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. @Shevii

    If a Newark by-election was a good result for UKIP, it may be an embarrassing result for Labour but it will be even worse news for the Conservatives. When party morale and discipline is under fire, the last thing they need is any indication that UKIP can threaten the Tories in seemingly safe Conservative seats.

    In that respect, it would still be a good result for Labour, because 18 months on the Conservatives running round like headless chickens would be a far bigger prize than any success in a by-election.

  2. If there were to be a by election here, I would have thought Labour could reasonably expect to poll circa 30% .Whether that would give them a serious chance of winning is another matter.

  3. CNS: Agreed it could be a disaster, but my suspicion is that they’ll try and get Mercer to keep his seat and avoid the by-election.

    LizH: The article was kind of interesting but at the same time just said a lot of things people already knew; a party doing badly will tend to retain its heartland best and other areas less well. And the Lib Dems have taken a lot of losses. These aren’t exactly surprising analytical findings. Incidentally it was actually a bit misleading I felt in generalising about their remaining areas of strength; the Celtic fringe as far as Scotland is concerned has weakened a lot more for the party than their chances of winning places like North Norfolk or Twickenham.

    Tojim: Agreed, the VAT bombshell and Tuition pledge posters could create a lot of ammunition. On the other hand, given we’ve got a circle the wagons strategy going on and most of the Liberals with University seats voted against the fee rise, I suspect all MPs who didn’t vote to raise fees will run on their own record not their party’s.

  4. Suspect, looking at the numbers, that Labour could hit forty in Newark – take 10 percent from the Tory vote (a fifth) and 10 from the Liberal vote (half) wouldn’t seem unreasonable plus the 22% they had last time. That’d modify last time’s scores to CON 43, LAB 42, LIB 10 – so UKIP would only need to take 2% more CON than LAB votes to hand LAB victory.

  5. A UKIP or LAB victory in Newark would be disastrous for the Tories. Dropping from first to third in a safe seat is very, very bad.

  6. @Tojim

    You’re ignoring the simple fact that Labour didn’t win enough seats in 2010 for the LDs to form a working coalition with them. Fundamentally the British electorate voted Labour out – it’s nothing to do with Lib Dems ‘not wanting’ Labour, the notion was never tenable.

    And of course the LDs absolutely CAN point to various Coalition policies as theirs and contrast them against ‘Tory’-led coalition policies. In fact they would be bonkers not to.

    Whether that is ‘fair’ or not is irrelevant (although I’d argue that it s perfectly fair, otherwise you’re equally implying that Tories all have to stand collectively behind there being no referendum on Europe!) – it’s not like every other political party plays fair in presenting theirs and other parties’ policies?!

    I get that this line from NC will not convince you or Liz, but the question relevant to polling is whether any LD-2010 voters would listen; I suspect some would.

  7. I don’t think Labour would get anywhere near 42% – though would also be surprised if the Tories managed 40%.

  8. MP Patrick Mercer has resigned the Tory whip to “save my party embarrassment” over a BBC Panorama programme alleging he had broken lobbying rules.

    -A little late to save the embarrassment.

    Especially as Mr Mercer doesn’t appear to intend to resign His seat

  9. TURK

    Yes-Paxo, Naughty, et al-and all the Julians in the backroom-Tory to the core.


    Well now that the Commission has told Hollande to do what we are doing, it would just get boring-and the lefties would be upset-which I wouldn’t want.

  10. Turk and Colin

    Indeed much in the same way as it is hilarious when right wingers decided to describe the 7 million trade unionists in this country as a bunch of Trots.

    I think that’s quite enough of the partisan comments for now.

    Before AW sends us all to the naughty step

  11. Drove past a garden Centre today with this sign outside :-

    It’s Spring !
    We are so excited we’ve wet our plants.

  12. “CNS: Agreed it could be a disaster, but my suspicion is that they’ll try and get Mercer to keep his seat and avoid the by-election.”

    Absolutely agree. The by-election may or may not threaten meltdown in the Conservative party, but why take the chance?

