by Stephen Tall on December 3, 2007
The full results of that YouGov / Sky News leadership poll are now available online here: these give the full breakdown of figures, together with the answers to questions which weren’t reported by the media at the weekend.
A few observations from my reading of the data (which I am taking at face value while recognising it might be wildly inaccurate):
Leadership election turnout
According to the poll, a full 93% of members seem likely to vote – just 7% responded saying they didn’t know if they’d vote at all, and 1% declaring they would not vote at all. This points either to a remarkably high turnout – in the 2006 contest, just over 70% of members voted – or suggests the YouGov sample includes a high level of motivated Lib Dems (not that that necessarily matters. After all, the poll is meant to try and predict what those who actually vote will do).
Nick v. Chris
If the poll is right – and Chris Huhne’s campaign website is currently citing some of the figures on his website – it suggests Chris has a huge uphill task ahead: those who have voted have split 58:42 in Nick Clegg’s favour; while those who have yet to vote are also breaking in Nick’s favour by 31:26. It is true, of course, that 44% of those who intend to vote still don’t know who for… Chris will need them to flock to him in droves.
It is clear that one quality Chris’s supporters appreciate about their candidate more than any other is competency: 50% believe he is more competent than Nick Clegg. Rather astonishingly, not one single Chris supporter thinks Nick is the more competent of the two; though, to be fair, only 2% of Nick’s supporters say that Chris is more competent. Overall, 61% say there’s not much difference in competency between the two candidates.
Clearly the make or break question for many is voter appeal, and it is here that Nick bests Chris: only 9% of those polled say Chris has significantly more, while 53% say Nick does. Among Nick’s supporters, fully 86% identify this quality with their guy; only one-quarter of Chris’s supporters think he has the most voter appeal.
However, Chris’s supporters – 64% of them – are much more likely to say that their candidate has the best policy programme, compared with 39% of Nick’s supporters who think Nick comes up trumps. Overall, by 28:19, Lib Dems favour Chris’s policies, though almost half say there’s “not much difference” between the two.
Focusing on the negative, the poll finds that:
– 33% of Chris’s supporters believe Nick will “make a poor leader because he has changed his mind too often on important policy issues”; and
– 66% of Nick’s supporters believe Chris will “make a poor leader because he failed to prevent his campaign team publishing a leaflet entitled, ‘Calamity Clegg’”.
If not Nick or Chris, who?
Unsurprisingly, if neither Nick nor Chris were standing, party members would like to see Charles Kennedy back leading the Lib Dems: 34% gave him the nod ahead of 23% for Vince Cable, 13% for Simon Hughes, and 6% for Julia Goldsworthy. An overwhelming 84% would also like to see Charles return to the Lib Dem shadow cabinet after the leadership election.
Gordon v. David
There is an interesting nuance between the supporters of Nick and Chris regarding who they think would make the better Prime Minister when faced with the Hobson’s Choice of Gordon Brown or David Cameron. Though almost half of both candidates’ supporters plump for Gordon, 25% of Nick’s voters opt for Dave, compared to just 13% of Chris’s.
The obligatory Hung Parliament question
A further distinction between the supporters of the two candidates appears to be their willingness to do a deal after the next election: 48% of Team Clegg voters would be willing to reach an accommodation with the Tories, compared to only 30% of Team Huhne’s voters. But Nick’s supporters are pretty even-handed: 61% would also be willing to do a deal with Labour, compared to 53% of Chris’s supporters.
On policy, it is striking how much similarity there is between the views of the two candidates’ supporters when asked which two policies they would most like to see implemented in the next Parliament. Overwhelmingly the most popular policy among Lib Dems is the introduction of electoral reform, albeit Chris’s supporters – 77% named it – are even more enthusiastic than Nick’s 71%. The second most popular policy for both camps is the replacement of the Council Tax with a local income tax: 39% of Nick’s supporters placed it in their top two, compared to 34% of Chris’s. 85% of those Lib Dems polled want to retain the party’s commitment to local income tax.
Considering the sound and fury (in the blogosphere at any rate), scrapping nuclear weapons comes low down the list of priorities of Lib Dem members; nor is there any evident divide between the two sets of supporters. Just 11% of Chris’s supporters placed it in their top two policies, compared with 10% of Nick’s supporters. Even when quizzed specifically on Trident, there is little sign of schism: 10% of party members want to replace Trident; 46% want a less powerful, less expensive replacement; and 40% support unilateral disarmament.
There is similar agreement on withdrawal from Iraq: 26% support immediate withdrawal; 52% think it should happen by the end of 2008; and 19% believe troops should remain there for as long as the Iraqi government wishes them to stay.
Interestingly, a slim majority of those polled – 45% to 42% – are against holding a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty, the successor to treaty to the ill-fated EU Constitution: Chris’s supporters are a little more likely to be against holding a referendum than Nick’s.
Unsurprisingly, Paddy Ashdown is regarded as the party’s most successful leader, at least among those aged 40 or over – 54% name him, compared to 37% for Charles Kennedy (who tops the poll among those aged under 40). Ming Campbell is, equally unsurprisingly, named the worst leader by 55% of respondents – though a kinder 30% said ‘Don’t Know’, which was the only way of avoiding answering the question.
Left or right?
27% regard themselves as fairly/very left-wing;
43% as slightly left-of-centre;
18% as being in the centre;
7% as slightly right-of centre; and
1% as fairly right-wing.
Which perhaps shows something, though I’m not sure what, as it depends entirely on your definition of ‘left-wing’.