There are three polls in the Sunday papers today – GB polls by YouGov and Opinium, and a new Scottish poll by Survation.

YouGov in the Sunday Times have tables here. Topline voting intention is CON 35%, LAB 38%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 12%, GRN 4%. The main part of the poll deals with Ed Miliband’s image, following his speech at the start of the week. As we know from countless other polls, Miliband’s ratings on best PM, being up to the job being a strong leader and so on are poor. The questions today were prodding at whether that is indeed something to do with “image” or even “looks” (I say “prodding” – I don’t think it’s really possible to answer the question conclusively).

Asked whether each man has the right policies or looks the part of PM Ed Miliband narrowly leads Cameron on policies: 38% think Ed Miliband has the right policies, compared to 32% who think David Cameron has the right policies. On looking and sounding like a Prime Minister 57% think Cameron looks the part, only 13% think Ed Miliband does. Of course, it easier to look like a Prime Minister when you actually ARE Prime Minister, but that doesn’t explain the gulf between the men’s ratings – YouGov also sometimes ask a question about the opposition leader “looking like a PM in waiting”. Ed Miliband tends to score around 20% or so, when Cameron was leader of the opposition he scored up in the forties.

Ed Miliband’s negative rating do not seem to be due to physical attractiveness, it’s not a case of Miliband being “too ugly” as John Humphrys once put it, as quite frankly neither of them are seen as attractive. Only 6% think Ed Miliband is attractive, but only 16% think David Cameron is. However asked if they physically look like a credible national leader Ed Miliband scores only 15%, David Cameron scores 55%. Clearly looking like a credible leader is not the same as looking physically attractive.

Does this matter at all? Well, the large majority of people say it SHOULDN’T matter – 80% said it shouldn’t matter much or shouldn’t matter at all when it comes to how the public vote at a general election. However, in practice people think it DOES – 55% think it actually does matter a lot or a fair amount. I suspect they are correct. I doubt very many people consciously sit down and think “I don’t think they’d make a good Prime Minister because they are funny looking”, but psychologically we all have many prejudices and biases about people based upon what they look and sound like. Unavoidably our views of politicians will be skewed by our gut impressions of their appearance – and the less closely people follow politics the more important those gut instincts and prejudices probably are.

And, my usual caveat about the Ed Miliband paradox: Labour are still in the lead. If people do think Ed Miliband doesn’t look like a leader, he hasn’t suddenly started looking that way; he’s unlikely to start looking less “leadery” as the election approaches. It’s already there in the price and it hasn’t stopped Labour being ahead in the polls. That doesn’t mean his image isn’t a negative for Labour (they could be further ahead without the problem), but it does mean Miliband as leader is not incompatible with Labour winning. The question, which I don’t think is currently answerable (except through wishful thinking one way or the other), is whether or not public perceptions of the opposition leader may become more salient as the election approaches and it becomes not just a judgement on the government, but a choice between two alternative governments.

Moving on, Opinium’s fortnightly poll for the Observer also has a three point Labour lead. Topline figures are CON 32%(+1), LAB 35%(+1), LDEM 7%(-2), UKIP 15%(-2), GRN 5%. Tabs are here.

Finally Survation have a new Scottish poll, which shows very little change on their previous. Topline referendum voting intentions are YES 40%(-1), NO 46%(nc), Don’t knows 14%(+1). Excluding don’t knows it’s YES 47%, NO 53%, the same as Survation’s last poll. Tabs are here

The poll was conducted between Wednesday and Friday so while it isn’t the first “post-Commonwealth Games” poll, it’s the first poll where we can really look for a Commonwealth Games effect. Thus far there’s no obvious sign of one.

206 Responses to “Sunday’s polls – YouGov, Opinium and Survation”

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  1. If this ‘Ed looks funny, vote Dave’ is to be repeated again & again, maybe you should ask if people ‘care’ about the Leaders appearance & will it affect how they intend to vote.

    Of course, to do so may give answers that the commissioners of the poll don’t want…….

  2. …or answers that aren’t true.

    People are rubbish are understanding what drives their own motivations – we overestimate how rational we are, we like to imagine our decisions are a careful and dry balancing of the relevant and important factors. Generally that’s just a post-hoc rationalisation of heuristics and biases.

    The example I always use is that we know empirically that when supermarkets put things on the middle shelf they sell better, that margarine sells better when its dyed yellow. Yet if you asked people how they choose their brand of margarine people would say cost or taste or whatever not, “degree of yellowness and if it’s on the middle shelf”.