    But the $64,000 question is: how bad are these allegations going to be? If it’s really bad, public pressure may force Mercer to resign anyway. Then there’ll be no avoiding the by-election – and it the Conservatives were seen to go out of their way to stop it, that will make matters even worse.

  13. “they’ll try and get Mercer to keep his seat and avoid the by-election”

    Mercer reportedly hates Cameron the way I hate Marmite, suspect there is nothing at all they could do to stop Mercer going early if he wanted too.

  14. Don’t count on public pressure folks…

    If Eric Joyce can keep propping up the Commons Bar “For the good of his constituents” until 2015 Mercer could probably have been arming the Taliban and not resign.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when the we next see a poll on how we rate various professions honesty. How low can politicians sink?

    Still another Westminster scandal might help the “Yes” campaign.


  15. AW

    I must be a closet Tory cos’ I also detest marmite, hold on a mo, has there been any polling linking marmite with political affiliation?

  16. Well… we did do this, but it doesn’t have political crossbreaks. Sure I could dig them out :)

  17. I don’t think the Eric Joyce precedent alone gets Mercer off the danger list. Joyce got chucked out fo the party for getting into the fights in the Commons bar. That might have raised a lot of eyebrows in Westminster but very few elsewhere.

    MPs being in the payroll of big business, however, is viewed a lot more dimly by the public. Probably not as much as ridiculous expenses claims, but more than what Eric Joyce did. It will depend a lot on whether the papers decide it’s worth running stories day after day. If they do, it will be very difficult.

    If the story fizzles out within a week of transmission, Mercer will probably survive as an MP. If it doesn’t, he’s in big big trouble.

    Of course, if Mercer thinks it’s worth resigning to try to bring down the hated Cameron, all this becomes academic. I think this would backfire myself, but it’s what Patrick Mercer thinks that counts.

  18. There’s no way that Mercer quitting the party is anything other than bad news for the Tories, but without knowing what he did, or whether anyone else has done anything similar, it’s really impossible at this stage to judge the effect on polling.

    One consolation is that, if he’s done something disreputable, UKIP are unlikely to accept him – particularly if he’s been doing some questionable lobbying around defence procurement (ie something that could be trumpeted as “unpatriotic”).

    Personally, whatever the partisan implications, I would be quite glad of another Augean Stable Clean to curtail the lobbying industry and their hooks into our elected representatives.

    A definite “watch this space” moment…

  19. richard in norway

    […]hold on a mo, has there been any polling linking marmite with political affiliation?

    Yes and no. YouGov have indeed done a survey on attitudes to the salty gunge:

    and it was clearly part of the normal daily polling (same sample size) so the same people would have been asked their VI as well. Unfortunately the above tables don’t include the relevant cross-tabs. Generally, despite the cliche, people split fairly neatly three ways: love, hate, don’t care.

    Interestingly it’s one of the rare cases where women seem more opinionated than men on a topic. Also the Scots seem least so – perhaps because you can’t deep fry it [ducks].

  20. Sigh, why do I bother? Anthony always gets there first.

  21. Roger,

    And how do you know you can’t deep fry Marmite???


    “Probably not as much as ridiculous expenses claims”

    As to Eric Joyce as well as his pugilistic skills, he was top of the expenses list two years running and the first ever to top £200k in one year.

    Obviously because Falkirk is just North of the Shetlands!


  22. What is it with former army officers??

  23. “As to Eric Joyce as well as his pugilistic skills, he was top of the expenses list two years running and the first ever to top £200k in one year.”

    However, he was also implicated in an expenses scandal the same time as lots of other MPs were implicated in far bigger (or at least far more publicly-riling) expenses scandals. Attention on him was spared because the media had other fish to fry.

    Mercer does not have that protection. Unless a scandal involving another MP overshadows what mercer has done, he will be first in the firing line if the media show their full wrath. Ultimately, his chances of surviving as an MP are down to how long and sustained the media coverage of him is. Unfair, maybe, but that’s politics.

  24. Many people are taking it into consideration that Eric Joyce may be ill; the same consideration doesn’t apply to lobbyists who are caught with their hand in the till. Mercer may be exonerated; so – for the avoidance of doubt – I am not referring specifically to him re the lobbyist remark.

