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.

With nearly all the newspaper commissed opinion polls covering the Conservative leadership election, it’s easy to forget that the Labour party conference was also dominated by questions about their party leadership – when exactly should Tony Blair step down, and should Gordon Brown replace him?

Since the Labour conference there have been two polls about the Labour party leadership. The first, by MORI, found that 36% of respondents wanted Tony Blair to step down immediately, with a further 12% wanting him to go by the end of 2005 or 2006, suggesting that just under half of people want Blair to go sooner rather than later. 6% of people said they wanted Blair to stay right up until the next election, with a further 6% wanting him to stand down after the next election. A mysterious 19% of people said “Other”.

Populus’s poll published yesterday had similar findings on the proportion of people who wanted Blair to go soon – 45% of people wanted Tony Blair to stand down before the end of next year. 23% wanted him to stand down near the end of the Parliament, while 24% wanted him to reconsider his decision and stay on beyond the next election (my guess, therefore, is that the mystery 19% of people in MORI’s poll were people who didn’t want Blair to step down after the next election, but to carry on even longer).

More important for the Government is what Labour voters think. MORI didn’t break down the figures according to party, but Populus found that 30% of Labour voters wanted Tony Blair to go now, while 41% wanted him to reconsider his decision to stand down and remain past the the next election. Only 27% supported Blair’s stated intention of standing down towards the end of the Parliament.

Did the conference make any difference to the position? It’s hard to say, but the trend does seems to be moving away from Blair – back in July Populus found 48% of Labour voters wanted Blair to stay on past the next election and only 24% wanted him to go before 2006.

Finally, what do people think about Tony Blair’s likely successor? MORI asked people if they thought Gordon Brown or Tony Blair would make a better Prime Minister. People were actually quite evenly split – 39% said Blair, 42% said Brown. There was, however, a sharp contrast between supporters of different parties. Unsurprisingly Tony Blair appealled more to Tory voters than Gordon Brown by 45% to 37%. Amongst Lib Dem voters Brown is easily preferred to Blair, 53% to 27%. And amongst Labour’s own voters? Well, despite Brown’s popularity most Labour voters still seem to think that Blair would be better at the top job, by a margin of 56% to 37%.


We’ve seen David Cameron move into the lead amongst Tory party members, now a new Populus poll in tomorrow’s Times has him ahead amongst Tory voters.

At the start of September Populus found that Ken Clarke was the first choice of 55% of Tory voters, with David Davis in second place on 16% and David Cameron trailing behind Malcolm Rifkind with only 3%. On today’s figures David Cameron is joint first choice amongst Tory voters on 33% (up 30) alongside Ken Clarke, also on 33% (down 22). David Davis is third with 12% (down 4*).

The figures amongst all voters echo those of ICM in their weekend poll for the BBC. While Clarke remains ahead on 25%, he is down by 16% while Cameron has moved up to second place with 18% (up from 2% last month). David Davis also gains 2 points amongst all voters, but it still leaves him in third place on 12%.

Voting intention figures from the poll were LAB 40%, CON 30%, LDEM 21%.

(*The Times reports this is David Davis being up four points. However, last month’s Populus figures clearly have him on 16%, so there is a mistake at one end or the other.)

The figures for the YouGov poll at the weekend are now up on the website , as is Peter Kellner’s commentary.

Interestingly, the full figures are broken down into “One Nation” and “Clear Blue Water” Tories – i.e. the 43% of members who told YouGov they thought the party should move closer to the centre, and the 50% who thought the party should stay firmly to the right to differentiate itself from Labour.

The most important finding looking at the figures this way is, as Peter Kellner says in his article, that David Cameron is ahead in both groups. Aside from that though there are some interesting differences. Amongst “one nation” Tories Cameron has huge support – he is the first choice of almost half of respondents, with Ken Clarke second on 32%. There is very little support for David Davis (7%) or Liam Fox (4%) on the left of the party.

On the right of the party Cameron’s support is lower – only 32% – but support for the other candidates is pretty evenly split – Davis and Fox are neck and neck on 20%, with Clarke on 18%. Cameron’s support, while drawn slightly more from the left, comes from both wings of the party. Clarke’s is mainly on the left, but he retains a rump of support on the right. Davis and Fox both draw the bulk of their support from the right.

