I suggested last week that the fall in David Cameron’s approval ratings in YouGov’s political tracker polls was a result of his “hug-a-hoodie” speech. A poll by Communicate Research in the Independent on Sunday suggests that the speech wasn’t entirely without benefit for Cameron – asked if “David Cameron’s statement that teenage hoodies need love and understanding made me more likely to vote Conservative”, 24% said yes and 69% said no. Of course, on questions like this you really need to give people the option to say that the speech made them less likely to vote Tory, and preferably offer the options of saying that they would vote Tory anyway, or wouldn’t vote Tory whatever they did. These 24% could be all staunch Tories anyway, so as it stands the question tells us little.

Communicate also asked about attitudes to sleaze. Unsurprisingly a large majority of people (69%) thought that political parties should not be allowed to give peerages to people who had given them large donations, with 24% of people thinking it was acceptable. Asked if David Cameron or Gordon Brown would be better at rooting out sleaze as Prime Minister the two men were almost exactly neck and neck, with Brown on 34% and Cameron on 33%, suggesting that despite Labour’s problems with sleaze we have not yet reached the point where the Conservatives can realistically sell themselves as the cleaner alternative (although it’s worth remembering that people do tend to answer questions like this in a partisan manner and, at least in the past, Communicate Research have not weighted their samples politically, leading to polls slightly over-representing the amount of Labour supporters).

Finally Communicate asked about Tony Blair’s relationship with President Bush – 50% of people agreed that “Tony Blair’s close relationship with President Bush stops Britain playing a more constructive role in the crisis between Israel and its neighbours”, with 33% disagreeing, and 54% agreed that “it is fair to describe Tony Blair as George Bush’s poodle”, with 37% of people disagreeing.

ICM’s monthly poll should hopefully be published tomorrow, with YouGov at the end of the week.

  • Cameron’s ratings drop after “hug-a-hoodie” speech and EPP delay
  • Labour unscathed by Lord Levy arrest

The latest figures from YouGov’s daily political trackers are picking up a significant downturn in David Cameron’s job approval figures. Prior to the local elections Cameron’s figures had begun to fall – after his trip to Norway and the press coverage of his shoes being chauffeur driven behind his bike his net approval rating fell to +13, but then the Conservative’s local election successes gave him a huge boost, pushing his net approval up to +28. It stayed in the low twenties through May and June, since the start of July however it has begun to fall, quite precipitously in the last few days.

Over the last two weeks David Cameron has made his “hug-a-hoodie” speech, a speech which was quite thoughtful in reality, but was disasterously spun and has been the subject of much mockery in the press. He also quietly announced that his pledge to remove Conservative MEPs from the EPP-ED in the European Parliament was to be delayed until 2009. During that time his net approval rating has dropped to +12, the lowest recorded so far.

It’s impossible to link the drop directly to either event. The proportion of people thinking that the Conservatives have the best policies on crime has dropped slightly from around 33% up until now, to only 30% since the “hug-a-hoodie” speech, that is only a small drop, but does suggest that the crime speech had some impact. It’s important to note that Cameron’s job approval figures are still vastly higher than Blair on minus 34 and Menzies Campbell on minus 15 but it isn’t a good trend for him.

Meanwhile, there was surprisingly little impact on the trackers from the arrest of Lord Levy. Satisfaction with the government and with Tony Blair personally both remain very low, but there was no dramatic fall after the arrest. Possibly the public have already factored the loans for peerages scandal into their opinions, or Labour are reaching their real hardcore of support. Either way, it suggests that baring major new developments in the “loans for peerages” affair, such as criminal charges being brought or Blair himself being interviewed, it doesn’t look as though it is going to have a huge effect.

More details and graphs are in the pdf below:

pdf Download full report HERE.


The BBC commissioned a new ICM poll on Ming Campbell for Wednesday’s Newsnight. It asked five questions, three on which party was strongest on particular issues – the economy, crime and the environment. These followed the normal pattern – Labour continue to be seen as the strongest party on the economy (31% thought Labour were strongest, compared to 25% the Tories and 11% the Lib Dems), the Conservatives continue to lead on crime (by 33% to 25% for Labour and 10% for the Lib Dems) and the Lib Dems just marginally preferred on the environment (by 20% to 19% for Labour and 16% for the Tories).