  25. @Amber,

    Perhaps. Personally I think that if someone suffers from “likes a drink so much they can’t help themself from getting plastered and punchy” disease then they should probably quit their seat and allow it to be represented by someone a little more, well, healthy.

  26. @ Peter Cairns

    Lots of MPs had to pay money back &/or were accused of house-flipping to avoid CGT. What was the verdict on Joyce’s expenses? Did he have to pay anything back? Was he house-flipping? I can’t find anything on the internet saying he’d house-flipped or done something which was actually against the expenses rules.

  27. @ Neil A

    I agree; I think EJ should not wait until 2015 but should quit parliament & focus on resolving his own issues.

  28. I also think Peter is grasping at straws if he hopes this might help the Yes campaign.

    For a majority of people, this has merely confirmed their view of (Tory) MPs… its already priced into the way they are intending to vote.

    Would it affect the view of the dont knows? Maybe a few, but not necessarily all in the way Peter hopes.

  29. NEILA

    @”What is it with former army officers??”

    Something similar to former ( & serving) Metropolitan Police Officers-or former Ministers?

  30. …….not forgetting Lords of the Realm of course.

  31. Fascinating report from Lloyds Banking Group.

    They have sold £3.3 bn of USA Mortgage Backed Securities which they inherited with the HBOS merger.

    The deal provides Lloyds with a profit over book value ( presumably already written down?) of £0.5 bn; and a boost to common equity tier 1 capital ratio of £1.4bn.


    The reviving US housing market renews appetite for this sort of asset.

    Lloyds responds to Regulator’s edict on undercapitalisation , having already sold wealth management & international private banking activities.

    GO clearing the decks for off loading his 40% stake in Lloyds.

  32. Turk the original bias post referred to the BCC not BBC.

    BGR – Like you I respect what Liz says but like you believe many Lab leaners in Con/LD marginal will in the end vote LD to keep the Tory out in 2015.

    There will be some never againers of course but we can also expect some Tory 2010 vote to go UKIP even at risk of letting in the pesky Euro-Phile LD.

    FWIW – I reckon the sitting LD will see off the Tory challenge in all but 4 or 5 seats. Different story in Scotland and where Lab is in second place of course with few holds and those will be due to mainly to personal vote.

  33. NEILA
    @”What is it with former army officers??”
    Something similar to former ( & serving) Metropolitan Police Officers-or former Ministers?

    As another former Met Police Officer I will assume you mean we are all really nice people!

  34. On expenses I am with Stephanie Flanders.

    At the time she commented on her BBC Blog that the real scandal wasn’t Moat cleaning or Duck Houses but the fact that almost ever MP had spent to within a few £100 of the maximum allowed.

    For every one who had broken the, remarkably lax, rules there were dozens who had habitually maxed out there expenses for there own benefit.

    Almost all of it was within the rules but how much of it was necessary or needed?

    The real scandal was that millions were spent within the rules but without good reason.

    It was legal but immoral.

    You can look through EJ’s expenses and find nothing illegal, but only the most partisan fool would believe or defend spending £200k to represent Falkirk.

    The truth is those caught out were only the most blatant in a whole scale abuse of public trust.

    People got castigated for employing relatives but ever constituency office has party members paid by the public.

    On paper and within the rules they are working for the MP to help their constituents, in practice they are working for the party to promote their MP at the expense of rivals.

    In most offices the staff spend as much time on press releases as constituent complaints and often the issues MP’s take up are more about raising their profile than actually helping people.

    Sitting MP’s religiously defend the “vital” constituency link, not because it serves the public interest but because it serves their own.

    A natural consequence of politics in general and FPTP in particular is that once elected the siting MP can become a law unto themselves.

    When over 500 of our MP’s will get re-elected in safe seats regardless of even a big swings self service can become a way of life.

    It’s one of the reasons I support Open List STV, as well as creating a proportional Parliament, it also creates more choice for the public and far fewer safe seats with competition to just between candidates of rival parties but between members of the same party.

    I don’t exempt my own party from any of these criticisms it’s a product of human nature and a system where once elected over time politicians change the rules to serve themselves not the public.

