Populus: Brown still 6 points behind Cameron

Populus: Brown still 6 points behind Cameron


    But Labour and Tories level pegging on main voting intention

The March Populus Poll in the Times has the following top-line voting intention with comparisons on a month ago: CON 35%(-2): LAB 35%(-1): LD 20%(+2). So in terms of lead the Tories and Labour are back to an even position after the Tories were briefly ahead last month.

In recent months Populus has been showing Labour doing better against the Tories than the other pollsters with regular monthly slots in the national papers and were the only only to report Labour leads in the immediate aftermath of the Tory leadership election.

The finalisation of the Lib Dem leadership issue has meant that Populus have been able to ask a proper Brown-Cameron voting intention question for the first time since December because there is a Lib Dem leader they can put in the list. The figures here are with changes on December are:- Brown 34% (-1): Cameron 40% (-1): Kennedy/Campbell 20% (nc).

    Before people jump to too many conclusions about the huge difference between the standard voting intention result and the Brown-Cameron figures they almost certainly have been computed on a different basis and are not strictly comparable.

We will have to wait until the full data is available but in the past there has been a “likelihood to vote” factor in the top-line figures and a “spiral of silence” adjustment so that an assumption is made, based on what they did at the General Election, on the intentions of those saying they “do not know”.

I was in correspondence with the Populus boss, Andrew Cooper, about this yesterday ahead of the poll and he agreed that the two sets of figures are not “directly comparable”.

The problem for Brown is that this appears to be a nerdy technical point and most people looking at the numbers in the Times this morning would conclude that Labour chances are much worse with the Chancellor than without him.

In spite of the “make-over” and higher profile Brown does not appear to have made up any ground at all on his younger Tory rival in the past three months. If Brown continued to be 5-6 points adrift, and other pollsters were showing the same broad picture, then it could provide ammunition to his opponents in his party.

Today’s survey is in contrast to Sunday’s BPIX poll which had Brown and Cameron level-pegging. I have not seen any further data from this survey so it is hard to comment further.

In the Labour leadership betting the Brown price has hardened in recent weeks and is now at 0.36/1. At the start of the year it touched 0.54/1. In spite of the polls I am not tempted to go back in and bet against Brown as I did last November.

Mike Smithson

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