I must say. You possibly undercooked it a bit for the blues….

    Cameron still has yet to alienate floating voters, which bodes well for him considering the fact that the emergency budget was something of a pill to swallow…. The key for Cameron seems to be maintaining a chairman/delegatory style of gov. I think the public have grown tired of having presidents for PMs

    The question is how low can yellows go? The old ‘exposure’ theory must surely be cast aside.. Clegg was headlines last week for AV and Vince was headline today for Graduate tax….

    Labour will be happy that they are still in touching distance, in many ways the vaccum is doing them a favour since it stalls the wallpaper effect a new leader inevitably gets after a while…

    if they had any sense they would delay naming a leader for a few more months….

  19. @STEPHEN W – “(The LD’s) ….always bounce back when it gets time for elections and people actually have to think about whether they can stand voting tory or labour.”
    Strange thing to say. At the last election they didn’t ‘bounce back’ did they?

  20. @ VALERIE
    Harman is totally inadequate for the role she endeavours to fulfil. If she makes herself look like a bloody fool every PMs question time, that is her problem not David Camerons. As for the NHS, as I already mentioned to Amber today, there are other issues facing our country above and beyond 21 stone 35 year old diabetics. A significant number of whom have brought the whole thing on themselves.

  21. @ROLAND
    As a Labour supporter I really hope DC follows your advice about the NHS being an unimportant issue “beyond 21 stone 35 year old diabetics”.
    I fear he will be much too clever for that though.

  22. @Roland
    It’s a matter of perception is’nt it? You think HH sounded like a ‘bloody fool’. I think when DC couldn’t answer the question, he responded in a blustering, bullying tone. That doesn’t mean she was wrong to ask the question.

    Let us be very clear, I did not say the NHS is “unimportant”, I said it is not the only issue, as Labour seems to believe. NHS, its the only thing they ever talk about. Perhaps encouraging kids to play sport rather than encouraging PC claptrap might have helped.

  24. The interesting point will come if the current crop of economic predictive numbers does translate into actual negatives in the months ahead. It took a while for collapsing confidence to impact on Labour at the start of the crisis, but another complication now is that while confidence has been falling whether the coalition suffers or the blame is placed on their predecessors.

    I would be surpised is we don’t see some major poll revisions by Christmas, but probably sooner. In many ways this is Cameron is desperate for. He wants the pain now – that’s why he knows he needs five years in No 10.

  25. @ROLAND – “Perhaps encouraging kids to play sport rather than encouraging PC claptrap might have helped.”
    I agree. Children should be encouraged to exercise rather than sit at their PC’s all day long.

  26. @VALERIE
    If Harman cannot stand the heat she should remove her carcass from the kitchen. I dont remember complaining that Mrs Thatcher was getting bullied.

  27. @ ROLAND

    Andy Burnham’s points on the NHS were about funding. And of course the NHS is going to be spoken about. Lansley annouced a white paper about far-reaching changes… Andy B is opposition Minister for Health. Of course he was going to talk about that, rather than anything else. 8-)

  28. This interesting snippet from Con Home.

    An extract from reported comments at a DC meeting with defeated Con GE candidates:-

    “……he was forthright in rejecting any suggestion that the party failed to win because it had failed to focus on core values or be Right-wing enough. The reason the party did not win a majority, he said, was because not enough people trusted the party with their vote and that more reassurance needed to be given to swing voters so that they could vote Conservative with confidence and without fear.

    Observers of Mr Cameron yesterday came away with the impression that he views that coalition arrangement as a positive way of showing how much the Conservatives have embraced change in a way that should appear to those centre-ground voters.

    It has also been reported that he seemed extremely bullish about the coalition providing the potential for a broader realignment of politics on the Centre Right that could keep Labour out of power for a generation – the exact opposite of the dream of the Left-wing commentariat which would have seen a realignment which marginalised the Conservatives for the foreseeable future.”

    Without being boastful I think I can say I use a computer and stay fit. This is because I use a Cross Trainer 4 times a week and do 1.5 hour sessions. This is 6 hours per week hard exercise. I am 64 years old. My blood pressure is 118 over 59. My cholesteral is 4.2. Believe me it dont come easy, I work to stay fit just as I did when I was 20 and a paratrooper.

  30. @COLIN
    Interesting. The real threat to Labour was always the Tories winning the centre ground. They actually moved further to the right after John Major’s defeat, much to the relief of Labour.
    William Hague was the first threat, but he wasn’t able to reign in the right-wing of the Tory party well enough, and that’s why he didn’t succeed.
    DC didn’t manage to convince enough swing voters that he had control over his right-wing, that’s why there was a hung parliament.
    The coalition automatically makes it easy for him to be in the centre. That’s why he’s doing well.
    To win again, Labour will also need to fight for the centre.
    That’s why the LD’s will continue to suffer. Classic centre ground squeeze.
    I don’t think it’s rocket science. ;)

  31. @ROLAND
    Good for you. I’d like to be that fit when I’m your age. :)

    Well thank you, just dont hit me with all the usual Labour sob stories about the NHS. Eating less and exercising more does not cost much money.

