The Times this morning has some intriguing YouGov results on Ed Miliband. Taking the simplest bit first, Yougov asked if people thought Ed Miliband was a better or worse leader than Gordon Brown, and a better or worse leader than Tony Blair. Miliband was seen as better than Brown by 32% to 17%, and worse than Blair by 41% to 20%.

All straightforward so far. However, YouGov also repeated a bank of questions asking about Ed Miliband’s qualities that had previously been asked about Gordon Brown in May 2010, immediately after the general election. Miliband got higher don’t knows than Brown for obvious reasons, but looking at net figures Miliband had better ratings than Brown on being in touch and being honest, but worse (in some cases MUCH worse) on being a strong leader, on being decisive, on having a sense of purpose, on caring about ordinary people and on trying to do the right thing. So people think Ed Miliband is a better leader… but also give him worse ratings than they gave Brown?

It’s interesting to ponder the apparent contradiction – there are several possible explanations. One is that the Gordon Brown polling was done right at the very end of his premiership, and his personal ratings increased during 2010 so these figures are how Brown was seen at a comparatively positive point, not Brown when his ratings were at their worst. It’s possible that the “folk memory” of Gordon Brown that people are comparing Miliband to is Brown at his lowest point, or an image of Brown that is actually much worse than the reality at the time.

There is also a question of people’s changing perceptions towards an incumbent party leader – in many ways the “right” answer for a Labour supporter in May 2010 was to give Brown a positive rating, while the “right” answer now is for them to say Miliband is an even better leader. That’s not to say people are somehow not giving their genuine opinions – I am sure they are. It’s just, if you are a Labour supporter you are going to see the party’s leader in a positive light, overlook his weaknesses, notice his strengths. Labour supporters in May 2010 would have seen Gordon Brown in a positive light, now Ed Miliband is leader they’ll note his strengths and perhaps take a more neutral view of Brown. In just the same way Conservative supporters in 2002 told pollsters that Iain Duncan Smith was a good leader… and I’m sure if asked today would recognise that, when all is said and done, he was a bit of a duffer as leader.

While we are here, we should stop to look at the figures in their own right, whatever people thought about Gordon Brown, they are also a chance to see how people see Ed Miliband as a politician in his own right. Looking at them that way, Ed Miliband’s most positive rating by far is on honesty – 39% think he is honest, compared to only 24% dishonest. His ratings are also comparably good on “trying to do the right thing” (39% v 41% serving his own interests) and caring about ordinary people (36% v 42% caring about only a select few). He scores much more negatively on being dithering (57% v 19% who think he is decisive), weak (56% v 19% who see him as strong) and being unclear what he stands for (53% v 27% who think he has a clear sense of purpose).

I’ll end up with by my normal summary about the Ed Miliband question, since it’s always a subject that provokes a lot of discussion and some very entrenched views – I invariably see Labour supporters wedded to the idea that Miliband’s ratings will be irrelevant come the election, and Conservative supporters convinced that it would be impossible for Labour to win under Miliband.

Suffice to say, Miliband’s ratings are bad, and are bad compared to past opposition leaders. It seems likely that he is having a negative effect on Labour support. HOWEVER, Labour are ahead in the polls, and have a lead that would give them a comfortable overall majority at an election, so the idea that they cannot win with Ed Miliband is clearly false. Right now, people are telling pollsters that they will vote Labour regardless of Ed Miliband’s negative ratings. The question is whether or not those negative opinions of Miliband (assuming they don’t change) will play more of a role in influencing people’s voting intention as the general election gets closer and voting intention becomes more of a choice between alternate government as an anti-government statement. Current polling cannot answer that question – and the key to interpreting polls is often as much about recognising what they can’t tell you as what they can.


317 Responses to “YouGov/Times poll on Ed Miliband”

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  1. Good old Ed.

  2. As I always say at these moments, there’s a third option: nothing is more prime ministerial than being prime minister.

    http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2011/12/30/howto-appear-prime-ministerial-first-be-the-prime-minister/

  3. @Jim Jam – fpt “I think the press would have got in to DM re rendition”

    Thanks to Alex… the link to Ian Cobain’s article provides futher links to renditionproject.org whose global timeline for this ends in 2006.

    Speaking about a case from 2002 David Miliband had this to say in February 2008:

    “I do not believe the US government set out to mislead the British government. I believe they told us in good faith they had no evidence of the use of Diego Garcia.”

    He said British principles were “absolutely clear” – that it would not support the use of rendition for torture and always required permission for the use of British bases.