    If you ask people why they think something, you risk getting rationalisations of their biases, not the actual drivers… hence I spend my life telling clients that just because you can parse a question and people will answer it, it doesn’t necessarily tell you the genuine answer, especially when there is a clear social desirability bias (people don’t think appearance SHOULD matter).

    Something out there is causing people to say Ed Miliband would make a worse leader than David Cameron, something is making people say they don’t think he’s up to the job. Is that the things he’s said and done, or people judging him on his appearance? Few people are going to want to appear so shallow as to say the latter… but that doesn’t mean that might not be the reality for some people.

  3. Isn’t it more that EM looks nervous and capable of being bullied? Would voters feel confident on EM negotiating hard with Putin or standing firm against the US/Saudi Arabia/Iran etc.? Don’t get me wrong, I quite like him myself but I can certainly see why people get that impression.

  4. This is very boring polldrums…both polls have labour on 3 point leads which seems to be roughly where we are, so there are occasional 6 point leads and 1 point labour leads…what we haven’t seen for 3 years is a 6 point tory lead!

    Miliband remains desperately unconvincing as a national leader. The Wallace & Gromit image is very damaging to him.

    the lib dem figure in both polls is desperately low… when do they start bouncing back? their low ratings are clearly helping labour…what should worrry the tories is the relatively high yougov labour vi…high 30s seem to be back in vogue for labour.

  5. IMO people have decided come rain or shine the coalition are getting the boot.

  6. …apart from the 40%+ planning to vote for them, is that, Shaun?

  7. Nobody really wants a coalition but if you don’t get the votes for a majority…

    In Con/LD marginals, I would expect a major Lab/Green boost. Then we will see if that gain is enough to get close to Con. However, in Lab/LD marginals, I can’t see many Lib Dems choosing Lab. Why not choose that already? So they may keep faith more, or go to Green, not caring if that is unlikely to get an MP but they can vote for their actual choice, rather than tactical. Then again if they are still wanting to keep Lab out, then it could be a case of going to Con as most likely.

    Also, as interesting as polls are, I don’t expect this to be static for the 6 week election run-in. I could easily see the coalition parties getting enough seats for a slim majority*. However, I’m not sure there would be a coalition after that.

    *I can also envisage a slim Lab majority but more likely a hung parliament with Lab the largest party


    @”The Wallace & Gromit image is very damaging to him.”

    He clearly doesn’t think so.

    And it is unfair to pin Gromit on him-EB apparently has that label according to some who want Burnham ( and higher taxes) instead.

    Jim Jam-from previous thread-Grahamme Morris isn’t a “Blairite” is he ?

  9. Awful figures for Miliband once again, it’s inconceivable he will be winning next year IMO.

  10. 38% think Ed Miliband has the right policies, compared to 32% who think David Cameron has the right policies.
    Labour are on 38 in the poll; the Tories are on 35. If there’s an incumbency bonus & a leadership bonus, they’re jointly worth 3 points in total (all else being equal).

  11. Pressman,

    Really? I understand you think Ed’s figures are bad and that that makes it more difficult for him to win, but you cannot conceive a Miliband victory when his party have been ahead in the polls for two years?

    It’s this kind of “Isn’t Miliband silly, no way he can win” thinking which, ironically, might help lose the Tories the election next year.

  12. @Starry

    Why would a current Lib Dem (presumably more of the orange book tendency) vote Green?

    They are more left wing and interventionist than Labour.

  13. Love the word “leadery”. Can we have “leaderiness” too?

    On the leaderiness question, we don’t know what can be made of it in the next 9 months, but I would guess that the law of diminishing returns operates here as elsewhere and people have been banging on about it since about 2 minutes after he was elected.

    The electorate are also aware that David Cameron is pretty posh.

    And that Nick Clegg is a Liberal Democrat.

  14. AMBER
    “38% think Ed Miliband has the right policies, compared to 32% who think David Cameron has the right policies.”

    Also, Wallace and Gromit are actually pretty popular.

  15. ” it’s the first poll where we can really look for a Commonwealth Games effect. Thus far there’s no obvious sign of one.”

    The best place to look for any such effect is in “Q10. Has Scotland’s organisation of and performance in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow made you more likely to vote” Yes/No? Make no Diff – and even then, only among the Undecideds.

    Undecideds went “more likely to vote Yes” – 14% : “more likely to vote No” – 4% : Make no difference 82%.

