The Conservative party have got some very good pickup in the press this morning for some Populus polling they have commissioned about Ed Miliband. It’s very good PR for them, framing the start of Labour conference with media discussion of Miliband’s position, but the polling itself doesn’t actually tell us much new – people are not particularly keen on Ed Miliband and don’t seem him as Prime Ministerial.
I haven’t seen the tables for the survey yet, but none of the answers reported in the papers seem unusual or surprising – they are mostly things that we have already seen in published newspaper polls. Some of the figures look like they haven’t given people don’t knows or have re-percentaged to exclude them, which makes answers look more impressive, but the balance of opinion doesn’t seem surprising. Earlier this month we saw MORI finding David Cameron had extremely large leads over Miliband on being Prime Ministerial, being smart and strong enough for the job. YouGov last year found 45% of Labour voters thought the party would have been better off with David Miliband and 41% of Labour voters thought they’d made the wrong choice. In today’s Times they report their own Populus found showing 59% of people still agree that they fnd it difficult to imagine Ed Miliband as PM (though this is down from 68% in January).
You should always be very cautious about polls commissioned by political parties (and, for that matter, by pressure groups and other campaigning organisations) – the polling company they commission should always ensure that the questions they ask are fair and balanced, but they still choose what sort of things to ask about. For example, the Conservative party obviously didn’t commission polling asking about whether Ed Miliband was more in touch with ordinary people than David Cameron, as they wouldn’t have liked the answers.
If it is being reported accurately there also appears to one very silly question in there – would people be more likely to vote Labour with a stronger leader? Well, yes, of course they would – ditto for any other party. Unless the incumbent leader is the absolute best possible leader imaginable, the Platonic ideal of a leader, then presumably you’d be even more likely to vote for the party if it had an even better leader (ditto even better policies, or even better MPs, or whatever).
That said, While the choice of questions maybe designed to create a particular impression, it doesn’t change the underlying truth – polls show that Ed Miliband has some problems with how the public see him.
I’ve written about this at some length and I don’t propose to go back through it at length – go read it here if you missed it – suffice to say, Miliband performs very poorly compared to his party when it comes to beng seen as a potential Prime Minister. He is less popular than his party and seems to decrease Labour’s support when he is mentioned. When particularly characteristics are asked about he is seem as honest and in touch with ordinary people, but weak and not up to the job.
Whether this really matters is a different question, and one I’ve written about here. The bottom line is that the public do have poor perceptions of Miliband and he probably is being a drag on their support… BUT they are ahead in the polls even with him, so it clearly can’t be that much of a game breaker. The more pertinent question is whether Miliband’s suitability as PM will become more of a consideration to voters as we get closer to an election, and that is an open question.