- Why the poll slump when the budget measures were popular?
A day on from the dramatic polling news in the Sunday newspapers there’s a must read article in the Independent today by John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, and one of the UK’s leading psephologists. In it he attempts to explain how the fact many of the measures in last week’s budget proved popular squares with Labour’s downward poll movement.
One of the surveys, from YouGov had Labour on 27% trailing 16% behind the Conservatives. The second, from ICM, reported a Labour deficit of 9% compared with just 3% in the last survey from the pollster a fortnight earlier.
On YouGov John writes: “…On its own one such poll could be dismissed as a “rogue”. Statistical theory tells us that even a well-conducted poll will under- or overestimate a party’s true standing by more than three points one time in 20. Just occasionally the error will be even bigger. Perhaps, it is YouGov’s misfortune to have suffered such a fate.
It is this possibility that makes the second poll, conducted by ICM, so important. This shows a much smaller Tory lead â€“ nine points. Nevertheless, that is still six points up on ICM’s previous poll. YouGov may have exaggerated Labour’s loss of support, but the chances are very low indeed that two polls would show a decisive drop in Labour support if the tide of public opinion had not turned against the party at all.
Ironically, many of the individual measures in the Budget appear to be relatively popular… Meanwhile nearly half think that Mr Darling is not up his job. Mr Darling’s problem may be an inability to lift morale.”
I think that last point goes to the heart of the issue. It was not the measures themselves but the messenger or at least the way the message came out.
For as has been observed here before one of the real weaknesses of Brown’s ministerial line-up is the ability to communicate. This was a quality where Tony Blair excelled and this was reflected in his choice of ministers. The same does not apply to Gordon Brown.
To win elections you have to be good at the “communication thing” and in David Cameron they have an opponent who is formidable in this area while the Lib Dems have Vince Cable. There is time for Labour to get this right but it might mean a big cabinet shake-up and I am not sure whether Gordon is ready for that.