Cameron’s leadership deficit

by Stephen Tall on September 4, 2007

Two quick questions, prompted by a couple of the results from Ipsos-Mori’s latest survey of political opinion, published yesterday:

  1. Which of the three main party leaders has the lowest overall satisfaction rating with the general public?
  2. Which of the three main party leaders has the lowest overall satisfaction rating among his own party’s supporters?

If you read the Telegraph (and indeed some of the comments on Lib Dem Voice) you’d assume the answer to be the Lib Dem leader, Ming Campbell.

You would be wrong. The answer is Tory leader David Cameron.

Here comes the science:

The question was the same for each leader: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Brown/Cameron/Campbell is doing his job as leader of the Labour/Conservative/Liberal Democrat Party?

Among all voters:

  • Gordon Brown: 43% satisfied, 23% dissatisfied; 34% don’t know = Overall +20%
  • David Cameron: 29% satisfied; 39% dissatisfied; 32% don’t know = Overall -10%
  • Menzies Campbell: 23% satisfied; 32% dissatisfied; 46% don’t know = Overall -9%

Among party supporters*:

  • Gordon Brown: 63% satisfied; 7% dissatisfied; 29% don’t know = Overall +56%
  • David Cameron: 52% satisfied; 32% dissatisfied; 15% don’t know = Overall +20%
  • Menzies Campbell: 53% satisfied; 24% dissatisfied; 23% don’t know = Overall +29%

(* This comes with an even larger health warning than most opinion polls should more prominently carry, as the sample sizes were pretty small.)

None of this means that we as Lib Dems, or indeed Ming Campbell himself, should be complacently happy with this state of affairs. Overall Ming has a negative satisfaction rating among the public, which cannot be a good thing.

Yet the poll’s finding that almost half the electorate has yet to make up its mind about his leadership suggesting the ball remains in his court – he has time to convince the public he’s got what it takes. And the vast majority of party supporters – 53% – appear to want him to have that chance.

That, combined with the mandate he secured in a democratic leadership contest just 18 months ago, should mean an end to the public backbiting that achieves nothing except to undermine party activists’ hard work.

The really bad news is for the Tories and Mr Cameron.

It is clear that despite the metropolitan media’s love affair with David Cameron, the wider public is much more sceptical. Mr Cameron is not the talismanic, moonshine-touched vote-winner the Tory party thought it was voting for – and that is beginning to feed through into high levels of dissatisfaction among Tory voters.