One of the most commented on polling questions in conservative circles last year is question asked by Populus in March (though similar exercises have been done by ICM and YouGov) that asked two groups of people if they agreed with the Conservative party policy on immigration. One set of people were told it was Tory party policy, the other just had the policy described to them without attribution. The result that was the unattributed policy’s net approval rate was 12 points higher than the attributed one – in other words, the Conservative party’s image was so bad that people suddenly stopped liking policies when they found out they belonged to the Conservative party.

Populus have now repeated that experiment, using the 6 statements that David Cameron used in an advert in the Sunday Telegraph over the New Year. All six comments (you can read them in the Times here) are pretty bland and inoffensive, so unsurprisingly large majorities of people agree with them. The difference is that attributing the statements to David Cameron as leader of the Conservative party no longer automatically reduces the proportion of people supporting them.

The Times story unfortunately concentrates upon approval ratings – in the orginal Populus polls while approval ratings dropped once a policy was associated with the Tory party, the main difference was disapproval. People who would say “don’t know” if asked about an unattributed policy would say they disapproved when it was described as a Conservative party policy. Populus’s full figures though have the net approval ratings and the picture is the same – in most cases the Tory brand no longer seems to drag their policies down.

Of the 6 statements tested, the only one that was signficantly less popular when associated with the Conservatives was “Free trade must be matched by fairness and compassion. Fighting global poverty is our moral obligation; a priority, not an afterthought”. Unattributed it’s net approval was +74, attributed it was only +66. On the statements on helping the poor, standing up to big business and defending the NHS attributing comments to the Conservative party made no significant difference. On police reform and economic stability associating the comments with the Conservative party even seemed to increase their net approval rating slightly.

The figures aren’t that conclusive – the statements were bland and designed to be quite hard to disagree with, there may be a different picture when it comes to firm policy positions. Equally, the exact wording of the question for the attributed statements was “made recently by David Cameron, the new Conservative Party leader” – it could be that the Conservatives still have a negative image but it’s being ‘cancelled out by David Cameron’s positive image. Still, it seem as though the Conservative party may not be the brand poison it used to be.

The monthly Populus poll in the Times on Tuesday shows the Liberal Democrats down three points. Both Labour and the Conservatives are up marginally, meaning that the Labour lead remains steady at three points (though this is partially due to a slight change in Populus’s past vote weighting – if they had used the same weighting as last month Labour would have been up 2 points). Needless to say this is a contrast to the other pollsters, all of whom have either a Conservative lead or the parties level pegging in their most recent polls.

The survey was conducted between Friday and Sunday meaning that Kennedy’s resignation happened halfway through the fieldwork and it’s final effect may yet change – we won’t see polls conducted after Kennedy’s resignation for at least a few more days.

The survey also features Populus’s first “party leader index” since David Cameron became Conservative leader. Cameron’s average rating out of ten is 5.28, considerably higher than either IDS or Michael Howard, neither of whom ever breached the 5.00 mark. Despite this he trails behind Blair, who himself records his own best ever score of 5.33 on the index, beating his previous high of 5.31 recorded just after the 2004 Labour conference when he made the dual announcements of his heart operation and his intention to step down after a third term.

Given that there is no obvious reason for the boost in Blair’s score, it may well be that both Cameron and Blair owe their unusually high scores to the fact that they weren’t actively in the process of being removed by their party at the time and, therefore, must be doing comparatively well!

UPDATE: The change in weighting is only a tiny one – for the last few months Populus have been weighted recalled vote to the mid-point between the recalled vote in the survey and the actual 2005 result. Now there are a few months’ data to work with they are weighting to the mid point between the actual 2005 result and the average of recalled vote in their last ten polls. While the change was to the disadvantage of Labour this month, overall the change won’t make any partisan difference – it will just make the polls a bit less volatile. This does mean that ICM continue to weight their data in a way that is slightly more favourable to the Tories than Populus do.


More results from YouGov’s poll of party members are published in the Telegraph today. Ming Campbell remains the most popular choice of leader amongst Lib Dem party members with the support of 49% of respondents, compared to 21% for Simon Hughes and 13% for Mark Oaten. It is worth remembering that the majority of responses were received last Friday, so represent the views of Lib Dem party members prior to Kennedy’s resignation – they may already have changed.

Campbell also leads amongst ordinary Lib Dem voters, though not so convincingly – Campbell 26%, Hughes 20%, Oaten 8%. 47% of Lib Dem voters said they didn’t know, suggesting that the candidates are not yet that well known amongst the wider body of Lib Dem supporters, and perhaps contributing towards Simon Hughes’s proportionally greater support, given that he is probably the most well-known of the three candidates.

