The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up on the website here, topline figures are CON 32%, LAB 38%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 14%. Tabs are here

A large part of the poll covered perceptions of Ed Miliband, something that we’ve seen in other polls lately and seen covered a lot in the media. There is nothing particularly new in the Ed Miliband figures in this poll – a majority (51%) think he’s weak leader, 56% think he’s out of touch with ordinary people, 60% think he wouldn’t be up to the job of PM. Nothing here we didn’t already know, though they are still worth asking to see if opinion changes. At this point though I doubt they will unless Ed Miliband actually becomes Prime Minister. Once the public have taken against a politician, whether that perception is fair or unfair, it’s mighty hard for them to shift(the exception tends to be when they actually become PM, then people can see them in a new light.)

The Ed Miliband paradox is something I’ve come back to several times here, partly because it’s one of those things that I think has the potential to make a difference at the next election, partly because I see such partisan idiocy written about it. I see some people writing about it as if a popular or unpopular leader is the utter be-all and end-all of politics, a guarantee or victory or defeat, and see others writing as if it’s a total irrelevance. Both are utter nonsense.

I wrote about it at length here and while the figures have changed, the essential situation hasn’t, in summary:

  • People’s perceptions of party leaders ARE an important factor, the key driver analysis of British Election Study data at recent elections demonstrates it, some respondents will consciously say it is that a primary concern, many others it will be a factor in the mix. It would be almost perverse if the main public face of a party and its policies and principles was not a factor.
  • But it is by no means the ONLY factor. Perceptions of party competence on the issues people consider important are of critical importance, so are party identities. By extension (since they drive those factors) government performance and wider perceptions of the parties and their values are also extremely important. Hence it is perfectly possible for a party with a duff leader to win if it is outweighed by other factors like competence and party identity. Thatcher won in 1979 despite trailing badly to Jim Callaghan, presumably because other factors outweighed the minus of her leadership.
  • Labour have been in the lead in the polls for a couple of years, despite the public being well aware of Ed Miliband and having a negative view of him. That does NOT mean that he is not a drag on Labour’s support (we don’t how whether Labour’s lead would be larger under a different leader), but it does mean that his negative ratings are already “priced into the market”.
  • The questions is whether the importance of the opposition leader grows in the immediate run up to an election. There is the potential for people’s opinions to be driven mainly by unhappiness and disapproval of the government mid-term, but to view it increasingly as a choice between two alternative governments and Prime Ministers as the election actually approaches (thus contributing to the familiar pattern of “mid term blues”). That brings the potential for the “Miliband issue” to matter more as we get closer and closer to the election… but it is impossible to reliably test.
  • In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.

Anyway, looking at the rest of the poll, since we touched on party image and competence as other big issues further up, YouGov re-asked a question from last February essentially exploring the contrast between parties being “nice” and being “effective”. They asked if parties were seen as “nice but dim”, “mean but smart”, “mean and dim” or “nice and smart”. The Conservatives clearly still have “nasty party” issues – 40% think they are smart, but only 26% think they are nice. For Labour it’s the other way around “their heart is in the right place, but…”; 48% think they are nice, but only 20% think they are smart. It might get less attention than Miliband, but right there you’ve got two big issues for the two main parties: people still don’t think the Tories’ hearts are in the right place, and still doubt Labour’s competence in government.

The poll also had a batch of questions about education in England – essentially showing appetite for reform in general, but opposition to the specifics of Michael Gove’s reforms. 43% think schools are doing well, 46% badly and people tend to think they provide worse education than in comparable European countries. 64% think schools need reforming to a large or moderate degree. Asked about Michael Gove though 55% think he’s doing badly as education secretary, people are opposed by 41% to 31% to schools becoming academies and by 53% to 23% to the idea of free schools.


197 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 32, LAB 38, LD 8, UKIP 14”

1 2 3 4
  1. Good Afternoon All.
    Lovely day here.
    Good Poll figures, for Labour and the Lib Dems.

    Thank you Anthony for the analysis, as ever.

  2. First

    From previous thread

    On EM it could really backfire. My view is that aside from the VI question and personal questions people mainly trot out what they are fed by the press I.e. Ed is carp, the economy is great etc.
    By the time of the election and the debates folk will firmly believe Ed is complete carp and their expectations will be low they will tune in to laugh at how bad he is. But he is not bad nor particularly unlikeable so folk will be pleasantly surprised in fact we might see a bout of Edmania.

  3. Good write-up (as usual).

    “Once the public have taken against a politician, whether that perception is fair or unfair, it’s mighty hard for them to shift…”

    Although Hugh Hudson’s PPB improved Kinnock’s rating by nineteen points.

