Boris Johnson’s victory in London has produced the predictable flurry of media speculation about Boris as a future leader. Both the polls in the weekend papers – YouGov in the Sunday Times and Survation in the Mail on Sunday had a series of questions comparing Boris and David Cameron and both suggested Boris would do very marginally worse than Cameron.

Polls on alternative leaders are a tricky thing to do, and of dubious worth. Journalists love them as they produce nice easy headlines, but they are often done very badly indeed and even if done well, still have problems.

To start with the methodological problems, firstly you need to ask voting intention in exactly the same way – if you normally filter by likelihood to vote and reallocate don’t knows, you need to do that in your hypothetical question too, otherwise any difference could be down to that (including asking likelihood to vote afresh, you cannot assume it would stay the same). Neither can you say “Imagine Boris Johnson was leader” as it gives undue prominence to one party leader, you have to mention all three. However, you can’t then compare it to a normal voting intention question, as they don’t mention the party leaders – what if any change in the answer is actually down to mentioning Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg? Instead you need to do a control question.

In YouGov’s poll they asked two questions. The first asked how people would vote if the party leaders at the next election stayed the same, the second if the party leaders were Johnson, Miliband and Clegg. You might expect the first one to be the same as the current headline figures – it is not. Current voting intention is CON 31%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%. If you ask people how they will vote at the general election if the leaders are still Cameron, Miliband and Clegg the answer is CON 32%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10% – mentioning Cameron, Miliband and Clegg in the question reduces the Labour lead by 4 points.

This is interesting in its own right – perhaps more interesting than the Boris comparison! Is it people consciously thinking to themselves that while they’ll say Labour now as a protest, but probably won’t actually vote that way come the election? Or a positive effect from mentioning Cameron, or a negative effect from mentioning Ed Miliband? It’s impossible to tell.

YouGov then asked the same question with Boris Johnson as Tory leader, this changed the figures to CON 32%, LAB 41%, LDEM 11%. So under Boris the Conservatives would perform the same, but Labour and the Lib Dems would do slighter better (it looks as though the Conservatives would lose support to the Lib Dems and Labour, but presumably it is cancelled out by gaining support from Others and Don’t knows). Even this, however, shouldn’t be given too much weight, as people don’t tend to be very good at answering hypothetical questions about how they would vote if X happened. People don’t know what policies Boris Johnson would promote, how he’d handle the job, so the answers are based on pretty flimsy information (not, one should add, that people’s eventual voting intentions are necessarily based on a much greater understanding.)

YouGov also asked whether people were suited to be Prime Minister, and were in touch with the public. On being “Prime Ministerial” David Cameron did substantially better than Boris Johnson and, indeed, the other people asked about. 44% of people thought David Cameron was well suited to being Prime Minister, compared to 24% for Boris Johnson (Ed Miliband was on 25%, George Osborne just 10%). Of course, actually being Prime Minister is a big help in people seeing you as Prime Ministerial! On understanding the problems faced by ordinary people only 21% thought Cameron understood well, behind Boris Johnson on 27% (and Ed Miliband on 32%).

Survation in the Mail on Sunday also asked some Boris Johnson questions. They asked if people were more or less likely to vote Conservative with Boris in charge. More or less likely to vote X if Y questions come with another whole bucketload of problems which I won’t go into today, but they found a similar situation anyway – 22% said more likely, 24% less likely.

Survation also asked a series of questions on whether people rated Boris or David Cameron on various attributes. Boris was seen as more likeable, charming and more in touch. cameron was seen as having better leadership qualities, being more true to Conservative values, better at taking tough decisions, more trusted on the recession and likely to be a better Prime Minister. They scored equally on intelligence.

Personally, I suspect the practical requirement to be a member of the House of Commons at the time a leadership vacancy arises and the timing difficulties around that are a huge block to Boris Johnson ever being in the running for the party leadership. Nevertheless, what data we have does not suggest he is any sort of panacea for the Tories.

470 Responses to “Comparing Boris and Dave”

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  1. @Max

    I haven’t seen the turnout, but I bet it was well over 80%. If it was, then a 4% margin is equivalent to quite a lot of votes when you consider the size of the French electorate and the numbers who will have voted.

  2. @ BazSc

    Maybe having a President instead of a Royal Family turns up the political volume? :twisted:

  3. Max,

    Noone predicted a landslide – no one at all. It was predicted that he would win by about 4% which more or less with what he will do.