    However, it’s also worth applying Anthony’s wise words about psychological biases to this kind of question.

    People do see what they want to see, and Steve2 gave a perfectly reasonable example of this on the previous thread from the No standpoint. Those with a Yes bias are likely to see things a little differently. Neither would be “right” or wrong”.

    I suspect that (if it tells us anything) this question suggests that rather more of the Undecideds saw the Games through a “Yes” prism than through a “No” prism.

  16. @Starry
    ‘However, in Lab/LD marginals, I can’t see many Lib Dems choosing Lab. Why not choose that already?’
    I strongly disagree with that. In 2010 the LibDems were widely seen as a left of centre alternative to Labour and as such they were well placed to pick up former Labour voters disillusioned by the Brown/Blair governments and – in particular – Iraq. Those voters now see the LibDems as Tory friendly and right of centre – and have switched back to Labour in droves. I would expect to see a very big swing from LibDem to Labour in Lab/LibDem marginals as voters vent their sense of betrayal.

  17. Why do people think Cameron looks more like a PM than Miliband? Because despite Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher and Major, many people still like having a posh boy as PM. Even Attlee and Blair went to posh schools. Having a posh boy in charge makes some people feel the old order still prevaileth.

  18. STARRY
    ” Would voters feel confident on EM negotiating hard with Putin or standing firm against the US/Saudi Arabia/Iran etc.?”

    Actually, probably yes. Any polling on this, or are you going on your impressions?

  19. Not current Lib Dem. My thoughts were surrounding a previous Lib Dem voter that is not a fan of the coalition in a Lab/LD marginal. So, a more SDP-minded voter turned off by the Con-alliance but still not wanting to vote Lab.

  20. @Starry

    The polling evidence shows that Labour has benefited enormously from 2010 Lib Dems who have jumped ship. About 1/3 of 2010 LD voters now back Labour in the polls.

  21. [snip]

    Seriously, I think EM’s low personal ratings are irrelevent for 2 reasons:-

    1. There is no obviously better alternative Labour leader;

    2. Politicians generally (including the ridiculously over-hyped incumbent EM is up against) have never been held in such contempt as at the present moment; the real winner in these polls asking which political leader is better on X/Y/Z issue/quality is always “None of them”

  22. Never heard of him Colin?

  23. Disregarding the Eds’ physical characteristics, as a pair they rather resemble Wallace and Gromit. Ed M, like Wallace, an enthusiastic blue-sky thinker, but basically nice; Ed B, like Grommit, more down-to-earth and practical, but with a bit of “side”.

    It does make you wish that Luck and Flaw were still in business.

  24. @ Starry

    “Nobody really wants a coalition …”

    Firstly, the existing parties are all coalitions. Can anyone look at Con, Lab, Lib, SNP … and see everyone signed up to a single vision? Each of these has wings which, in a different electoral system, would not work together with the same party label. FOTP forces them together for common electoral advantage.

    Secondly, coalitions are quite normal elsewhere in the world. Much though I disagree with the particular policies and achievements of this coalition government, I wish that we had a more realistic range of parties at Westminster so that there would be a number of possible coalitions following each election. I, for one, believe that it is not a good thing to give a minority party the dictatorial powers of an electoral majority in Parliament. (I do not think that there has not been a majority party in my lifetime)

  25. @John Pilgrim
    Phrased as a question as I have no polling either way, just impressions but not necessarily my own opinion. Personally, I don’t think politics in our system works that way. In the same way that you answered: yes, voters would feel confident. I see no evidence to be so confident of that opinion.

  26. Of course coalitions are for an electoral advantage. But would Con prefer a majority? Would LD? Did Blair say he would miss Scargill when old Arthur left?

  27. @John Pilgrim
    Have a look at Miliband’s yougov tracker. Sticks to what he believes in scores him 16%, whilst strong is only 5% for the last poll. Good in a crisis, a natural leader and decisive are all at the 3% mark. I still don’t see where you get that surity voters think he is strong in a diplomatic crisis with powerful leaders.

  28. The only thing I would add to this discussion is that the British public have a very handy knack of getting rid of bad leaders, whether they be incumbent or opposition.

    Going back to year dot, the public usually get it right – and I thought they got it right in 1997, because John Major was not the right man to lead the country. Neither was Hague, IDS, Howard, or Brown. As for Miliband, [snip]

    The public will get it right in 2015, they always do.