    “I have it from the mouth of the Secretary of State of the US that that is understood at the highest levels of in the American government,”

  4. They’ve done Ed Balls vs. Darling, and Darling did markedly better. Although that could easily be a grass-is-always-greener issue, much like how Boris Johnson-as-Tory-leader improves Tory VI.

    They probably weren’t polling Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown vs. Lamont, but it’s not really a fair comparison anyway- as someone intimately associated with a government that presided over a huge crash Balls is in a much more difficult position.

  5. At least the charges of being dithering, weak and unclear about what he stands for are all ones which Miliband might be capable of turning around over the next couple of years. Dithering and lack of clarity over key policy stances could equally be applied to the Labour Party as a whole at present, although that is ultimately Miliband’s responsibility too.

    As AW says, these ratings are not terminal but something needs to be done to reduce the current slide in Labour’s poll ratings.

    What exactly? Well if Labour does develop clear policy stances as the election approaches, Miliband’s ratings will improve if those stances appeal to voters. But it matters that those stances make it clear what Labour stands for, whose side it’s on and are seen as being very different to the offerings from Osborne/Cameron. So for starters drawing a clear red line now to distance Labour from Osborne’s further bout of austerity would help. The silence from the opposition over the past week has been almost deafening. A weak point could be addressed by reversing the stance against a EU referendum and trumping Cameron by voting for one sooner rather than later. And showing some steel in a Shadow Cabinet reshuffle that included replacing Balls with Darling. I don’t think that the “weak” charge would stand water if that were done.

  6. Does anyone else think that in a perverse way DC’s comparative good ratings are a big problem for the Tories. By now it must have filtered down to the general public that DC’s party hates him. Would you vote for the party that hates the man best fitted to be prime minister?

  7. NICK P.
    Agreed, and thinking about Eagles, I was there in May 1969 when Palace went up, winning 4-2 v Fulham.

  8. Have not looked at polling breakdown but seems clear to me what the possible answer would be.

    There will be some loyal labour supporters that will feel a duty to say, in a poll, that their current leader is better than their previous leader who they know is widely seen by the public as dreadful.

    However when asked directly about GB or EM they will not feel they have to give answers which are consistent with this and the most loyal will simply give high ratings to both.

    Do you have a breakdown of these stats by voting intention or previous vote at last election?

    If my hypothesis is true one would expect the largest logical dissonance to be present in those who claim to be Labour voters.

  9. So the majority of Tory/Lib Dem/Ukip voters have negative opinions about Ed Miliband, now there’s a surprise, whereas Labour voters are more positive, even where they are less positive, they will more than likely vote Labour anyway and Labour are ahead in the polls…

    Personally I do not think these sort of polls tell us much.

  10. Neil Kinnock was often rated the most popular party leader, but he still lost twice. I don’t think (fortunately) that we have tremendously personality based politics yet.

  11. “The silence from the opposition over the past week has been almost deafening.”

    With Parliament in recess coupled with the murder of Lee Rigby, the media is not interested in anything Labour are saying.

    As an example of this even from today – has any media outlet reported on Andy Burnham hosting an emergency summit on the A&E crisis ?

    The news tonight will be dominated with the sentencing of Mark Bridger & the court appearance of Michael Adebowale & by the time those two are out of the news it will be too late to report on the A&E crisis summit let alone anything else.

    Roll on next week when Parliament & politicking resume.

  12. Dan,

    “If you put David Beckham in charge of the Lib Dem tomorrow their polling VI would soar.”

    There policies would probably improve too!

    Peter.

  13. Anthony,

    Has anyone ever done a poll asking people just what qualities people want from a PM.

    It’s all very well to say he is strong on this, weak on tha,t but being really strong on something people don’t care about wouldn’t compensate for being poor on their priority.

    I know we would like strong, decisive, cares about people like me, but which comes top?

    I wonder if different party supporters want different things?

    Peter.

  14. Anyone care to tell me how they think Fararge comes across

  15. PeterCairns – Probably… but it would be bollocks. People would say this or that or the other, when the reality is that we judge politicians on what they look and sound like, on our gut impressions of if they are competent or Prime Ministerial or whatever, whether they seem decent and effective and so on. We then ascribe other qualities to them based on those gut impressions. C’est la vie.

  16. Antony,

    So basically we are back to “Cognitive Dissonance”. We form general impressions based on what are essentially superficial and emotional criteria that we aren’t really aware of or able to define and then fill in the blanks with facts that suit.