    Also, you have said that France is like the UK but will follow another path then in the next post you say that thy will have to follow austerity no matter what because of the EU.

    Can you try and be consistent please

  4. Amber

    Surely you are not suggesting we get rid of them…and in a Jubilee year as well – how very dare you!

    It would be radical though wouldn’t it (and fun…)

  5. @Bazsc

    “Why is it France can produce politicians who speak with passion and speak of their country and their citizens whilst we are left with a bunch of dullards?
    Hollande was supposed to be boring and Sarko was also a credit.
    Turnout of 82% and engagement
    What are we doing wrong?”

    You ask the most burning question in British politics. Compared to the vibrancy of French politics, our democracy is an enfeebled apology.

  6. Yet more empirical evidence that EM is a drag on Labour and that 4% of the VI lead is a protest that would disappear come the election.

    Let’s all bear that in mind when making our 2015 predictions.

  7. Crossbat is 100% right. This isn’t the London mayor with 30% turn out – this is France with an 80% turnout.

    I pointed out that it would be close in %%’s but the gap between them in terms of actual votes would be rather large.

    Big issues can mean big shifts in who voters vote for. Campaigning won’t make a big difference in this environment, Hollande had won months ago when people decided they preferred him over Sarkozy,

  8. Well done again to You Gov who got it very close in their polling.

    Good luck to Hollande – it will benefit the UK if he does well.

    It will also indirectly help Labour, because they can look at some of the policies he introduces and then just parrot the ones that work, and distance themselves or disagree with ones that don’t.

  9. Blubob

    Don’t worry, I have no intention of bashing Max. I usually reserve my ire for fellow centre-left posters!

    I must apologise to Rob Sheffield some time because, deep down, I rather like and admire him. The sentiment may not be a reciprocal one, I fear!

  10. Adrian B

    Wishful thinking – Tories still significantly behind no matter which leader.

    I think Labour would be quite satisfied with that

  11. @Bazsc

    Polls used to show Hollande in the mid 60’s in the 2nd round poll. Sarko closed that gap, dramatically, but after the 2nd round they started widening again, until last night when Sakro was only 2.9% behind, now the actual result was only 1.9% away, give it an extra week, who knows.

    Anyway, it’s good that we the Conservative iron grip is a little bit shaken. Single party control of the continent, is something i dont want, even if its my own party, its good to have some differing views at the top table. And as many have said, we can, and will compare the 2.

    Although I already see a few readying there excuses for if UK does better than France, blame it on the Euro although we really won’t have any indication of which side performs best for 2 or 3 years yet.

  12. Max

    Le Monde predicting 3.7% gap so not far away from the predictions and historically in French elections it is a pretty good win.

    These 1 on 1 elections are are rarely landslides and none remembers the gap. You only need to win by one vote (or not if you are GWB)

    It is not an excuse it is just that the two countries are not comparable as you have been saying – if Hollande was in control of monetary policy then perhaps. Remember that apart from the massive fiscal tightening there has also been a massive monetary intervention from the BoE with 350bn QE. Hollande cannot do this without the support of external bodies.

  13. @Bazsc “Also, you have said that France is like the UK but will follow another path then in the next post you say that thy will have to follow austerity no matter what because of the EU. Can you try and be consistent please”

    Do you not understand the difference between domestic and EU wide policy? Sure these is some overlap. On EU wide decisions the narrative will still be austerity, for example the roll of the ECB (although this EZ only I think) and budget limits and the use of other such EU wide institutions but on issues that are still national issues he can follow his socialist policies ie tax.

  14. Robin Hood.

    A very valuable analysis and it does throw some light on the issue of how Labour is doing now. It’ll never be perfect as there are always unique issues to take into account in any administration (79-83 being the obvious stand-out).

    One point. You appear to have the wrong dates for the 2-year point for several of the administrations. For example, 70-74 should be Jun 72, 79-83 should be May 81, 83-87 should be Jun 85. Not sure whether those are just typos, or whether they materially affect your data.

  15. France 24 – age breakdown:

    18-24 – hollande 57 sarko 43
    25-36 – hollande,63 sarko 38

    Retirees : H 43 S: 57
    Workers: H 58, S: 42

  16. @Howard – “Just dropped in to show recent entrants why ‘The Other Howard’ is so chosen.”

