There is a new Communicate Research poll in the Indy on Sunday – just one question, a “forced choice” between a Clarke-led Conservative party and a Brown-led Labour party. 44% of respondents went for Labour, while 25% went for the Tories.

In the Indy on Sunday’s report John Rentoul compares the poll to a YouGov one in the week of the general election which asked a similar forced choice between a Blair led Labour government (52%) and a Howard led Tory government (35%). Once you take account of the different levels of don’t knows in the two polls, this does indeed suggest that Clarke would do slightly worse against Brown than Howard did against Blair. Whether that says more about Clarke/Howard or Brown/Blair is a different matter.

Up until now Ken Clarke has been the favoured candidate amongst the general public, but amongst party members – who may yet end up making the final decision if Michael Howard’s reforms are rejected – David Davis has been in the lead. Ken Clarke was soundly defeated in the member’s ballot in 2001, and it was broadly assumed that the only reason that he entered the race this time round was that it appears that members would no longer have the final say. David Davis on the other hand was seen as the rank and file’s favoured son, and Michael Howard’s reforms were widely interpreted to be an attempt to block David Davis. A new YouGov poll in the Daily Telegraph turns all of this on its head.

Back in May YouGov found that Davis was the first choice of over a third of Conservative party members with Ken Clarke trailing in third place behind David Cameron. Between them Ken Clarke’s maneouverings on Europe, his smooth media launch, the support he has demonstrated in the polls and the momentum his bandwagon has built up in recent days seems to turned the position round – in this morning’s Telegraph YouGov have Clarke as the most popular choice of leader amongst party members, leading David Davis by 33% to 28%. David Cameron is third on 17% with Liam Fox on 8% and Sir Malcolm Rifkind on 4%.

Far from the old system of election benefiting David Davis, it now seems that Davis would be better off under the new system. It’s not all bad news for Davis though, when it comes to a final head-to-head run-off Davis would still beat Clarke, but only just – YouGov have Davis on 48% and Clarke on 45% (while a actual vote wouldn’t be for months even if the members retain their voting rights, in the 2001 contest YouGov did predict it correctly). In a Davis-Cameron final round, Davis would win relatively comfortably by 53% to 36%.

While Clarke is the most popular candidate amongst members, he is still staunchly opposed by a significant portion of the membership. Asked which candidates they would not like to see as leader 37% named Clarke, though hostility is clearly on the wane – back in May it was 54%. The equivalent figure for Davis is 16%. Therefore Clarke is most popular, but Davis is less unpopular (the most unpopular was, by far, Malcolm Rifkind on 54%.

The reason for the opposition to Ken Clarke is unambiguous and unsurprising. YouGov gave those who said they opposed Ken Clarke a list of possible reasons for their opposition. While they found a majority were concerned about his age and a significant minority worried about his tobacco links, in one area opponents were almost unanimous: 97% of those who were opposed to Ken Clarke cited his pro-European views as a reason.

Perhaps more important is how deep opposition to Clarke is among those that reject him. The fear amongst many Conservatives is that Ken Clarke is so strongly opposed amongst sections of the Conservative party that members would resign en masse if he became leader. YouGov’s poll gives some backing to that fear – 14% of members said they would resign if Clarke became leader. To put that in perspective, it’s likely that in many cases those would be idle threats, it could to an extent be balanced by new members, and even the most inoffensive of candidates would apparantly cause about 2% of respondents to resign. Nevertheless, there would appear to be a section of the party, albeit a relatively small one, so opposed to a Clarke leadership that they would simply walk away.

While a substantial minority of the party membership continue to find Clarke’s views on Europe anathema, the fact remains that while Davis remains a strong favourite under Michael Howard’s proposed new rules, if the reforms are rejected and the contest ends up being run under the old rules, it would be very hard to predict whether David Davis or Ken Clarke are more likely to emerge as the winner.


There are more details from Populus’s latest poll in today’s Times. The fun bit is a question that asked people how they would vote in a General Election if Labour was led by Gordon Brown, and the Conservatives were led by either Ken Clarke, or David Davis.

With Clarke as Conservative leader people would vote CON 37%, LAB 39%, LD 19%.

With Davis as Conservative leader people would vote CON 33%, LAB 43%, LD 18%.

The same caveats about yesterday’s figures apply here – people’s responses are based on what their idea of a Clarke/Davis leadership and a Brown premiership would be like, the reality may well be different. However, unlike the ICM “are you more likely to vote Tory” questions, where we must wonder of those people would have voted Tory anyway, the Populus questions are dealing directly with net voting intention.

Anyway, caveats aside it is obviously a further boost for Clarke – his election as leader would give the Conservatives a good boost in the polls (possibly more than this poll suggests, since the Conservatives are likely to have a new leader before Labour do). It also tells us something about the other two parties – Brown’s leadership looks likely to give Labour a good boost in the polls at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, regardless of who becomes Conservative leader.

(I know you are wondering. On a uniform swing, and taking account of boundary changes, this means against Clarke Labour would manage a majority of 40 (Labour losses to the Conservatives would be made up by gains from the Lib Dems), while against Davis they would increase their majority to 134. It is important to realise that, not only is such an election years away, and the shares of the vote therefore meaningless, but that respondents aren’t stupid- they know what these questions are about and to an extent do use them to express their preference for a candidate, rather than give a straightforward voting intention. Treat it therefore, as Peter Snow would say, as just a bit of fun.)