Looking at who members don’t want as leader, predictably enough there is a large body of members on the right of the party steadfastly opposed to Ken Clarke – 54% of “Blue water” Tories say Ken should definitely not be leader. Equally there are large sections of “One Nation” Tories who would staunchly oppose Liam Fox (43%) or David Davis (49%). While there are more members who would object to Cameron on the right (17%) than the left (7%), there doesn’t seem to be any large body of ideological opposition to him (indeed, amongst “clear blue” Tories there are more opponents of Fox (20%) and Davis (20%)than Cameron).

The most obvious explanation for this is that Cameron isn’t seen as a candidate from the left or right of the party by most party members – he isn’t alienating any support for ideological reasons. Whether he can continue in the same vein under the spotlight of the leadership campaign is a different question.

Finally we come to the run offs between the various pairs of candidates. Obviously there are some differences, but in the Davis/Cameron, Clarke/Cameron and Fox/Davis run-offs the winners are the same amongst both wings of the party. The only run-off out of the four that YouGov tested that would be a true ideological face-off was Clarke/Davis – 68% of “one nation” Tories would back Clarke, 60% of “blue water” Tories would back Davis.

According the media the Tory party conference was a triumph for David Cameron and a disaster for David Davis. Until now though there has been no way of knowing whether the views of Tory activists in the conference hall would be replicated by Conservative party members across the country, or indeed the general public. Have the conference speeches really swung the votes of party members across the country, or just the sort of activists who go to conference?

The first proper polls are in tomorrow’s Sunday papers, most notably a poll of party members by YouGov. Perceptions of the candidates’ performances at conference were pretty much in line with media reports (though that should hardly come as a surprise – most members would have seen the conference through the prism of the media). 91% of members thought Cameron had done well (68% thought he had done “very well”), with only 3% thinking he’d done badly – a net rating of +88. 29% thought Davis had done well, with 65% thinking he’d done badly – a net rating of -36. The figures for other candidates were Clarke +80, Fox +64 and Rifkind +31. 44% said the conference had changed their opinion on who should be leader.

The last two YouGov polls of party members have shown Davis and Clarke as the clear front runners, with Davis ahead in a run off between the two. In YouGov’s latest survey David Cameron has a substantial lead over other candidates: he is the first choice of 39% of party members, followed by Clarke on 26%. From being front runner David Davis is now fighting Liam Fox for third place, with 14% and 13% support respectively.

Leadership elections are not just won on who people like though, they are based on who people don’t like. IDS won in 2001 not because who he was, but because he wasn’t Ken Clarke. One of David Davis’s strengths up to now has been that he was the candidate who was least disliked – there were very few people who wanted anyone-but-Davis, while there were plenty of anyone-but-Clarkes. That too has changed – David Cameron is now also the candidate who members find least objectionable, only 12% think he should definitely not be leader, while 33% think Davis should not be leader (Clarke is objected to by 40%, Fox by 30%).

Asked who they would like to see reach the final round of voting, 71% of members said David Cameron and, on present voting intentions, he would obliterate Davis or Clarke in the final round. Party members say they would vote 60%/33% in a Cameron/Clarke run off and would vote 66%/27% in a Cameron/Davis run off (unfortunately YouGov didn’t ask how opponents would vote in a Cameron/Fox final round). In a Davis/Clarke final round Clarke has pulled ahead and now leads Davis by 49% to 44%. The only run off question conducted for Liam Fox was Fox vs Davis, where Davis would win by 44% to 41%.

Logically, since Davis would beat Fox, and Clarke and Cameron would beat Davis, Clarke and Cameron should also beat Fox – in reality though people don’t necessarily vote like that. It does correlate with the first preferences though – Cameron would beat Clarke, who would beat Davis, who would beat Fox.

The impact of Davis and Cameron’s conferences performances has indeed stretched beyond the media and the conference to normal party members – the electorate who will make the final decision. It remains to be seen if this is a permanent change in opinion, or if Cameron will fall back once the immediate rush of media adoration falls away. For the moment at least David Cameron is the clear front runner.

Meanwhile, amongst the public as a whole, Cameron’s rating has improved, but he is hardly sweeping all before him. A second poll tomorrow, by ICM for the BBC’s Politics Show, asked a sample of normal voters and found that Ken Clarke remained their favourite candidate, with 27% naming him as their preferred leader. Cameron has moved up to 13% to put him joint second with David Davis.