    Therefore; I really want a Labour government ideally with a strong leader but as Ed isn’t strong I won’t put strong high on my list of priorities, so that the facts fit my preferred outcome.

    Pretty much fits with my experience dealing with the public.

    Great people but faced with an unpopular option they have an amazing ability to find facts to support doing something else.

    Peter.

  17. Peter – that’s about the sum of things.

  18. I cannot imagine any of us were surprised at the EM poll. I rarely find I am surprised at any of these ‘what do you think of’ answers because people generally trot out what the press has told them they should think, plus what they see on TV sound byte clips.

    The 2015 Debates will make, potentially, a huge difference and it is the geeky appearance and mannerisms of EM that are hugely in his disfavour. I don’t see, at present, what can be done about this.

  19. Tories are following Andy Coulson’s instructions in GQ to discredit EdM. Who cares if non Labour people find EdM non Prime Ministerial.

  20. @Howard,

    The 2015 debates is an interesting question. For Cameron, they have the potential to improve his position. But he must be hoping beyond hope that UKIP’s average poll share has dipped back down to single figures by then, else the “debate question” is going to be all about whether Farage should be allowed to participate – which will highlight Tory division and cause far more harm than the good done by a well-coiffured, smooth-talking performance from Dave.

  21. LizH
    The floating floater is what counts (especially, clearly, in the marginals). I wish it were otherwise (for EM especially) but FPTP marginal seat elections are decided by people not interested in politics.

  22. Big problem for the debate is that they can not be DC, NC and EM together as that would have 2 speakers defending the record – has to be series of one – one to be fair.

  23. Neil A
    Agreed which is why I think the Debates are great for EM if Farage is there and bad, bad, bad, for DC. NF will not make the mistake of appearing too geeky himself. Am I the only one here who finds him geekier than EM (at least the latter does not have that mad gleam in the eye) ?

    This is not intended to have any partisan overtones. I’s just how I find these people, as AW has just pointed out.

  24. AW.

    Allow me, as one of your Labour supporters who doesn’t think that EM’s ratings will stop Labour winning in 2015 to explain why that is my opinion. It’s not being wedded to the party right or wrong. It is an honest assessment of the polling data, based on two observations.

    1) EM does not have very much worse ratings that DC. In previous situations where a leader had disastrously low ratings, his/her opponents often did not. So simply saying “EM is as poorly thought of as WH/IDS etc” is irrelevant. They were up against a very popular PM. The crucial point is that DC has extremely low ratings as PM. I often wonder why more focus isn’t put on that fact, rather than on EM’s shortcomings.

    2) According to my amateurish analysis, EM is seen is significantly better (OK, “less worse”) light than DC by the crucial swing voters who have deserted the LDs. In a nutshell, all Labour have to do in 2015 is to hold onto a good chunk of these voters, and they are home and hosed. And EM’s ratings among those voters are significantly higher (very significantly higher) than either DC’s or NC’s.

  25. JimJam
    What record, they haven’t done anything have they? :-)

  26. LL
    Agree with all that. Labour will win handsomely anyway as things stand. I was just discussing what our American friends would call the ‘visuals’. They seem to make nouns out of adjectives about everything.

  27. That would be a record in itself Howard would it not.

  28. If they happen, then Ed Miliband will do very well in the debates.

    He is an intellectual, unlike David Cameron, who appears to be a nice guy, but “doesn’t do detail” and likes to “chillax”. The time will be ripe for an intellectual (or a fascist).

    Cameron is the master of rhetoric, a decent man in his own mind, and will probably manage to hold his position with his own side. The Tories have no alternative leader other than BJ and he is not in Parliament.

    Nick Clegg is a dead politician walking and has been since those fateful days in May 2010.

  29. We could always go for the World Cup option, a group of four all playing each other. Three debates each, two to a debate means six debates in total,

    Start with DC v NC so we can see the two pals slug it out then EM v NF as the left v right, we can then have EM v NC to get the boring one out of the way followed by the immigration grudge match of DC v NF?

    Lastly we can have NC v NF in a fight for the protest vote finishing with the big one the only to real potential PM’s DC v EM for the prize.

    Peter.

  30. Plus one in Scotland with DC, NC, EM and AS if you are still with us. That would be balanced as 2 each for opposition and Government
    (Maybe Wales with PC leader, what’s her name? as well).

    No need for NF to risk meeting any Scum.