UPDATE: Thanks to Andrew Cooper for the normal voting intention figures without Clarke, Davis or Brown – CON 35%(+7), LAB 37%(-3), LDEM 20%(-2). Clearly there are large changes since Populus’s last poll, which was back in July, but voting intention means little at this point, especially with the leadership in flux.

UPDATE 2: Tables for this and the ICM/Newsnight poll are now up on the respective websites. I don’t think the Times reported the breakdown for favourite leader amongst swing voters, arguably the most important group – there Clarke led Davis by 44% to 8%. The ICM/Newsnight figures were sadly not broken down by voting intention or party ID.

Ken Clarke’s official entry into the Conservative leadership race has predictably lead to some new polls. There was a new ICM poll on yesterday’s Newsnight, and this morning’s Times carries a new Populus poll.

Both polls found – as all previous polls have – that Ken Clarke was far and away the most popular candidate amongst the general public, most due to the fact that he the only candidate with broad public recognition. Following the extensive press coverage he recieved in the last week, his lead is now even greater. Populus found 41% supported Clarke as the next leader, with only 10% backing David Davis in second, other candidates were in single figures.

ICM’s figures were almost identical – 40% for Ken Clarke, 10% David Davis and others in single figures. More interestingly ICM also asked about whether people would be more or less likely to vote Tory if Ken Clarke or David Davis were leader – in the past questions like this have given somewhat contrasting answers for Clarke. ICM found that 20% of people said that they would be more likely to vote Conservative if Ken Clarke was leader, with only 8% less likely to vote Tory. In contrast only 7% said they would be more likely to vote Tory under David Davis’s leadership, while 10% said they would be less likely.

I always view figures like this with some scepticism – how many of those people saying they are more likely to vote Tory vote Tory anyway? How many of those people saying they would be more likely to vote Tory would actually vote Tory, or are they just using the question to express a preference for Ken? Either way, it does suggest that the idea of a Ken Clarke leadership would win more votes than the idea of a David Davis leadership. The reality of a Clarke or Davis leadership would not necessarily have the same effect.

On an entirely unrelated matter, across the ocean Mark Blumenthal has a good dissection of the first US polls on the handling of Hurricane Katrina.

YouGov was one of the sponsors of the Edinburgh Festival last month and carried out various polls for tv industry discussion sessions. There were about six altogether – you can see them all on the YouGov website here – but are mostly, well, the sort of thing that TV executives have sessions about in Edinburgh – payTV vs free to air TV, diversity in programme making and so on. The interesting one was on taste and decency in television, specifically Jerry Springer the Opera.

All the polls formed the basis of debates at the Festival, the one on taste and decency was apparantly rather entertaining, in a descending to throwing personal abuse back-and-forth type way. Stephen Green is a “irrelevant runt” and the whole audience are a “room full of sinners”. Sadly, it isn’t online so we have to make do with the results of the poll.

16% of people told YouGov they watched Jerry Springer when it was screened on BBC2 (Google reveals various different actual viewing figures for JStO, ranging from 1.7 million to 2.4 million, with the same figure sometimes given as viewers or households). They were, as you might expect, disproportionately young – under 30s were twice as likely to have watched it as over 50s – and were slightly more likely to me middle class and living in London.

The poll did not ask if people were personally offended by the programme, but asked if they thought various reactions to the programme were warranted. 42% thought that complaints about the content of the programme or the language were warranted, 9% thought the protest rallies against the programme were justified, while 2% thought that personal threats to BBC employees were justified by showing Jerry Springer the Opera.

The actual threats reported in the papers at the time were death threats against Roly Keating, the controller of BBC2. The poll however didn’t specify death threats (in fact, the BBC later said the reports were “exaggerated”) and this poll was conducted many months later, so there’s no reason to think that respondents were thinking of death threats when they answered the question (plus there are the normal caveats about a small proportion of people in any poll playing silly buggers). It is still 2% of the population who think personal threats against TV executives are an appropriate response to television programmes they dislike.

Overall however the poll found little support for censorship. Only 17% thought that programmes with potentially offensive religious content like JStO should not be shown at all. 67% thought they were acceptable after the watershed, 14% thought they were acceptable at any time. Asked about where they should be shown, 59% thought they were acceptable on any channel, 22% said they were acceptable on satellite subscription channels, only 13% of people said they should never be shown (this is the order the questions were asked, so the difference between 17% and 13% suggests that some of the people who said such programmes were totally unacceptable relented when offered the chance of having them only on subscription channels).

Similar questions were asked about other potentially difficult programmes – graphic documentaries (the example given was the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off, the C4 documentary about Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa) and explicit footage on news coverage (the example being the beheading videos from Iraq). Almost everyone thought that graphic and disturbing documentaries were okay, with only 4% objecting (77% specified after the watershed). There was less support for explicit news coverage – 26% said such footage should never be shown, though I suspect that was largely because of the particularly disturbing footage that was quoted as an example and which was, of course, not shown on British television.

Finally, Yougov also asked the same questions of a panel drawn from the television industry. Perhaps the most significant question was how they thought the furore over Jerry Springer the Opera would effect future decisions – 54% thought it would have little or no effect on future decisions, but 35% thought there would be an effect, and 8% thought that, in the light of the fuss over JStO, television channels would be far less likely to screen “risky” programmes.