  33. @ROLAND
    I wouldn’t try to hit you anything. It would be extremely stupid of me. You’re an ex-paratrooper. ;).

  34. We appear to be in agreement that the coalition’s fortunes depend on holding the center ground. In some policies they appear to be drifting to the left of New Labour.

    So, what matters are the policies & whether or not they make Britain a safer, fairer place to live. The Tories on their own, or as a coalition, can run the country until the cows come home if they:

    level society upwards,
    reduce child poverty,
    improve the quality of universal healthcare,
    improve education for all children – again with emphasis on levelling up,
    achieve rising employment at fair wages & good working conditions,
    ensure that disabled people who can work have access to quality jobs & those who can’t are not reduced to poverty.

    Why would I care who is in government if they are successfully implementing an agenda of aspirational socialism? 8-)

  35. @Julian Gilbert
    “I don’t think it’s rocket science.”
    It’s actually far less predictable!

  36. @AMBER

  37. @Julian Gilbert

    “Strange thing to say. At the last election they didn’t ‘bounce back’ did they?”

    Well, yes they did actually – at the start of the campaign they were polling in the high teens, twenty-21 max. Even though they polled less than predicted in the final polls they were still at least 4-5% up on where they started the campaign and 1% up on what they polled in 2005.

  38. @Amber
    :-) :-)

  39. @Amber…………..The Labour party is blessed to have you as a member, your core values and integrity shine through. I just hope that under new leadership, loyal support is acknowledged for the value it adds, Perhaps, having reflected on this, the party will realise that it has treated you badly, and may, if it knows what’s good for it, change its ways. :-)

  40. @JOHNTY
    In chaos theory, a final outcome of two possibilities, like in UK elections, is entirely predictable.
    An AV system would make it a non-linear equation and as such, entirely chaotic. Much more interesting.
    Fair enough point.

    re. Labour leadership contenders.
    My head says D Milliband.
    My heart says A Burnham.
    My guts say E Milliband.
    Which part of my body should I listen to?

  41. However…… the policies that the coalition are pusuing at the moment leave something to be desired.

    We have yet to see if the NHS white paper will survive into legislation & what its impact will be.

    We have yet to see how many schools will achieve academy status, will free schools as a concept ever make it off the drawing board & what will be the educational outcomes of all these changes.

    And everybody agrees that the budget & spending review are gambling everything on the private sector growing significantly without there being any evidence that it will be in a position to do so.

    Many Voters will judge by the outcomes, not the ideology. Blue Labour – ’twill be popular, if it works. 8-)

  42. Amber,

    I agree entirely…

    We could it a lot worse that DC believe me…

    :) :) Opposing for opposing sake is monotonous…

    Let blues have a crack..

  43. @Julian

    Go with your gut. DM might look like the logical choice, but he’s not different enough from what’s already on offer. AB might actually be the most sensible, but might also be too bland to be elected. EM might just sneak up through the middle of DM and EB and be the best choice for the reds.

  44. @Julian Gilbert
    You are fooling yourself if you think you can predict human behviour in the way you appear to suggest. The result depends on the interaction of billions of brain cells over a period of 5 years not to mention interaction – it is unknown and unknowable. You can make an inspired guess, but that guess is only as good as the asumptions you make.

  45. @Roland………………..Sometimes it would serve us all well if we thought more about the sacrifices our fine young servicemen and women are making on our behalf. The disgraceful behaviour of the previous Prime Minister, a flawed man, has contributed to tragedy in many families, he has a lot to answer for.

  46. @ Julian Gilbert

    It’s a good thing Labour leadership vote is AV.

    I am going heart, gut, head with my prefences –
    1. Andy
    2. Ed M
    3. David M


  47. @ Ken

    …previous Prime Minister, a flawed man, has contributed to tragedy in many families, he has a lot to answer for.
    If you’d said previous but one, I’d have agreed with you. TB was the PM who should’ve just said no to Bush. Even loyal Labour supporters knew TB was going a bit ‘bug-eyed’ in his later years. 8-)

  48. @Johnty……………..Simon Cowell seems to manage ok. :-)

  49. @JOHNTY
    The only election result which has surprised me to any great degree, was the 1992 win by John Major.
    And that was probably only due to my naive, youthful over-enthusiasm.
    A bit like Neil Kinnock probably.

  50. When considering these results I think we should take into account that all those who say the would voye conservative, also say the approve of the government or eben approve of DC.

    The right wing of the party is in a rage over the Coalition policies, prisons, AV, Defence, Europe just to mention a few.

    Many of them never liked DC in the first place, and dislike him even more now his is actually making a success of being PM.

    Since they have now where else where they can realistically go they would still vote Tory and so be counted in the 40%, but would not be counted amongst those in favour of either DC or the Govt.

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