    So EJ’ may well have been within the letter of the law but as to the heart.

    Frankly people who defend him because he didn’t break the rules can’t see the wood for the trees.

    MSP’s aren’t much better, a tighter system and PR helps a lot to lessen excess, but the same tendencies to over time look after their own vested interest is just as much there.

    That’s why we need to design systems and put them in place to keep things in check, as opposed to the Westminster system of keeping things on cheques!


  35. JimJam
    I agree with that (are there not a few LD /Lab marginals in England too though?) but it does need UKIP to stand. Will they and will Con associations be able to choose a right wing candidate in time to achieve that, and then, if so…….

    Funnily enough I have known a couple of ex met police officers and I discovered a very mixed bag i am afraid. probably down to them being human beings, I suppose, as of course is Mr (don’t know his achieved rank) Mercer.

  36. The issue with Joyce and Mercer and the rest is not so much what they spent but what they actually did for their constituents.

  37. Peter – I have been a supporter of open list STV for over 20 years. We are voting very soon for our candidates for the Euro-Election here in the NEast of England which in effect means we are deciding at least one MEP (the 3rd seat will be close between our second candidate and the UKIP second candidate maybe the sitting Tory has an otside chance).

    Much better all 4 Labour candidates can stand in an open STV list so the Public get a choice of individuals as well as parties.

  38. The fact Cameron’s poll ratings are as bad as Miliband’s neutralises the effect as far as I can see.

  39. Peter
    You would think voters would be enraged the majority of them are just going through the motions but believe me they are fast asleep to those arguments.

  40. @ James Baillie

    I don’t see Lab taking anything from the Tories. The national opinion polls more or less tell us that anyway.

    What I would see is the potential for UKIP to take 15%-20% from Tories pushing Con vote down to 35% and dangerously close to a possible 30% if the bandwagon gets going. After that UKIP and LAB would descend on the LIb Dem vote like a wild pack of dogs and all bets are off how that would pan out. Would be very interesting to see if Lab has a tactic to take those Lib Dem votes or if UKIP capture the tactical vote. Potentially 3 parties very close to 30% each and Lib Dems on 5% if they are lucky.

  41. Caroline Lucas MP being interviewed today by a small boy. Will be of great interest to Greens.

  42. JIM JAM

    “The original quote was about the BCC”

    Really how interesting, however I was agreeing with Colin about the BBC.

  43. Steve

    Actually I’m a member of the National Farmers Union and have been for 25yrs not a trot in sight.

  44. Colin

    You do know that the fed is buying loads of mortgage backed securitys, which is the only reason that Lloyd’s has been able to offload them, I’m sure that there will be a quid pro quo for bailing out one of our banks

  45. The number of employees in the UK who are trade union members rose by 59,000 to 6.5 million in 2012 according to a report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills which was published today. The increase was the first since 2003 and was largely fuelled by a rise in the number of workers in private companies who were joining unions.

  46. Turk
    Your being a member of the NFU came as an immense surprise. :-)

    Have you got a redundant farmyard in the middle of nowhere that needs turning into a housing estate?

    If so – now’s your chance. :-)

    No. seriously, (see recent ministerial statements).

  47. As a Newark constituent, I must say, in my opinion it’s rather bad form of Mercer to resign from whip, but not as MP.

    I may be biased, but I say, bring on a by-election!

    Really think it’s quite shoddy that it hasn’t been called, and the Tories may be punished for it in 2015.

  48. Colin

    I drove past a sign in Buxton two weeks back saying “Summer’s Coming”

    It was 2C on the car thermometer and the wipers were on full clearing horizontal sleet off the windscreen.

  49. Howard

    I’ve been farming for 25yrs, I recently sold my farm because of my wifes ill health to my daughter and her business partner, however I kept 25 acres to return to natural woodland and meadow as part of a local conservation programme to encourage native plants, insects, and small mammals.

    However now you mention it a small housing estate um.

  50. RiN

    Yes I did know that.

    Goldman Sachs was one of the buyers in the Lloyds disposal ( !)

    I don’t understand you last comment -sorry.

    Lloyds certainly looking like the first to wave goodbye to its Treasury shareholder.

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