What does this say about the coming election?
One of the great developments for political anoraks was the publication by Ipsos-MORI just before Christmas of historic polling data that has not been available online before. This covers MORI polls from 1977 onwards and means we have here on-line data from the last period in British politics when the Tories looked as thought they might take power.
It’s a long time ago but because of the consistent way in which the pollster has asked the questions it is possible to make direct comparisons over three or even four decades.
Yesterday morning I used the resource to compare the Prime Minister approval ratings in the run ups to the last two changes of government, 1979 and 1997. with what has been happening over recent months.
In this post we look at the opposition leader ratings for Thatcher and Blair and compare them with what Cameron has been getting.
The results are quite surprising. I was expecting Blair to have enjoyed substantially better numbers than Cameron in line with the very big Labour leads that MORI was reporting in 1996/97. But that’s not what they show. Also Maggie Thatcher’s opposition leader’s approval rating are not that far behind.
The other interesting feature is just how stable these numbers are and how the trend can often be totally different from the voting intention data. Thus between November and December 2009 the MORI Tory lead moved from 6% to 17% – yet during the same period Cameron’s approval rating dropped to its lowest for some time.
There are many who argue that the approval numbers are a better guide to big trends than the voting intention ones. I’m not quite in that camp yet – but I’m certainly looking at them a lot more.