  31. Good blog.

    Can someone make Dan the Man stop dragging it down with his partisan comments?

  32. That was desperate Dan!

    Peter.

  33. Surely there must be a big doubt about any TV debates next time?

    If Labour felt comfortable come the start of 2015 there is every reason not to knock the boat and plenty of excuses not to do them. Lab could say we’re not doing one unless Farage is invited which would immediately scupper Cameron and the whole thing would be called off. Unlike a ‘frit’ excuse, Labour would probably come out of it quite well or UKIP would (which I still think means much the same thing even if the polls are not quite so clear now that a big UKIP vote is good for Labour). They were already arguing about whether it was fair to have two coalition leaders on against one opposition. The headlines are far more likely to be Cameron scared of UKIP rather than Labour scared of a TV debate.

    I also wonder whether Cameron has much to gain from a TV debate. Obviously if he is behind in the polls he has nothing to lose, but rather like the Cleggmania, there must be a risk for Cameron that Miliband actually comes out of it quite well. It is certainly arguable whether Miliband would do any worse than the current public opinion of him in this poll.

  34. Dan – you’ve convinced me where can I get forms?

    Seriously, I realised several years ago that know one visiting this site is going to change their political allegiance due to anything I or anyone else might say.

    Re specific issues yes on occasion and Colin, Neil A and other cons supporters for example have got me thinking about a particular policy or issue in a new way.

  35. oops should be ‘no one visiting this site is going to change their political allegiance due to anything I or anyone else might say’

  36. @PeterCairns

    “…We could always go for the World Cup option, a group of four all playing each other. Three debates each, two to a debate means six debates in total…”

    Two debates. The final with Lab vs Con only (the only two with a chance for a majority govt). The third place play-off between LD and UKIP only (the only two with a chance of coming third).

    rgdsm

  37. The key predictor is PM approval. (See Lebo & Norpoth, 2012) The current figure suggests the Tories will beat Labour by 7% in 2015…

  38. Exactly what I’ve been saying, EdM as a person and Labour’s attitude on immigration are drags on the party VI, but the Tories are so hated right now, Labour are still clear faves to win.

    I’m strongly considering moving over to Labour.
    I can stomach Ed as leader, but the immigration issue is a deal breaker for me. They can’t claim to be a party of the working class, when they have a key policy which has such a negative impact on the working class.

  39. I think Labour and EM need to wake up to the fact that after a year where Labour have consistantly had a lead in the double figures things have begun to change, the polls are more volitile and now when the Tories have a couple of weeks bad press the figures no longer leap up into double figures and stay there.

    Infact when the publicity for the Tories could have hardly been worse we see a few days were support goes up for Labour then it falls away again unlike the omnishamble days, this maybe because EM has not driven home the Tory divisions with the public or people are just not listening to him.

    Why are the polls more volitile, well welfare reforms have proved to be popular amongst the majority of voters, the economy is at last pointing in the right direction, DC has stuck to his guns over gay marriage, and there will be if re-elected a vote on europe in 2017. And of course the rise of UKip.

    So does EM need to make that contact with the voters I would suggest he does if his party is to maitain there momentum to the next GE. The policy of do nothing and get elected by default may work, but it’s more risky then it was last year. I must admit as a Tory voter I’m more optimistic about the next GE than I was last year it could be very close.

  40. Ed could turn this around quite quickly if he came up with some decent policies. His Labour conference speech in 2012 was well received and proves he is capable of overcoming lack of charisma when well prepared.

    The first party to come up with a clear policy on how to sort out the economy could easily walk the 2015 election

    Interesting article in the Independent .

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labours-largest-donor-pygmy-ed-miliband-needs-to-get-on-message-over-economy-8638545.html

    ” it did not appear that Labour – along with the Conservatives – had a “clear idea on how to get the economy growing again at a reasonable speed and how to get the deficit down to a much more sustainable proportion”.

    “The whole political spectrum is policy-light and this includes the Labour Party,” he said. “I’m not sure anybody has a compelling message.”

    That comment lies at the heart of the low poll ratings for the leaders of all 3 main parties. In poll after poll the economy is the main issue for voters. But we keep talking about Europe and other side issues. “the others are worse than us” argument is just going to play into the hands of UKIP. The cuts message is no longer believable, everyone can see the deficit is not going down after years of that message.

    Voters understand that we need growth. But no party leader has yet come out with policy specifics on how they are going to get that growth. Are they really so lacking in vision?

    Each department should have a growth target, not a spending target.

