Pollwatch – State of the Leaders: Clegg -25%, Cameron -6%, Miliband -10% (April 2011)

by Stephen Tall on April 5, 2011

Yesterday, Pollwatch looked at the current state of the parties; today it’s the turn of the party leaders, Messrs Clegg, Cameron and Miliband.

As with all polls, what follows comes with caveats. Five of the polling companies – YouGov, Ipsos-Mori, ComRes, ICM and Angus Reid – ask questions specifically to find out the public’s views of the party leaders. 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. For that reason, I’m taking a 3-month rolling average which isn’t very statistically ‘pure’, but will give us a rule of thumb. Besides, we don’t indulge in polls that often, so here goes …

  • Cameron 44% well, 50% badly (net -6%); Miliband 33%, 46% (-13%), Clegg 28%, 63% (-35%)
    (YouGov: Do you think (name) is doing well or badly as (position)?)
  • Cameron 41% approve, 51% disapprove (net -10%); Miliband 34%, 41% (-7%); Clegg 32%, 58% (-26%)
    (Angus Reid: Do you approve or disapprove of of (name)’s performance as Y…)
  • Cameron 40% satisfied, 52% dissatisfied (net -12%); Miliband 36%, 41% (-5%); Clegg 33%, 56% (-23%)
    (Ipsos MORI: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way X is doing his job as Y?)
  • Cameron 47% good, 42% bad (net +5%); Miliband 30%, 43% (-13%); Clegg 33%, 51% (-18%)
    (ICM: Do you think X is doing a good job or a bad job?)
  • Cameron 38% good, 43% bad (net -5%); Miliband 22%, 35% (-13%); Clegg 28%, 49% (-21%)
    (ComRes: Do you think X is turnng out to be a good leader of Y?)

Which gives us an average net popularity – and, yes, I know how unscientific such averages are – as follows:

    David Cameron -6%; Ed Miliband -10%; Nick Clegg -25%

David Cameron

I suggested in yesterday’s that it was the Tories who had most to be pleased with from the current polls. Well, today I’d also say Mr Cameron is sitting most comfortably, the most popular least unpopular of the three party leaders. Though his personal figures are negative, he is consistently scoring +40% ratings, no small feat for the man presiding over the biggest public spending cuts in recent history.

Nick Clegg

It is instead Nick Clegg who is bearing the brunt of the public’s Coalition kicking, with a net negative rating of -25%. For the man who less than a year ago was more popular than Churchill it’s some comedown. However, it’s worth looking behind the headline figures because what’s clear is not that Nick is universally reviled, but that he’s a divisive figure.

Put simply, he’s popular with most Tory voters, and a majority of Lib Dem voters — and deeply unpopular with Labour voters. ICM’s figures show 63% of Tory and 51% of Lib Dem voters reckon Nick is doing a good job (compared with 27% and 41% who think he’s doing a bad job) — but 76% of Labour voters think he’s doing a bad job, more even than think David Cameron is doing a bad job! (It’s an irony probably not lost on either of them that Cameron is more popular with Lib Dem voters than Nick is.)

Ed Miliband

And what of Ed(ward) Miliband? Well, truth be told, he’s not enjoyed a great start. Six months into the job — his honeymoon — and though three-quarters of the public have made up their minds they are breaking narrowly but decisively against him.

This failure to connect is being picked up by the Westminster commentariat, but more worryingly for Labour also by the public, with 40% believing he’s not up to the job (compared with 27% who think he is).

That Mr Miliband’s notorious Hyde Park speech coincided with the violent minority offshoot of last weekend’s ‘March for the Alternative’ was bad luck; the same could’ve happened to Charles Kennedy in the 2003 anti-Iraq war protest. What should worry Labour more is the three-fold impression being cast in the minds of voters that:

    1) Labour is interested only in defending its core public sector interests but has nothing to say to those in the private sector (see the Economist’s Bagehot on this);
    2) it has no alternative — or if it does, it differs very little from what the Coalition is doing (after all Labour’s cuts would simply have taken place over 8 years rather than 5, the financial equivalent of pulling a plaster off your knee more slowly: spreading the pain rather than getting it over and done with); and
    3) Mr Miliband is a follower not a leader — he owed his election victory not to ordinary Labour party members, but to trade union barons, and now he’s rowing-in behind the UKUncut alliance. Though it may pain we Liberals to admit it, the public wants strong leadership more than it wants to like its leaders.

Mr Miliband has many factors still in his favour. First, he has a poll lead and a generally united party (albeit united against Coalition policies rather than in favour of their own). Secondly, that poll lead, combined with years of disastrous local election results, will mean Labour makes hefty gains this May which will help make him look a winner. Thirdly, there is no mechanism within the Labour party (unlike either the Tories or Lib Dems) to get rid of an unfit leader. And finally, any leader takes time to grow into the job, and it is far too soon to judge him a success or a failure: he is what everyone should expect a party leader to be 6 months in — a work in progress.