  4. Shouldn’t they be MILES ahead at the moment, given the misery being inflicted by the coalition on ordinary people?

  5. For those too young to remember it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFgjCP6qpfU

  6. “In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.”

    I do love the refreshing feeling of Anthony’s analysis cutting through the nonsense. Spot on once again, Mr Wells.

  7. Rogerh – so they say, though I am unsure if it is actually true.

    MORI’s net approval ratings for Kinnock were minus 30 before the PPB, minus 13 afterwards, which sounds convincing (and allowing for errors in transmission, could be where that 19 points came from!). However, the before was a month before the PPB and the after was a month afterwards… a period of time that also included the rather bigger event of the actual general election.

    MORI’s best PM question was asked more frequently during the period. Immediately before the PPB was broadcast best PM was Thatcher 46%, Kinnock 24%. A week afterwards it was Thatcher 48%, Kinnock 26%

  8. I echo the others on the analysis, though no doubt it will get betted back and forth on here.

    One point – in the nice/mean and smart/dim dichotomies I deduce that ‘mean’ and ‘smart’ are being used in their American English sense of ‘nasty’ and ‘clever’. Is there any particular reason why the english english equivalents weren’t used?

    I only ask because I had to read it a couple of times because to me ‘mean’ means tightfisted, and ‘smart’ means snappily dressed.

  9. batted

  10. Backing up my previous post. This is exactly what happened with the Romney bounce. The democrats had succeeded in painting Romney as an arrogant out of touch elitist. When the public saw him and he wasn’t as bad as he had been painted he got a bounce.

  11. Pete B – It was Peter’s question rather than mine, but I think he picked them to be a counterpoint to “Nice but dim” (as in the Harry Enfield character). Anyway, the actual question is much wordier so it should have been clear to the respondents what it was supposed to mean:

    It’s “nice and smart” – its heart is in the right place and it has what it takes to get what it wants done in government

    It’s “nice but dim” – its heart is in the right place and it does NOT have what it takes to get what it wants done in government

    It’s “mean but smart” – its heart is NOT in the right place bit it DOES have what it takes to get what it wants done in government

    It’s “mean and dim” – its heart is NOT in the right place and also it does NOT have what it takes to get what it wants done in government

  12. @AW

    Interestingly I found the claim in a Telegraph article so it must be true! Or maybe a story put about by the ad agency.

  13. “In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.”

    That summary should take the place of 90% of newspaper columns on the subject.

  14. Chris – they’d have to write it in a very large font.

  15. RogerH – that’s the only place I could find it too!

  16. Polling Day is now just 10.5 months away – to be precise we are now as close to May 7th 2015 as to the end of the first week of August 2013. I have just been checking what the YouGov figures were then showing and have discovered the following:

    Lab – 38 – 39%

    Con 31 – 34%

    L/D 10 – 11%

    UKIP 11- 12%

    Labour lead range was 4 to 7%. Not a lot,therefore, appears to have changed. Labour now seems post Euros to have recovered to 37/38% – Tories much where they were in early August – LDs down a bit – UKIP up a few points. The decline in Labour’s lead had pretty well already happened 10.5 months ago and has been fairly stable since.

  17. A fair summary overall by AW. But I do query the point about
    “56% think he’s out of touch with ordinary people” , especially when polls prompt for reponses to the “Ed is carp” agenda.

    By way of balance can we have questions about whether an Old Etonian PM is likely to be “in touch with ordinary people”. ?

    The polling headlines are written (or omitted) depending on which questions are asked (or not) A previous poster mentions that YG do not prompt for UKIP. If true then I must ask – why might that be then ? Which party/s would be shown in a better / worse light if UKIP were prompted for ?

  18. Anthony -thanks.

    But I would like to see your answer to this question :-

    Do the current OPs tell us anything about the likely GE result? If yes-what is it?

  19. “60% think he wouldn’t be up to the job of PM”

    Well, he only needs 40% to actually become PM.

  20. @PeteB

    “I echo the others on the analysis, though no doubt it will get betted back and forth on here.”

    Yes, the pernicious hobby of gambling gets everywhere these days, even politics! :-)

    Interesting data in this YouGov poll on Miliband and also the perception of the two main parties and I think both factors need to be clearly understood in order to explain the apparently contradictory headline VI figures. One would think, superficially anyway, that if a party of government was thought to be more competent and smarter than their opponents, and possessed a leader held in much higher esteem than his opposite number, then they would be well ahead in the polls. The fact that they’re not, and are languishing in the high 20s in some polls, and low 30s at best in the others is an intriguing conundrum. I’m speculating here, but the following could be possible explanations: –

    – The polling data is unreliable, not empirically obviously, but in the sense that it is exaggerating the importance and salience of the issues that they’re probing with the respondents. I’m not accusing them of push-polling or voodoo methodology, but they may be squeezing answers from captive respondents who don’t have strongly held unsolicited views either way. Views not strongly held seldom influence behaviour.