YouGov also asked a question about where the Lib Dems should position themselves politically – both party members and Lib Dem voters were split between a position equidistant between Conservative and Labour (supported by 38% of members and 35% of LD voters), and a position to the left of the Labour party (32% and 31% respectively). There was very little (6% and 7%) support for positioning the party closer to the Conservatives, and virtually none for a position to the right of the Conservatives.

Asked how they would vote if there was not a Lib Dem candidate in their constituency (a question that can be seen as something of a proxy for how Lib Dem supporters may vote tactically in unwinnable seats), Lib Dem voters now split pretty evenly between Labour and the Conservatives (26% and 23%). In this regard Lib Dem members seem to be somewhat more left wing than their voters – 12% would vote Tory if there was no Lib Dem candidate, compared to 24% who would vote Labour.

UPDATE – The poll was actually far more extensive than the figures published in the Telegraph today – most of the questions have become rather irrelevant since Kennedy’s resignation so weren’t printed. For the record the full results are up on the YouGov website in the results section (or will be in the next hour or two – link on the left). There were some interesting parts the Telegraph didn’t cover – Lib Dem members’ opinions on Kennedy included more evidence that Lib Dem members support a left-wing future for the party, while members almost universally thought Kennedy was a decent chap and deserved credit for the party’s recent successes, 51% thought he was wrong to abandon the party’s commitment to tax increases. 51% also thought that he had not capitalised enough on the party’s opposition to the war.

One of the questions asked about how the removal of Kennedy will affect the Lib Dems is whether there will be a backlash against the Lib Dems over the way they treated their former leader; whether his removal will damage their reputation as being “nice”. At the moment it’s too early to tell, but perhaps an early indicator is that 46% of Lib Dem voters think that MPs did act honorably towards Kennedy; 34% of Lib Dem voters though think they should have supported their leader wholeheartedly.

Last month BPIX and Populus were the only two pollsters not to put the Conservative party ahead of Labour, on their figures this month the Tories have pulled level. The topline figures are CON 38%(+1), LAB 38%(nc), LDEM 16%(-1).

The poll was conducted between Thursday and Saturday, the same time period that saw Charles Kennedy’s admission of his alcohol problem and his eventual removal as Lib Dem leader – with the exception of one Communicate Research poll last year, the 16% rating is the Lib Dem’s lowest since 2002. The longer term effects of the change of Lib Dem leadership remain to be seen – Charles Kennedy always received very positive poll ratings, and the Liberal Democrats were normally seen as a united and, for want of a better word, “nice” party prior to the this weekend. The lack of Kennedy and the emergence of party infighting may damage the level of Lib Dem support in other pollsters’ figures, though that could be partially cancelled out by the increased media coverage the Liberal Democrats have received in recent days having been largely sidelined in the media since the election.

As usual there are only partial results in the Mail on Sunday for the other questions, but the answers do suggest that David Cameron’s honeymoon with the voters is continuing. The percentage of people thinking Cameron is doing a good job has risen to 37% from 29% last month. 41% of people think Cameron is a genuinely different, more sympathetic kind of Conservative, with only 14% disagreeing. 23% of people think he is just an imitation of Tony Blair – but 41% disagree.

Most of Cameron’s actions as Tory leader so far seem to have increased people’s likelihood to vote Tory – 31% of people said his statement that he would be willing to stand up to big business made them more willing to vote Tory, only 4% said it made them less likely to vote Tory. 36% said his stance on the environment made them more likely to vote Tory, only 5% said it made them less likely to vote Tory. 24% said Cameron’s backing for the NHS and abandonment of the patients’ passport made them more likely to vote Tory. Less popular was the decision to involve Bob Geldof in the party’s consultations on policy towards third world poverty – this repelled as many people as it attracted.

A YouGov poll in Saturday’s Telegraph gives us the first proper idea of what Liberal Democrat party members think of Charlie Kennedy’s position. The full poll will be published on Monday but, given that there is a fair chance that it will be old news by then, the preliminary results are being published today.

The was conducted on Friday, after Kennedy’s announcement that he had sought treatment for an alcohol problem, but mostly prior to the announcement by 25 Lib Dem MPs that they would not serve under Kennedy – the sample size so far is only 284, so bear in mind that the margin of error is about 6%.

Asked who they would like to see lead the party at the next election, only 27% of Lib Dem members said Charles Kennedy. 65% either named an alternate leader, or “someone else”. Asked who they would vote for in a leadership election if Kennedy stood down, 49% backed Menzies Campbell, 21% Simon Hughes and 14% Mark Oaten. While Lib Dem elections are carried out using a transferable vote, and candidate with the most first preferences doesn’t necessarily win, with almost 50% support Campbell would obviously be in a very strong position in such an election.