Tonight is the seven-way leaders debate – we had the Paxman interviews a week ago and the opposition leaders debate and leaders question time to go, but tonight is the closest thing to the big set piece debates of 2010 that we are going to get in the 2015 election (at least it is in Great Britain as a whole, next week has the Scottish leaders debate in, well, Scotland).

Following the debate we should be getting four instant reaction polls proclaiming a “winner”, from YouGov, ComRes, Survation and ICM. There will also be an Ipsos MORI worm, but they aren’t doing a verdict poll.

In terms of reading what they mean, the default position tends to be party supporters thinking their own leader wins – if we get a result that largely shows Tories think Cameron won, Labour voters think Miliband won, Ukippers think Farage won and so on, then it’s probably not going to change much. In the 2010 debate that sparked “Cleggmania” Clegg was winning by about twenty points in post-debate polls.

Secondly, remember winning the debate isn’t necessarily a good guide to any impact in voting intention. The 2010 debates produced a big short term effect on the polls, even if it deflated by the election itself. I certainly wouldn’t assume that debates will always have a similarly noticable impact, perhaps 2010 was the exception. Even if someone does win in the post-debate verdict polls, don’t assume it will necessarily make any difference in voting intention – wait for the next regular voting intention polls to see if it’s really changed views (a wait that will sadly be extended by the Easter bank holidays, which I expect means this weekend will be light on polls). Certainly don’t put too much weight on shifts in the votes of people within the samples of viewers in the debate polls… remember they are made up only of viewers, so will magnify any effect. Most voters won’t be watching.

It’s possible that all the verdict polls show the same “winner”. What do we make of it if they don’t? Well, it might just be that the race was very close and normal sample variation has meant different companies show different winners. Given it’s a seven way race that seems quite likely to me and if that is the case, the real story shouldn’t be that company A shows X winning by one point while company B shows Y winning by one point, it should be the polls showing a draw between X & Y. If there is a big difference between different polls, look at how they are weighting things – there is no “right” way of polling a debate like this, in 2010 some companies weighted to make the sample representative of the country as a whole (perhaps by past vote, perhaps by current voting intention before the debate starts), some companies weighted it to be representative of people watching the debate, which isn’t necessarily the same (what if voters from one party are just a lot more likely to watch!).

The debate is 8pm to 10pm, judging by the polls after previous debates, the first results of verdict polls should come out in the ten to fifteen minutes following that. I’ll update as they come in.

UPDATE1: As well as their poll at full time which will follow later, ComRes also did a half time poll. Asked who was performing best Nigel Farage came top on 24%, followed very closely by Miliband 21%, Cameron 19% and Sturgeon 18%. Farage was also seen as performing worst – picked by 22%, suggesting he’s having quite a polarising effect.

UPDATE2: First of the reaction polls is out from YouGov – Sturgeon clearly ahead on 28%, Farage second 20%, Cameron 18%. Rest to come as soon as they appear.

UPDATE3: ICM have Miliband and Cameron almost neck and neck at the top – Miliband 25%, Cameron 25%. Behind them Farage and Sturgeon are close together for third place – Farage 19%, Sturgeon 17%.

UPDATE4: ComRes have an extremely even split in their results – Cameron 21%, Miliband 21%, Farage 21%, Sturgeon 20%.

UPDATE5: Some more data from ComRes – Nigel Farage was seen as the most honest (26%), Ed Miliband most understanding of your concerns (25%), David Cameron on having the best ideas for Britain’s future (27%) and David Cameron most capable of leading the country (40%)


328 Responses to “Leaders debate polling”

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  1. @Amber

    Agreed re Salmond. Think an interesting thing to note from the debate was a fair bit of Wood and Bennett agreeing with Sturgeon in a progressive alliance style but Nicola less reciprocal and more subliminally suggesting to the English centre left voter that she wanted them to vote Labour and give her someone to work with.

    All polls seem to show her outpolling Scotland’s population and will be interesting to see if polling numbers on the prospect of post election SNP support for Labour changes in rUK.

  2. If tonight’s 37 for the Tories is just MOE, could be bad headlines for them as they revert back down on Sunday.

    You want your lucky polls after a big event, not before.

  3. Kellner live on Sky News now

  4. Catmanjeff,

    Agreed, but I think that the opportunity cost was highest for the leaders other than Miliband and Cameron, in that it was their moment to shine, and none of them really did so. Sturgeon seems to have done best out of the minor party leaders, but she’s the one who is already doing fantastically well!