  29. @Mr Wells

    Thinking about the leaderiness survey, what is the reason for YG using what I’d call “partial voting” in these questions (ie “choose 3 of the following) as opposed to say “range voting” (ie “rate him on this characteristic from 1 to 10).

    Just because it’s easier for respondents would be my guess. But do we know if different methods produce significantly different results?

  30. the man who said that there seems to be a determined desire to get rid of the coalition parties explains why labour are still stubbornly in the lead…

    it’s almost as though the electorate as a collective..[and yes i know it’s artificial and crazy to lump millions of different voters with different concerns/views etc into one mass]….BUT the electorate as a collective seems to be saying, “ok, we know Miliband is a bit dorkish, but we’ll vote for him to turf this lot out”.

  31. As ever, this is a place for discussing broader public opinion, not arguing each others opinion, so can we cease with whether or not each of you personally think whether Ed Miliband is good or bad, weak or strong, etc, etc and keep the discussion to what the polling suggests the wider public think, whether or not you agree with them

  32. @newhouset
    Actually? Never said he was.
    Looks like? All the time. Polling for strong at 5%.

  33. There is certainly something about us Brits feeling reassured by posh boys as leaders. Despite myself, I find the posh boy self-assurance a touch reassuring.

    In reality, I would say that Cameron’s ability as a negotiator is […a subject for discussion on a different website – AW]

  34. JIM JAM


    The second M let you off the hook.

  35. AW,

    ” .. psychologically we all have many prejudices and biases about people based upon what they look and sound like. Unavoidably our views of politicians will be skewed by our gut impressions of their appearance – and the less closely people follow politics the more important those gut instincts and prejudices probably are.”

    Could you point us in the direction of the evidence for this? That will enable each of us to make our own judgement based on that evidence. Some of us may even be qualified to make such judgements without being influenced by ‘gut impressions’.

  36. None of us will know how good a PM EM makes until after May next year. In yacht racing straight line speed (appearance) is good but to win it is usually the one that travels the less distance and who makes the least mistakes. This time last year people where saying there are no Labour policies, by the end of September cost of living policies where relived to wide spread approval.
    The Tory’s have not won a majority for what is it twenty years as I see it there is only one chance of them wining in May, commit to leaving the EU, at the conference if elected. I do not think he will, but I am not sure why, I am sure it is not because he believes, as I do, that the EU is good for the country.

  37. @ Newhouset,

    Remind us again – when was he actually bullied or looked like being bullied?

    Actually- that Sun photo-op comes to mind.

    Looks like- at That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named, regularly.

    (I’ve thought for a while this may be Miliband’s secret weapon in the debates. Cameron sometimes takes a tone of “How dare you question me, peon!” which really grates on my nerves independent of what he’s actually saying, and which I suspect other women also find off-putting. Of course, it’s hard to disentangle this emotional reaction from baseline partisanship, but Tories like Iain Martin have noticed it and complained about it as well, so it’s not just me seeing it.)

  38. @ Hamish,

    I am sure it is not because he believes, as I do, that the EU is good for the country.

    I think Cameron does, actually. His life as Tory leader would be much easier if he didn’t.

  39. @Spearmint

    “Cameron sometimes takes a tone of “How dare you question me, peon!” which really grates on my nerves independent of what he’s actually saying, and which I suspect other women also find off-putting”

    Calm down,dear.

  40. Newhouset – on the general importance of biases and heuristics in decision making look at the works of Kahneman & Tversky:

    Kahneman’s more recent Thinking Fast and Slow will cover much of his past work on it: Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion is also worth a read

    On specifics of visual cues in elections there have been quite a lot of experiments comparing electoral success or perceptions of candidates quality with their appearance over the years – here’s quite an old paper by Rallings & Thrasher, Caitlin Milazzo did a more experiment using candidates in 2010 that a Google around should produce.

    On the last specific point – that the less information or interest voters have in actual politics and policies the more likely they are to be influenced by things like appearance is again something that’s cropped up in various experiments – here’s a link to a third party report of a 2011 paper, though there are more recent things to be found

  41. AW: “the less information or interest voters have in actual politics and policies the more likely they are to be influenced by things like appearance”

    I think this is right. I’ve occasionally voted in things like Co-op regional assembly elections, with no more information about the candidates than an array of mugshots and sketchy biographical details. In that situation of limited information and no real personal stake in who wins, appearance plays a big part in vote choice. I can well imagine that’s the situation for politically disengaged and uninterested people who nevertheless find themselves casting a GE vote (maybe because dragooned into a postal vote?)

