Will voters elect someone they consider “second best”?

Will voters elect someone they consider “second best”?

    What questions give the best measure of views on Cameron and Brown?

A few days ago two pollsters that I have a lot of time for, YouGov and ICM reported increased Tory leads in opinion polls they were carrying out at exactly the same time.

Yet when the two firms got to asking respondents to rate Brown and Cameron against each other for Prime Minister their findings seemed contradictory. The YouGov sample split 43-34 in favour of the Tories on the forced question – “if you had to choose between a Cameron led Tory government and a Brown led Labour one which would you prefer?

ICM, on the other hand, recorded Brown 29% to Cameron 25% when they asked which of the two alongside the other options of Reid and Campbell would make “best Prime Minister”. This was in spite of a 47-36% margin for Cameron in the same survey to the question of which is or would be the “best leader of his party.

    It appears that people are making different judgements when asked to choose who would be “best PM” as against what they would like to happen. This seems to get to the heart of the next General Election – Brown is seen as “best” but is this enough to win votes?

I was discussing this at the end of last month with Mark Gill, Director of Research at Ipsos-Mori, which usually asks respondents to rate Brown and Cameron on who is seen to be “most capable”. His view was that this was a much better test than straight voting intention questions.

Only time will tell whether Gill is correct but this does set the agenda for how the leader and would-be leader need to go about winning our votes. Cameron needs to work much harder on persuading us that he is capable enough to be PM – Brown has to continue to appear to be “most capable” while making himself more attractive to voters.

At this stage I am resisting the temptation to make a call on this. Things will be seen in very different light when Gordon actually moves in next door.

In the Labour leadership betting the Brown price has tightened to its lowest level yet – 0.18/1. So a winning £100 bet would produce an £18 profit compared with the £56 that was available in early October.

Mike Smithson

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