The other two questions focused on Menzies Campbell’s leadership. Asked if three presumed party leaders at the next election had the qualities needed to be Prime Minister, 41% thought that David Cameron had those qualities, 37% thought Gordon Brown had those qualities and only 24% thought Menzies Campbell did.

There are two ways of looking at this. More optimistically for Campbell, people do answer questions like this in quite a partisan manner. Charles Kennedy, despite having constantly very high approval ratings, always trailed behind in questions about who would make the best Prime Minister (just for clarity, this wasn’t one of those – it seems to have been done as three questions asking if each man was seen as Prime Ministerial, not one question asking people to chose). A more pessimistic interpretation would be that Campbell was elected as leader precisely because the Liberal Democrats wanted someone who looked more statesmanlike and Prime Ministerial than Kennedy. This poll suggests that despite his gravitas and experience, only 24% of people see Campbell as Prime Ministerial.

Finally, Newsnight asked if people would prefer to have Campbell as Lib Dem leader or Charlie Kennedy. Kennedy won easily by 53% to 26%. This was rather a cruel question – despite his manifest personal problems, Kennedy was a very popular figure with the public and it shouldn’t come as a particular surprise that people prefer him to Campbell when the latter has barely made an impression yet. Kennedy may have been seen as a lightweight, but in terms of public popularity Campbell has some very large shoes to step into.

Progressive Partnership/ICM/Sunday Mail – 31% of people in England support independence for England from the UK.
Populus/Daily Politics – 37% agree, 43% disagree that it is right for the ‘Natwest Three’ to be extradited to the USA.

There have been two new polls covering nuclear energy in the past few weeks, one by ICM and one by YouGov. ICM found that the majority (58%) of people thought that nuclear energy was safe…but not so safe that they would be happy to live next to a nuclear power station – 50% said they would be very concerned if one was to be built near them. Unsurprisingly, asked to make a straight choice between different forms of power without reference to cost, reliability and so on – far more people thought that money should be invested in renewable sources like solar (79%) and wind (76%) power than in nuclear (38%).

A YouGov poll for the Economist partly reprised questions that were last asked in June 2005. Asked about some suggested policies to reduce the UK’s carbon emmissions, the figures suggested a very slight drop in the already low support for higher taxation of petrol in order to invest more in public transport (only 27% of people supported this, compared to 31% last year). 45% of people supported higher taxation of aviation, almost unchanged since last year. The expansion of nuclear energy was supported by 40% of people, up from 34% last year – opposition to nuclear energy dropped noticably to 37%, compared to 46% against in 2005. The most popular suggestion by far was the higher taxation of cars with larger engines, which was supported by 75% of respondents, up from 69% last year.

YouGov also gave people a list of statements about nuclear power and asked if they thought they were true or false (personally I’d have asked people to agree or disagree, since some were opinions, not statements of fact, but there goes). A large majority (68%) of people said they would support new nuclear power stations if they were part of a wider programme that also included investment in renewable energy sources, 44% of people though agreed that nuclear energy would create unacceptable dangers for future generations. The overwhelming majority (72%) rejected the idea that there was enough oil, gas and coal to provide energy for the future and that nuclear power was therefore unnecessary.

An interesting point flagged up by Peter Kellner in his commentary on the poll is the huge gender gap on the issue. 60% of men said they supported building more nuclear power stations, compared to only 19% of women. As Peter says there are sometimes differences between the attitudes of men and women on issues, but rarely on this sort of scale. A possible reason seems to be that women are far less aware of a key argument being used in favour of nuclear energy. 72% of men thought that the statement that nuclear energy produced very little CO2 was true, but only 35% of women did (56% of women didn’t know, compared to 21% of men). Quite why this should be is unclear.

For the record, I went looking for other large difference between men and women in polls – other large contrasts I found were support for greater restrictions on internet pornography (women 33% more likely to support), creating embryos for medical research (men 23% more likely to support) and belief in life after death and mediums (women 28% more likely to believe). The difference in attitudes to nuclear power is quite astoundingly high.