  42. @ Pressman
    Thank you for your reply. You have clarified that youand many of your colleagues at NI News International did not support NI’s previous backing of the Labour Party.

    I must praise you for being frank. You get to the point. You are not like those who say ” Well we at the newspaper will examine all the parties proposals, and weigh them up. At present we are inclined to support the Conservatives, but we shall let our readers know who we support before the election.” In fact whilst saying this the newspaper may well have made its mind up anyway. t

    You say that you and your colleagues have made their minds up and your decision is that Ed Miliband must be prevented from becoming prime minister.

    There are many posters on this site who may agree. However what struck me is a previous post by you, perhaps two months ago, which stood out from other posts on this site. It was almost a cry of pain, to the effect that Ed Miliband must be stopped in the national interest. You mentioned also the possibility of a republican president in the USA. What was this extreme national danger if Ed Miliband became prime minister?

    I thought, reading your post, that this was like William Hague’s 2003 election campaign in which he said that this is an election about the pound. He said ” This is your last chance to prevent the abolition of the pound.”

    I thought what is the extreme danger that prompted the tone of your post. I thought it must be the Iraq war.

    Ed Miliband has denounced the Iraq war, a war which Rupert Murdoch strongly supported. If it is not that which prompts your alarm, what else could it be? The Labour and Conservative policies on other matters are very similar. You have said that yourself.

    I don’t know if there will be a republican president in the USA soon. There are problems in the republican party with the Tea Party wing.

    However, Barack Obama the present democrat president spoke in his first campaign about “turning the page” his words meaning starting afresh.

    For me, Ed Miliband versus David Cameron, the turning of the page of the Iraq war is in Miliband’s favour for me. I see that Ed Miliband’s brother David has now come round to Ed’s view. i.e. if he knew then what he knows now, he would not have supported the invasion.

    I don’t know if News International will admit that.,”that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have supported the invasion.”.

  43. as I have posted before I live in a con held marginal seat with labour a close second and what I am hearing from people is the same as the polls are saying a big chunk of the 2010 lib dem vote as gone directly to labour so imo Cameron and co need 40% plus to get a majority which is thatcher territory and sorry but Cameron aint no thatcher and milliband aint no Kinnock so a 40 seat plus lab majority is a very distinct possibility

  44. Oldnat: “Undecideds went “more likely to vote Yes” – 14% : “more likely to vote No” – 4% : Make no difference 82%.”

    We saw similar ‘intentions’ on pre-2010 polls asking if a Tory Government or the austerity programme would see people more likely to vote ‘Yes’. In both cases, there were massive numbers who said they would as the SNP went to great lengths to point out.

    However, subsequent polls suggested that people don’t usually tend to follow through on such responses.

    That the SNP is increasingly relying on the ’emotional vote’ also does not bode well. Emotional reaction to events fades very quickly so the SNP will need to keep the Scottish blood boiling right up to ref day if they are to have any chance.

    My conclusion: I stick with my long-held 60-40 prediction.

  45. ADGE.
    Thank you for one of the finest posts on UKPR that I have seen, since joining in late 2010.

    Thank you, also, for an interesting micro study of your seat.

    I think the Lib Dems are not going to do well, so I fear for Simon Hughes, who fought the straight campaign against Peter Tatchell in 1983.

  46. “(maybe because dragooned into a postal vote?)”

    Who are you suggesting may have been ‘dragooned’ & by whom ?

  47. @ChrisLane
    On the subject of Bermondsey, when Hughes stood for LD leader in 2006 a colleague who was also a LD councillor confided in me that although he was voting for Hughes he was sure he wouldn’t get in “because the party couldn’t do with a gay leader yet”. And so, irony of ironies, it came to pass.

  48. Steve2

    We are not in disagreement with your initial point, since neither of us is suggesting that the question on the Games (or the Games themselves, for that matter) is likely to be of great import.

    As to your view of the campaign, you have your interpretation. It may be a product of pre-existing bias, but in any case it adds nothing to a discussion of polling.

  49. AW,

    Thanks for the links, Anthony. I’ll have a look sometime.

  50. As always, John Curtice has wise words (must be pollster characteristic!) on the biased way that partisans can view things – in this article on the Survation poll.

    “Partisans are always inclined to see the world through a coloured lens that ensures that any and every event is regarded as evidence in support of their existing view. “

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