  5. The Newsnight panel had a majority view that Bennett did well. Somewhat different to the views on here which I tend to agree with and I was tending towards Greens

  6. @ Statto

    Of the four, three are in rough agreement. Only the yougov seems way out of line.

    YG does seem out of line but hopefully there will be tables tomorrow so we can have a look at why this might be.

  7. RAF (fpt)

    Joe Twyman (YouGov) on Sky News says that most people don’t pay much attention to the debates

    There seems to be a bit of mood-music from some pollsters downplaying the effect of the debates. There was a piece in the Guardian yesterday from (Tory peer) Andrew Cooper of Populus saying something similar – with a rather patronising attitude towards the public. This may be an Evil Tory Plot, because they think their man will crash and burn, or because they think that such innovations will somehow undermine polling, with instant reaction polls, possibly done directly by broadcasters, becoming the norm. But actually I suspect it is more that the pollsters were completely flummoxed by the debates in 2010 and subconsciously blame them for any subsequent lack of accuracy.

    The debates are important and all polling has shown that the public think so too. Naturally not every person thinks they matter, but the number tuning in last time showed that an awful lot do.

    But we should realise why they matter. It’s not really about who has the most attractive personality, would make the best PM or even has the best shirt. It’s about how the leaders present what their Party stands for and its beliefs and policies. And this is important particularly for three groups of voters:

    [a] The partisan who want their wo/man to do well, but also to say the sort of thing that they believe in and motivates them. This isn’t going to change their vote but it will affect Party morale and maybe what work gets done by the activists.

    [b] The undecided who will almost certainly vote but are genuinely uncertain who to pick. They probably have a shortlist of two or three but want to find out who deserves their vote.

    [c] The uncertain who may have decided, perhaps recently, but aren’t really sure and want to confirm their decision or maybe reconsider[1].

    Now [b] and [c] are smaller groups that [a] and they are probably less likely to volunteer for any debate polling. But who ‘wins’ the debate isn’t really important, what matters is how it influences the voters in [b] and [c] and that will be hinted at in the tables when we eventually get them and can screen out all the partisan cheering. But in the end we can only really judge the effect in later polls and the ballot box.

    [1] There was some disbelief on here a few days back at the comparatively high percentage of people who told pollsters that they only made up their mind just before an election. But that group includes both [b] and [c]. Most of the latter group won’t have changed their mind towards the date, but they only have confirmed their choice to themselves then.

  8. Agree that twitter is the toilet paper of political analysis as far as ‘who won’ goes, but interestingly the analysis of the issues being tweeted about – possibly a little less partisan – shows the NHS twice as high as the economy.

  9. I thought NS’s appeal to non-Scots was.. appealing.
    Not one for blood sports but was she aiming at the Tory fox that chased Ed into AS’ pocket? If so, I think she at least winged it.

  10. @MrNameless

    Don’t get why Wood’s doing so badly in these polls. She was better than Bennett.
    _______________________________

    I guess its what AW said after the last poll. People vote for the leader of the party they support regardless of how well they really did. PC has a low support base so they came bottom.

    Maybe looking at who did worst on that Comres poll paints a better picture, reverse those figures to see who won.

    Our small household sample said Nicola Sturgeon and Natalie Wood won.. but we can’t vote for either as we live in England….

    Really they all did quite well. A cross party government with all of them there would represent the country properly.

  11. @ Northumbrian Scot

    Yes, Nicola Sturgeon may have to drop the progressive alliance strategy & start speaking in favour of a Labour led government.

  12. Well I tend to think these polls of who won etc are a bit pointless as people
    just respond on partisan lines.However as part of the Tories main strategy is
    tp portray Milliband as useless they cannot be to pleased that he has
    achieved parity or equal in some of the polls.As for the best person to run the
    country question obviously Cameron will win this because he does run the
    country!

  13. “As for the best person to run the country question obviously Cameron will win this because he does run the country!”

    Not really. Incumbent PMs have an obvious advantage on this question, but not an insurmountable one.

  14. Leanne Wood, sorry! Never seen her before but she was quite impressive.

  15. I think that different participants have different audiences and different winning posts. Deciding who did “best” is actually a bit pointless IMO.

    As I have said here before if Farage walks away with 20% thinking he makes sense he has a had a great night. For Bennett 10% would be a fantastic night.