    – The Miliband disillusionment factor is already baked in now and has little additional capacity for further influence in terms of determining voting behaviour.

    – The Miliband drag on the Labour vote is counterbalanced by the drag on the Tory vote arising from their lingering toxicity. In other words they operate on each other as a bit of a no score draw. The low scores for both parties suggest that this may be so.

    – The perception that the Tories are “smart but nasty” caps their potential support at a lower level than “nice but dim” Labour. Early in this Parliament, the Tories suffered from the “heartless and hopeless” label and I’m wondering if 40% now thinking them smart is enough to outweigh the idea that not only is their heart still in the wrong place but so is their head.

    – Miliband is lucky that he’s up against Cameron and Clegg. Cameron’s blandness helps him escape widespread opprobrium and antipathy but it also means that public enthusiasm eludes him too. Real popularity comes from people having strong and positive feelings, not from indifference. In this sense I think Cameron is a vulnerable leader and Miliband is probably very fortunate that his weaknesses aren’t proving politically fatal.

    Only thoughts.

  21. @Crossbat ” The perception that the Tories are “smart but nasty” caps their potential support at a lower level” but what really caps their support is that “they are not smart anymore” or as you put it ” not only is their heart still in the wrong place but so is their head.”

    @Norbold “he only needs 40% to actually become PM.” so long as that same 40% who think he is capable are all Labour voters.

  22. If it were an election for President, Cameron might beat Miliband. But it isn’t and all the poll results , actual and opinion, show people prefer the Labour Party to the others. After all it’s not unknown for the Labour Party to get rid of leaders after an election.

  23. I have just looked at the poll figures for mid-June 1978 – 10.5 months before May 79 election. Gallup had Labour and Tories absolutely level pegging whilst Mori put the Tories 1% ahead.

  24. @Anthony Wells

    Bear in mind Miliband is proving a very competent party manager. Getting rid of two prima donnas in one week without tantrums shows he’s got some managerial quality.

  25. @Anthony Wells – Or they could repeat it over and over and over…

  26. “It’s “mean but smart” – its heart is NOT in the right place but it DOES have what it takes to get what it wants done in government”
    Does that mean ‘will get done what it has pretended to’ or ‘will get done what it really wants, once in power’?
    Lacking any party that is seen to be ‘nice and smart’ (current disillusionment with politicians) the thing to do seems to be to elect a government that is ‘nice but dim’ and hope that the then opposition is dimmer. Perhaps that is where we are?
    Perhaps the electorate as a whole is smarter than the politicians these days?

  27. I bet the UKIP,greens and Libs want Ed to win. A new leader in 2015 would vastly reduce their VI.

  28. The “competence” thing is a double edged sword. The last thing you want in a nasty party is for them to be competent.

  29. Blimey !!!!

    How did I do that?

    I am Anthony Wells and I claim my five guineas.

  30. Actually, I blame Daisie.

  31. @ R&D

    Were you filibustering or something?

  32. Would EMs ratings be better if we didn’t have the other two main UK parties in coalition against Labour?

    This is an unusual circumstance: usually we have one governing party and two main UK opponents.

  33. Ed Miliband”s former speechwriter defects to Tories

    Ed insider defects
    LABOUR leader’s speechwriter — who worked at heart of his campaign — says it would be ‘a disaster’ if Ed won a majority

    THE SUN
    ______

    The ship is not yet sinking but he’s off!!

  34. Is this like the one who “defected” to the LDs a couple of days ago – after he got deselected?

  35. @Hoof Hearted – “I bet the UKIP,greens and Libs want Ed to win. A new leader in 2015 would vastly reduce their VI.”

    I would be interested to see your evidence that the rise of UKIP over the last two decades has been “vastly” to do with Ed Miliband’s leadership of Labour.

  36. @AC

    It seems there is a campaign to undermine Ed. Let’s see what happens.

  37. ” That brings the potential for the “Miliband issue” to matter more as we get closer and closer to the election… but it is impossible to reliably test.
    •In short – are Miliband’s ratings bad? Yes. Is it damaging Labour? Probably. Is it preventing Labour being ahead in the polls? No – even if it is a factor, others are outweighing it. Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.
    ________

    I think it will be a big factor in the run up to the 2015 election and the more exposure he gets the more damage he will cost his party.

    A lot of it is down to how the media portrays Ed and in the end it will probably overflow to public perception of him and it aint that good.

