How will the Populus version of the “named leader” question come out?
Amidst all the reverberations from February’s ICM poll showing the Tories 13% ahead of Labour when Cameron and Brown are named as leaders few have recalled that a similar poll just two weeks earlier had the margin at just one per cent.
In fact in that survey, by Populus, Labour had a 3% deficit in the headline figures that was reduced to just one point when Brown was named as leader.
How could two polling organisations that use very similar methodologies and often the same call centres come up with such totally different pictures of what is going on. And will Populus, due out in the Times tomorrow provide some welcome relief for the Brown camp?
The answer to the latter is probably yes. For last September the Times asked Populus that they pose the named leader question in a different way and this, over the months has produced better figures for Gordon. Thus Populus Mark 1 (see above) produced an average Labour deficit of 9.25% until the change in September. Populus Mark 2 (September 2006 onwards) has produced an average of 5.66%
The ICM question, which is very similar to Populus mark 1 has remained unchanged and since September has shown an average Labour deficit of 8.75%.
To complicate things even more Populus usually ask only half their sample of 1,500 this question while and then recalibrate the data so it is in alignment with the sample as a whole. ICM operate only a sample of 1,000 and always ask the question to everybody.
My understanding is that the drafting of Populus Mark 2 was carried out at by the Times and not the pollster.
No doubt Gordon’s supporters will say Mark 2 is better while his opponents will argue the case for the Mark 1 and ICM approach. Who knows? But what you cannot do, as has been done and will almost certainly be done tomorrow, is to compare results from Mark 1 and Mark 2 questions and ICM. They are totally different.
Like all these things it is the trend that matters.. ICM showed Labour’s deficit rising compared with its previous poll – will Populus do the same?
With the Labour succession in such a febrile state this could all have a big political impact. We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out how this has gone.