  16. @roger mexico

    Good post

  17. @alec

    “Agree that twitter is the toilet paper of political analysis as far as ‘who won’ goes, but interestingly the analysis of the issues being tweeted about – possibly a little less partisan – shows the NHS twice as high as the economy.”

    Which probably only proves that ‘KIPers use Twitter less than, say, Labour supporters, because, says, the open public ridicule they would attract doesn’t appeal to them.

    Just a theory ofc, but let’s not forget the “Literary Digest” prediction disaster of 1936…

  18. New thread. :-)

  19. Natalie Wood is dead. Leane Wod isn’t.

  20. @LRR

    I theorised earlier that Farage might perform well and halt the UKIP squeeze and that Bennett might do badly and accelerate the Green squeeze. I think I’ll stick with that theory for now.

    I think both Farage and Bennett did enough to please their own voters.

    Bear in mind that the Greens have far more members now, and I don’t think there are many left to squeeze. I think the 5% area is probably a floor for their support.

  21. Alex
    I have been wondering about that.

  22. ALEC
    social media isn’t a god way to judge things

    Well, at least some smiting and plagues of boils would liven the campaign up a bit.:<)}

  23. Depending on one’s political perspective Clegg, Farage or Sturgeon would probably go down as the strongest performer.

    I’d lean towards Sturgeon, in that her main job was try to make it more tenable for UK Labour to consider working with the SNP. The risk for the SNP in a hung parliament is striking that thin balance between convincing Scots that they will achieve more left-leaning outcomes than Scottish Labour MPs (failing to do that would somewhat restore the previous Red/Nat Westminster/Holyrood voting pattern), whilst convincing the UK Labour party that working with the SNP will not pave the way for a Tory landslide or two (which again, would likely hurt the SNP at Westminster thereafter). All the signs from tonight are that Sturgeon is aware of the need to get that balance right, and in that regard she’s more astute than Salmond ever was, albeit she doesn’t have the ability that Thatcher, Blair or Salmond had, to inspire people with an idea regardless of whether said idea is brilliant or has more holes than a colander.

    Clegg for me was perhaps the most assured of all seven. Probably too little too late to significantly alter VI, but give him credit where credit’s due for tonight, because he undoubtedly came into the debate with the hardest job. Farage gave a typically strong performance, but I think most people have made their minds up on the latter two leaders.

  24. “YouGov: CON 37 LAB 35 LD 7 UKIP 12 GRN 5 Lead +2”

    It doesn’t matter if the tories are on 37 if labour are on 35…that’s a swing of about 2.75% since the last election. a 10 year old can get this. considering labour are about 1.5% or so down in Scotland (as GB%), this is a swing in England and Wales of 3.5%.

  25. thinking more – zero hours is a good tack for Labour as it targets where they’re weakest but whether it works or not with the people it’s aimed at remains to be seen

    Cameron wins “prime ministerial” cos he’s more toff / hofficer-like (which Lab have been helping him with for years – lol).

  26. I enjoyed the debate more than I thought I would. I also enjoyed the format. I liked the fact we didn’t have the normal two or three big parties all circling the same little patch of ground as usual. There was a broader spread of opinion. It also gave a greater than usual voice to the idea that ‘austerity’ could be questioned. In that sense it may create a slightly different discourse. Farage was obviously shoring up his own vote rather than seeking new converts. Nicola was excellent all round. Cameron, in my opinion, looked a little distant but competent enough and Ed was good overall, especially the way he managed to have the concluding lines in three out of the four questions. Less staring into the cametra would have been good. Leanne was brave and focused on her Welsh ambitions and Clegg was, again in my opinion, on a losing streak from the word go whatever he said or did.

    All in all no one will have offended their own voters and Sturgeon may have calmed some fears.

    Although I know these debates don’t change anyone’s mind as such they seem to me to be some sort of endurance test which each person must at least pass.

  27. @jamespeel

    Maybe though the 37/35% spilt will make a difference to the seats total… taking the Conservatives to a position where they are clear ‘victors’ in both seat and share terms. This will make it easier for them to claim the right to construct some kind of government with Lib.Dems/DUP even if it is a minority one.

  28. Averaging the 4 snap polls (ICM, Comres, Yougov, Survation)

    Con – 22
    Lab – 21.5
    Ukip – 21
    SNP – 20
    Lib – 8.5
    Grn – 4
    Pld – 2.5

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