    It’s like a kind of polaity between the choleric-melancholic and a sanguine-phlegmatic.

    Nice to see you back.

  17. best we just ignore each other, Max.

  18. Max

    His job is to persuade other Europeans to challenge the austerity model supported by Germany and come up with a proposal that includes growth as well.

    If he manages that then we can see whether it works or not – you are already saying that the centre-right will block him so in effect he will be severely limited.

    This is not an excuse it is a reality.

    What it does say though is when the population is allowed a vote, at the moment they are voting against austerity. Even in Germany Merkel is under pressure and as we can see the Coalition is not in the best condition.

    The big result today is from Greece where the austerity parties have been hammered and I think that will be more of a threat to the current plan

  19. MAX:

    Your comment about shaking the Conservative grip has been the most non-partisan thing you’ve posted to my knowledge. Proud of you mate! ;)


    Winning by 45 votes isn’t significant in itself, but I love stories like that, because it means that every persons vote really does count. I appreciate being reminded of that, and using it to drag my friends to the poll booths on election days.

  20. @ Max

    It’s only been over an hour since he was elected, and already we’re hearing the excuses as to why his plans won’t work, and once again, it’s someone elses fault.
    You have not been following Hollande’s campaign, have you? Maybe some others have not either. But Hollande has not dialed down on anything which he said during his campaign.

    I also think that you are a little behind the curve, in saying that the European consensus is austerity. In a matter of weeks, Merkel has lost most of her support. France, gone; Holland, gone; Greece, going; Italy, support imposed. Furthermore, Ireland & Czech were reluctantly dragged into the ‘consensus’ of which you speak.

    Merkel needs to make a sound agreement with Hollande’s France or she will be all alone. And Hollande has always said he is willing to deal; he does not want to change the constitution of the ECB but he does expect a more varied & balanced approach to the EZ economy.

  21. @Bazsc

    Let me just make sure I understand this correct? If France’s economy improves it’s because socialism works but if it declines under Hollande then it’s the Euro’s fault, or the other right wing countrys fault?

    @Scotswaehae “Your comment about shaking the Conservative grip has been the most non-partisan thing you’ve posted to my knowledge. Proud of you mate!”

    I have posted before about wanting a strong opposition but that was on a national scale (ie wanting Labour to get a stronger leader). The fact is, that even though I am a Conservative, the amount of power the EPP had in Europe and still does have most of actually is a little scary. They had all 5 of the Big 5 (yes UK Cons arent in the EPP but ideologically similar apart from on eu intergration) they have the majority in the parliament, they have european council president (herman rompuy), as well as the the eu commision president and most commisioners and a very strong majority on QMV. Breaking it up a little would be a good thing.

  22. Can we all agree that Boris vs Dave (thread title) is not a polling significant issue? Europe is where the issues that could affect poll results are of significance (regardless of your personal views on our UK EU membership)?

    SoCal – it’s ‘La’. Of course the mother country is female. I regard France as the ‘mother country’ even though I speak only germanic languages, although i rwad teh french press daily on the net.

    My own Green and Sceptered Isle is being ruined by what Auberon Waugh called ‘les garagistes’ but you can still get lost in the Massif Central.

    Vive La France’.

  23. I’m a bit puzzled by the latest yogov tables.

    Apparently, 91% of 2010 Lab voters will still vote Lab (or say they will). 2% have gone to Con, 2% to LD and 5% to Other.

    But 10% also don’t know…?

  24. Max

    and how do you work that out?

    If he can persuade Europe to follow a growth strategy at the same time as reduce the deficit then he will be judged on the results of that.

    If he can’t then he cannot be totally blamed if the economy continues to suffer because of the straightjacket imposed on him but he can be blamed for not being able to impose his will.

    The French people have voted for someone who wants to change the direction that Europe is going and will not be happy if they are not listened to.

    This is why your simplistic comparison of the UK and France is problematic – Hollande cannot just do what he wants as he is constrained by a pact made by his predecessor.

    If Labour were in power tomorrow then they would not have the same excuse as they have full control over the economy

  25. Howard:

    I think that remains to be seen. Most papers I’ve read since the locals are talking about dissent within Tory ranks, and speculating whether Boris will go for it or not. I don’t think a leadership challenge is an immediate threat, but I think in terms of polling it could be a significant issue.

  26. NickP

    Party percentages are of the total after the Non Voters have been removed. As it happens that still adds to 104 points in that case, but that’s rounding for you.

