What do we make of Newsnight’s Kennedy v Ming poll?

What do we make of Newsnight’s Kennedy v Ming poll?


    Do “budget” non-voting intention surveys tell us anything?

So far we haven’t covered the ICM poll findings that were presented to Ming Campbell in a 25 minute feature on Newsnight on Wednesday evening. The most cruel figures from the new leader’s point of view was a comparison with his predecessor, Charles Kennedy. By 53-26 those surveyed preferred the old leader to the new.

Comparing which of the three presumed party leaders at the next election “had the qualities needed to be Prime Minister” the poll split Cameron 41: Brown 37: Campbell 24. On policy areas Labour were be seen as the strongest party on the economy, the Tories on crime and the Lib Dems, by a small margin on the environment.

We have not seen the full data yet but I assume that these were “bolted on” questions to one of ICM omnibus surveys where the samples are not adjusted to be politically representative. Such surveys are most popular with producers who have small budgets. In proper voting intention polls ICM ask how people voted last time and weight their findings in line with the answers.

    As a result I only rate these numbers as “vaguely interesting” and certainly they did not provide the substance to make the point that Newsnight was trying to establish.

If ICM had found, using a politically weighted sample adjusting for turnout, that people would be more likely to vote Lib Dem with Kennedy as leader then you have an interesting finding. But this wasn’t that sort of poll.

When presented with the data Ming responded by observing that at this stage in Kennedy’s leadership the Lib Dems were polling at 12% compared with the 17-19% now. Quite rightly Ming was pointing to voting intention figures but he was wrongly advised about how the Lib Dems were performing in the months after Kennedy succession.

The only valid comparison is with the only pollster from 1999 that’s still carrying out surveys in the same way, ICM, which was reporting party shares of 17%, not 12%, four months after Kennedy’s election.

The next ICM poll that really matters will be the July survey for the Guardian which should be out early next week.

Mike Smithson

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