Populus finds that “his refusal to discuss” has big public backing
A total of 81% of those interviewed in a new Populus poll in the Times this morning agreed that “it does not matter if Mr Cameron smoked cannabis when he was at school or university.”
In a second question 85% agreed “that he should not be expected to answer detailed questions about whether he tried drugs in his youth because all politicians are entitled to have made mistakes when they were growing upâ€ – the line the Tory leader has been taking since the weekend stories came out.
But the poll, undertaken on Tuesday, found that 71% agreed â€œit would matter if it turned out that he had done so as an adult, after he started work.” There are marked gender and age differences in the survey with 53 per cent in 18 to 34 range agreeing with this compared with 71 per cent of over55s. Women are considerably less tolerant than men.
My main concern about the findings is that questions in polls like this can appear to be leading. It is very difficult, of course, creating a survey of this sort in a form that avoids this criticism.
The poll is very much in line with the sometimes heated discussion on PBC on Sunday evening.
If there is a danger for the Tory leader in the story it is the reminder it provides of his background – something that Labour will find easier to exploit when the party is not led by an Oxford graduate who was educated at an elite public school.
My guess, and on which I have money riding, is that the exposure will have given Cameron a boost in this week’s BrandIndex politician’s popularity ratings.
NOTE UPDATE to reflect comment 18.