Pollwatch – State of the Leaders: Clegg -30%, Cameron -8%, Miliband -11% (May 2011)

by Stephen Tall on May 4, 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. Four of the polling companies – YouGov, Ipsos-Mori, ComRes 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/Miliband 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 41% approve, 51% disapprove (net -10%); Miliband 34%, 41% (-7%); Clegg 30%, 59% (-29%)
    (Angus Reid: Do you approve or disapprove of of (name)’s performance as Y…)
  • Cameron 37% good, 46% bad (net -6%); Miliband 22%, 35% (-13%); Clegg 28%, 49% (-21%)
    (ComRes: Do you think X is turnng out to be a good leader of Y?)
  • Cameron 42% satisfied, 50% dissatisfied (net -8%); Miliband 33%, 42% (-9%); Clegg 24%, 55% (-31%)
    (Ipsos MORI: Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way X is doing his job as Y?)
  • Cameron 43% well, 51% badly (net -8%); Miliband 33%, 47% (-14%), Clegg 27%, 64% (-37%)
    (YouGov: Do you think (name) is doing well or badly as (position)?)

Which gives us an average net popularity – and, yes, I know how unscientific such averages are – as follows (compared with our averages last month):

    David Cameron -8% (-6%); Ed Miliband -11% (-10%); Nick Clegg -30% (-25%)

As for what I think of all this, I refer the honourable reader to my assessment of the party leaders last month: I’ve little to add…

So let’s instead look at the detail of one of YouGov’s findings, focusing on leaders’ characteristics (compared with the last polls before the May 2010 general election):

    “Sticks to what he believes in”
    Nick Clegg: 6% now (27%, May 2010)
    David Cameron: 25% (22%)
    Ed Miliband: 17% (n/a)

    “Honest”
    Nick Clegg: 14% (32%)
    David Cameron: 19% (20%)
    Ed Miliband: 16%

    “Strong”
    Nick Clegg: 5% (16%)
    David Cameron: 20% (23%)
    Ed Miliband: 9% (n/a)

    “In touch with ordinary people”
    Nick Clegg: 14% (37%)
    David Cameron: 10% (20%)
    Ed Miliband: 22% (n/a)

    “Good in a crisis”
    Nick Clegg: 4% (6%)
    David Cameron: 15% (10%
    Ed Miliband: 4% (n/a)

    “Decisive”
    Nick Clegg: 6% (17%)
    David Cameron: 23% (24%)
    Ed Miliband: 9% (n/a)

    “A natural leader”
    Nick Clegg: 6% (17%)
    David Cameron: 20% (26%)
    Ed Miliband: 6% (n/a)

    “Charismatic”
    Nick Clegg: 14% (45%)
    David Cameron: 25% (40%)
    Ed Miliband: 7% (n/a)

Overall, it’s not a happy picture for Nick Clegg. His ratings have dropped, sharply, compared to almost a year ago. Though David Cameron’s ratings have also slipped in sme areas, in others they have increased — so this is not just about being in government of itself, but specifically about how Nick Clegg is perceived in government.

Looking back over the polling figures for the last 9 months, it’s clear the tuition fees U-turn was especially toxic for Nick. It may turn out to be the equivalent for him of Iraq for Blair: a moment when voters’ minds were made up, and faith in their trustworthiness were fatally undermined. But that is not inevitable. Memories do fade (if there’s one tactically smart thing the Lib Dems did do with tuition fees, no matter what you think of the policy, it was to make the tough choice early on, rather than defer it); and Nick still has another four years to demomstrate to voters his ability to advance his core beliefs.

There are perhaps two brighter (or less dim, depending on your disposition) elements to the leaders’ ratings, above. First, Nick does at least lead David Cameron in one respect: being in touch with ordinary people. Indeed, it’s notable that this is the one characteristic where the Prime Minister’s sure-touch has otherwise deserted him.

The second is that Ed Miliband fares little better than Nick. To an extent, this is unsurprising: Ed is still largely unknown to the public, Labour leader for just over six months. He’s plenty of time to make his mark. And yet given Labour’s curently high poll ratings, 40%+, Ed might have hoped some of the party’s popularity would have rubbed off on him. Though Nick Clegg has undoubtedly disappointed many, it seems Ed Miliband has failed to impress on pretty much the same scale.