Sunday Polls

The first round of the Tory leadership contest is on Tuesday and the last few days have been dominated by questions about David Cameron’s past – specifically whether or not he ever used drugs at university. Today is our first chance of seeing whether or not the allegations have made any difference to the contest.

Sadly there isn’t YouGov poll of Conservative members this weekend, so we can’t tell if their opinions of Cameron have changed. There is, however, a BPIX poll of the general public in the Mail on Sunday and a Communicate Research poll in the Indy on Sunday.

BPIX have a full set of hypothetical voting intention polls, asking how respondents would vote if each of the contenders in the Conservative leadership election were Tory leader, along with some specific questions about views on drugs.

BPIX don’t give the detailed voting intention figures, but at present Labour are 7 points ahead of the Conservatives (whatever that may mean – we don’t know how people are answering the standard voting intention – when they say how they’d vote in a General Election tomorrow are they already taking into account who they expect to be the next leader? We don’t know). With Cameron as leader the Labour lead would fall to 5 points, while under Ken Clarke the Labour lead would increase to 9 points and under Liam Fox or David Davis the Labour lead would increase to 13 points.

As I’ve noted before, questions like these don’t really tell us how well the parties would do at the next general election if they were led by the different candidates – respondents do take into account the context of the question and use it to indictate a preference for one candidate or another, not to mention the fact that whichever of the candidates does become leader may be very different to how the respondents imagine them to be. It does serve as a good proxy for how popular they are, and how much support they are likely to gain in the short term compared to each other (in the long term of course, it depends on what they do after they become leader!)

The poll also asked about the drugs issue. Opinion was sharply divided on whether or not David Cameron was right to refuse to answer questions on his past behaviour – 44% said he should answer, 43% said he shouldn’t. BPIX asked what people thought should happen if it emerged that a leadership contender had used drugs – should he stand down? Half of respondents thought that a leadership contender who had used class A drugs like cocaine shouldn’t have to stand down, 36% thought he should.

Asking just Conservative voters support for Cameron’s position became stronger. 39% of Tory voters said he should answer questions, with 52% saying he was right not to. Only 29% thought that a contender should stand down for having taken Class A drugs like cocaine, 61% disageed. So Tory voters seem to think that Cameron is right not to answer questions about taking drugs, and most wouldn’t seem to be too fussed if he had.

The Communicate research poll in the Independent was much shorter, and just did a forced choice question between Labour and Conservative under David Cameron and David Davis (why a forced choice rather than a voting intention I don’t know). Again David Cameron would do better, but this time the difference is much, much smaller closer – Cameron would only cut the Labour lead by 1 point more than Davis.

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