  27. @Scots

    And remember, we tories dont have blind loyalty in our leaders. Just look at IDS, we knew he was heading for disaster, he didn’t deliver we got rid of him. As Nadine said this morning, if Cameron doesnt improve by the locals next year, and we lose big in our heartlands, expect to see Cammy replaced. Unlike Labour who lost every locals after G brown took charge most bi elections even 1 in their 2nd safest seat, and the europeans, then sleep walked into losing almost 100 seats at the general.

    Just like Australian Labour, if things dont turn around for us then we will likely change leader hoping for a bounce in time for an election. It worked for Gillard it can work for (insert name of new leader here)

    Of course all this is pure gesture on the economy improving. Should it improve and the risk pay off, all talks of a challenge will evaporate.

  28. Max

    If anyone had any idea as to what will happen in Europe during the next year, let alone the next 3 years, please post the details. At the same time, can they also post next Tuesdays Euromillions numbers.

    As I posted earlier, personally I think many countries in Europe will move to the left politically, as people look to the state to protect them from the economic storm. Right wing politicians are pro free markets and less state. Unless Right Wing politicians can show the benefit in having public sector cuts i.e creating a large number of private sector jobs, they will fail. So they need to sort out the banking industry and get them lending. This may mean relaxing capital requirements and the government underwriting some of the risk to a greater extent. This should be accompanied, by some targeted government backed schemes such as building large numbers of houses.

  29. I would sugest that those 10% are probably people like chrislane (or other grieving Blairites) who might well be get-backable by Ed.

    Does anybody else think that Ed Balls is suddenly getting a tad more respect from the various media? Just shows that if you stick to your guns (and the evidence eventually suggests you are right) things can shift.

    And Osborne’s star is waning fast.

  30. Oops ignore that last bit – I added ‘Others’ in twice. Though note how ‘Others’ total is 5 while the individual percs add to 4 – that’s rounding.

  31. Max:

    Ahahhaa, no, I well remember that! When things go south the Cons tend to choose their scapegoat and stick with it. Unfortunately for Lab, they tend not to wait until things go south, and rip themselves to shreds anyway.

    I for one am a huge Gordon Brown fan, I thought he performed admirably, and was treated unfairly. I was happy to vote for him in the 2010 election, and would do so again. I would have been less happy voting for another leader who had ousted him.

  32. I think the immediate impact of the Greek election will have more of an immediate impact on the European crisis than Hollande. Hollande was pretty much expected to win, whereas noone knows what government the Greeks will have in a weeks time.

    From the exit polls projections it sounds like as if no party will get more than 20% of the vote and forming any form of government might be impossible, or at best incredibly fragile. It might come down to a tiny amount of seats. Whether Greece gets austerity or bankruptcy won’t be know for a while yet.

  33. Scotswaehae

    I can only imagine that Labour strategists dream of that happening.

  34. I was referring to BJ being Con leader.

  35. @Scots

    Even if that leader could have landed you the biggest party in parliament? That’s what Gillard did, it looked like Labour would lose and she challenged Rudd ousted him, and didnt win outright but achieved the largest party. Shame UK Labour doesn’t have a Julia Gillard, I have a lot of time for her.

    She’s a lefty, but quite socially conservative, she takes a tougher stance on immigration than the opposition (which is funnily a conservative/liberal permanent coalition *shudders*) and is opposed to gay marriage. And actually Australia is doing very well economically.

    If UK Labour had Julia Gillard, I think she COULD (not for certain) get my vote,

  36. @Max
    “the amount of power the EPP had in Europe and still does have most of actually is a little scary. They had all 5 of the Big 5 (yes UK Cons arent in the EPP but ideologically similar apart from on eu intergration) they have the majority in the parliament,”

    The EPP have 271 out of 754 MEPs. Even if you add in the Tories, that’s nowhere near a majority.

  37. Max

    So being against immigration and gay marriage is a reason why Australia has done okay recently? Nothing to do with the massive natural resources?

    I also find it amusing to see a white Australian consider themselves as anti-immigrant. Seems to be plenty of Brits heading down that way – must be the right type of ‘immigrant’

    I think you will also find the definition of ‘liberal’ in Australia is a tad different from here

  38. NickP

    I was going to mention that but forgot


  39. Max:

    As I think you’re finding to your chagrin, sometimes it’s better to have a poorer leader who is closer to your partys ideals, than a ‘better’ one who stretches your party to breaking point.

