Pollwatch – State of the Leaders: how Clegg and Cameron are rated by the public (Summer 2010)

by Stephen Tall on August 29, 2010

Last week, Pollwatch looked at the state of the parties in July and August; today it’s the turn of the coalition government leaders.

As with all polls, what follows comes with caveats. Only two polling companies – YouGov and Mori – this past month asked questions specifically to find out the public’s views of the Lib Dem and Tory party leaders. (Harriet Harman’s performance as Labour leader is not being measured). And each asks variants on the basic question – do you think Clegg/Cameron are doing a good job – to come up with their figures, so comparison ain’t easy. But, still, we don’t indulge in polls that often, so here goes …

Here, in chronological order, are the results of the five polls published in June asking for the public to rate the two governing party leaders:

    Cameron: 58, 30: net +28
    Clegg: 54, 33: net +21
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 1-2 Jul)

    Cameron: 59, 28: net +31
    Clegg: 54, 32: net +22
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 8-9 Jul)

    Cameron: 58, 31: net +27
    Clegg: 51, 35: net +16
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 15-16 Jul)

    Cameron: 57, 32: net +25
    Clegg: 47, 38: net +9
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 22-23 Jul)

    Cameron: 55, 32: net +23
    Clegg: 47, 34: net +13
    (‘Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way X is doing his job as Y?’ – MORI, 23-25 Jul)

    Cameron: 56, 34: net +22
    Clegg: 46, 38: net +8
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 29-30 Jul)

    July average: Cam +26% (-12%), Clegg +15% (-19%)

    Cameron: 55, 35: net +20
    Clegg: 48, 40: net +8
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 5-6 Aug)

    Cameron: 54, 37: net +17
    Clegg: 46, 41: net +5
    (‘Do you think X is doing well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 12-13 Aug)

    Cameron: 55, 35: net +20
    Clegg: 44, 39: net +5
    (‘So far do you think X has performed well or badly as…’ – YouGov, 15-16 Aug)

    August average (to date): Cam +19% (-7%), Clegg +6% (-9%)

    What a difference 100 days makes… in May, Nick Clegg’s average net rating (admittedly a very rough ‘n’ ready reckoner) was in the black at +36%; as the summer draws to a close it is down to +6%. This narrowing is a fairly equal mix of lower numbers of voters saying Nick is performing well, and higher numbers saying he is performing badly.

    How far this simply reflects the public’s perception that the Lib Dems are down in the polls compared with our general election result, and how far it reflects serious dissatisfaction with Nick personally is hard to say – after all, the questions ask about Nick’s performance as Lib Dem leader. It would be interesting, for example, to compare the figures of Nick as party leader with the view of the public as to how he is performing in his role as Deputy Prime Minister.

    But undoubtedly the last couple of months have been tough ones for Nick, who has received a pretty rough ride in the media. That his personal popularity ratings have taken a hit is perhaps not surprising in the circumstances. It will be interesting to see whether the Lib Dem conference reverses that decline, as most leaders gain from the increased media exposure, even if it’s not all positive.

    And Nick can draw some solace from the fact that it is not just his ratings which have tumbled. David Cameron, too, has seen his average net rating fall from May’s +43% to +19% in August: still healthily positive, then, but a sharp decline on 100 days ago.

    Of course, for both Messrs Clegg and Cameron, May 2010 was an artificial high: the sealing of the Coalition partnership agreement will likely be the peak popularity point of both of their periods of office. However, both will be concerned if their ratings drift too much further down, as the Government will need both their combined communication skills, and the goodwill of the public, to sell the next couple of years’ austerity measures effectively.