  38. @MrNameless – Actually it’s the exact same guy and the exact same story, but this time claiming he’s gone to the Conservatives instead. My expectation is that by Wednesday he’ll have defected to both UKIP and the Greens, and by July he’ll have joined Mebyon Kernow, the Monster Raving Loonies and the Chinese Communist Party.

  39. A question :

    If UKIP are at around 14% at the moment , what will they be at Election time ?

    How many will migrate back to the Tories ?
    Will any go to Labour ?

    Is it fair to assume there will be a significant diminution in the UKIP vote ?

    If you add a chunk of the UKIP vote to the Tory percentage it could look good for Mr. Cameron ?

  40. RAF

    @AC

    “It seems there is a campaign to undermine Ed. Let’s see what happens”
    _______

    I agree but I would rather it be over his lack of policy than his image but here in the UK we love gossip and sleaze.

  41. Chris Green

    @Allan Christie – “I think it will be a big factor in the run up to the 2015 election and the more exposure he gets the more damage he will cost his party.”

    Which part of “Will it increase in importance come the actual election? We can’t tell.” did you not understand?
    __________

    Who’s the “We?” I’m expressing my own opinion and all the polling in the world might point to “We can’t tell.” but that aint me.

    Do you understand?

  42. Graham

    I’m sort of hoping that between now and the election, we’ll be able to bury the dead, rubbish won’t be piled up in our rat infested streets, the union movement won’t declare war on its own government. 1979 was a very odd time by today’s standards. History never repeated itself exactly.

    On the Ed question it seems to me that people vote for three or for things:

    A party
    An MP
    A PM
    And maybe to keep out X party they dislike

    The question is – are Ed’s poor ratings ‘priced in’ to current poll ratings. Or do people when asked will you vote T, L, L U, O just say their favourite party?

  43. RAF

    Would EMs ratings be better if we didn’t have the other two main UK parties in coalition against Labour?

    This is an unusual circumstance: usually we have one governing party and two main UK opponents
    ____

    I don’t think it would make any difference and if anything it’s having an adverse impact on NC.

  44. Of Ed might as well as give up now.

    I conducted an exclusive private poll today (I talked to my own mother – a South Yorkshire lass and lifelong Labour voter), and she thinks he’s a bit wet and weak.

    There you go Allan, there’s your evidence…. ;-)

  45. Correction

    Of course Ed might as well as give up now.

    I conducted an exclusive private poll today (I talked to my own mother – a South Yorkshire lass and lifelong Labour voter), and she thinks he’s a bit wet and weak.

    There you go Allan, there’s your evidence…. ;-)

  46. CATMANJEFF

    Ok I’ll meet you half way and lets call it (Anecdotal evidence) ;-)

    I’m always willing to compromise. :-)

  47. @ Anthony,

    Sensible analysis as always. I rather think it should take the place of 90% of our commentary as well.

    @ Allan,

    Ed Miliband”s former speechwriter defects to Tories

    Result! Now Cameron can start babbling on about predistribution and Miliband can start speaking in English. Number 10, here we come!

    @ Catmanjeff,

    Ah, but you didn’t ask her the key question: is she planning to vote Labour anyway?

    (I think this is actually a serious problem with these leadership polling questions. I think Cameron looks more like a prime minister than Miliband does- but I’d still prefer Miliband to be Prime Minister.

    Ashcroft ask a straight up “Who would you rather have for PM, Cameron or Miliband?” question, which I think is the more sensible way to do it if you’re not going to ask the full suit of “Are you voting for your party because of/regardless of/despite the leader?” questions.)

  48. If we’re providing anecdotal evidence, my mother (middle-class Bristolian and lifelong Labour voter) thinks Ed Miliband is the best thing that’s happened to the party since John Smith and is voting for the party rather than the candidate for the first time in a while.

  49. @Spearmint

    You are right . As long as Labour identified supporters vote Labour anyway, nothing else matters to Ed,

    @MrNameless

    My comment to Allan was very tongue-in-cheek (the smiley is the give away.)

    I think ‘Leadership’ survey results need to treated with care and in context of the whole picture, not in isolation.

  50. I’m not Ed Miliband’s biggest fan (I voted Andy Burnham first, David Miliband second and Ed Miliband third choice) but he is the victim of a mdeia campaign to rubbish him. The bacon sarnie picture was an obvious example. I can use a high powered camara to make hundreds of pictures of anyone, split seconds apart, and at least one of them will make you look like a complete freak. Just think about how many photopgrahs we delete or ask people to delete becuase we don’t like how we look. Now imagine someone taking hundreds of pictures of you in minutes and think about how many would make you look wierd. We have the worst press in the world!

1 2 3 4