    If we had Julia Gillard I’d stand myself to get rid of her. That woman is a nasty piece of work.

  40. Max, for someone that uses the term ‘we’ when discussing Conservative Party activity; you don’t have much party loyalty!

    Not that you need any; party politics can be quite depressing, look at the Lib Dems loyal followers :(

  41. @ Scotswaehae

    “Winning by 45 votes isn’t significant in itself, but I love stories like that, because it means that every persons vote really does count. I appreciate being reminded of that, and using it to drag my friends to the poll booths on election days.”

    Oh! I thought it was a significant electoral department or something because of its trend or something like that. I’ve noticed that the department of Gard, which was the one and only one carried by Marine LePen in the primary (and where Hollande did not do very well) was very close in the runoff. Sarkozy won but only by 2%.

    And yes, every vote does count.

  42. There are a lot of things that 18-25 year olds “don’t know”.

    They “don’t know” more about everything than any other age group, incuding whether they are intersted in football (6%)… seriously it is hard to be sure about these things.

  43. @Bazsc,

    I wish it weren’t true that Lab lead shrinks when people are reminded who the three leaders are, but as it is pretty certain that DC and EM will be leaders by the time of the election, we have to, on purely POLLING EVIDENCE ALONE admit that EM is a 4% vote loser to his party.

    This shows that simply asking “Which party would you support” Q at this stage in parlt is showing a protest boost. That’s not all that controversial, none of us believe the 12 point LAB lead is permanent new Labour true believers.

    What it does mean is that EM will need to lessen his personal negative impact over the next 12 months.

  44. Obama launched his presidential campaign. It’s May 6.

    When’s the election?


    Let’s forget fixed term elections as campaigning will start up to a year before.

  45. Adrian B

    […] as it is pretty certain that DC and EM will be leaders by the time of the election, we have to, on purely POLLING EVIDENCE ALONE admit that EM is a 4% vote loser to his party.

    One question no one seems to have picked up yet is on page 10:

    If you had to choose, which would you prefer to see after the next election, a Conservative government led by David Cameron or a Labour government led by Ed Miliband

    January 15-16: Cameron 41% -36%
    May 3-4: Miliband 42% – 36%
    (remaining percentages Don’t know)

    So mentioning Miliband by name may not be the drag it once was.

  46. @Adrian B

    …we have to, on purely POLLING EVIDENCE ALONE admit that EM is a 4% vote loser to his party.
    No, we don’t have to admit that at all. What we can say is that, in this instance, there was a difference when the Party leaders were named.

    Other things, e.g. Thinking about your own constituency etc. changes VI.

    Also, naming the 3 leaders, excludes the ‘other’ parties even more than the regular question does.

    So no, the question in the ST YG does not necessarily prove your assertion that Ed M is a 4% ‘drag’ on the Labour ticket.
    As Anthony says: “It’s impossible to tell.”

  47. “So being against immigration and gay marriage is a reason why Australia has done okay recently?”

    No Australia’s economy is doing well. I complimented her social conservativism because I agree with it, not because i thought it helped the economy.

  48. For anyone still watching the French election results, it could come in even closer than expected. With just 5 constituencies left to declare, including Paris herself, Hollande’s lead is down to 1.3%.

    I still expect Hollande to win, but it may be wafer thin…

  49. With regard to this ‘4% vote loser’ thing it might be more helpful to put the ST headline VI figures in a different way:

    Con 24 (26)
    Lab 33 (33)
    L/D 7 ( 8)
    Nat 3 ( 3)
    Oth 10 (12)
    Wnv 9 ( 7)
    DK 14 (11)

    Where the figure in brackets is the answer to the question mentioning the Party leaders. What this shows is that the increases come from Non voters, not from Labour voters unhappy with their leader. In other words it’s more about reluctant Tories and Lib Dems returning home.

    In some ways this question seems to act a bit like a ‘in your constituency’ prompter, focusing more on the reality of voting and so firming up opinion as well as making people consider tactical voting.

    The tactical voting consideration may also affect how those currently giving VI for the Party split. For the ‘leader included’ question 96% of current Tories stay loyal and 92% of Labour but only 86% of Lib Dems. However it may also indicate that some are only hanging on in the hope Clegg won’t. However the sample is small so it’s MoE stuff.

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