  41. Two weeks before the 2010 election and Nick Clegg was the best leader !

    I don’t think people in the UK vote for a ‘president’. I am not sure they really care whether someone comes across as a geek. Of course if they are asked the question in polling they might comment, but that is just human nature.

    John Major was a grey bank manager type and in 1992 the Tories won over 14 million votes. Was he the best leader the country ever had ? No of course he was not and splits in the Tory party lost them 5 million votes before 1997.

    I think Labour in selecting Ed Miliband have a leader who can unite the party and run a proper cabinet based government.

  42. Rod Crosby

    Well I will take that bet!

    Tories to have a big a gap as in 2010 – probably requiring well over 40% share

  43. Turk should you have prefaced with imo?

    The policy of do nothing and get elected by default may work.

    The difference of opinion in Labour circles has been about timing not the need for more policy before 2015.

  44. Good comment RHuckle.

  45. Was big Dave that impressive in the last debates? I thought they were all [email protected]! There weren’t any standouts for me apart from Clegg being overconfident and underprepared in the last one

  46. BCROMBIE. Not necessarily over 40%. There’s a new party on the block, don’t forget.

    The key number to watch is PM approval/(Lab+Con poll share)

    so for IPSOS/MORI May 2013 that’s 36/65 or 55%, which is pretty decent.

    Lebo&Norpoth’s model has predicted correctly every election since 1945 using this figure.

    Basically, if Cammo can keep that value >50% he’s home and hosed in terms of having a vote lead over Labour in 2015.

    What FPTP spews out as a consequence is another question, of course..

  47. RODCROSBY
    The key predictor is PM approval. (See Lebo & Norpoth, 2012) The current figure suggests the Tories will beat Labour by 7% in 2015…

    ****************************************

    I don’t believe polls are in that sense predictive; let alone reliably predictive when the prediction is based on a subset of questions within polls themselves. To hope to imagine the future based upon such portents omens and signs is more the business of augers and priests than of political analysts.

    I think it is fair to say evidentially EM has a problem with the electorate’s perceptions of him. It is not altogether clear upon what these are based but it probably has more to do with how he comes across on TV than anything else.

    Generally politicians who suffer from these disadvantages do not succeed; but as Heath and Thatcher demonstrate such flaws in comparison to another may not be fatal.

    The DC brand has been & is being damaged and we are still almost two years from the election if things don’t pick-up soon DC may have an even bigger problem with his party.

    The other problem for DC is that the Conservatives did not win outright in the propitious times of 2010. By historical standards DC will be doing well for the conservatives not to do worse five years on from 2010.

    Nor do any of us really know how the LibDem vote will break and how UKIP will play. We don’t know what will happen to any of the big parties if the EU elections turn into a UKIP fest. We don’t know the effect of such a triumph for UKIP might have on the vote in the Scottish Referendum on Independence and what effect that in turn might have on political alignments of party within the UK itself ….

    And none of us knows what will happen to the world economy or even if the government will fall apart over some other matter…

    I suspect no matter how many polls we take or how many chickens we eviscerate we will still not reliably know the future.

    All we can safely say is Labour has a problem with EM and the government coalition has problems of its own. In normal times governments tend to get second terms but these times are not normal and this is the first peacetime coalition since the 1930’s so there are no obvious polling comparisons upon which we may draw….

    The one law of politics is that politicians all run out of luck in time….and I say with the oracle at Delphi: in May 2015 a party leader will lose his office….

    I just can’t tell you which one…

  48. ‘If they happen, then Ed Miliband will do very well in the debates.’

    I agree very much with that. It has been clear for some time , I believe, that the debates were far from being the assured certainty that many have assumed.. UKIP’s rise to third party status – at least for the moment – makes them even less certain. Moreover, if UKIP were to be included it would be difficult to exclude the Greens who have an MP! I recall the article in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago in which Adam Boulton – Sky political editor – made it clear that he had serious doubts as whether the debates will happen next time..

  49. MiM

    Talking about changing opinion. I changed mine on immigration after reading MiM posts explaining why it was bad for the working class.

    I think EM does have a different viewpoint on immigration and does say Labour made mistakes, maybe he just has to firm up some policies to get MiM support.

  50. Dan,

    “If you put David Beckham in charge of the Lib Dem tomorrow their polling VI would soar.”

    There policies would probably improve too!

    Peter.

    Their crossing of the ball certainly would – ole Vince is rubbish and the ginger one blubs if he’s on the losing side.

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