Will increasing media coverage help the outsiders?

Will increasing media coverage help the outsiders?

How many will actually use 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices?

In just 29 days time the results of Labour’s leadership contest will be announced after a prolonged battle that has only this week started to attract serious attention from the mainstream media.

This lack of attention has probably helped David Miliband because what polling there has been is likely to have been affected by the name recognition factor – and the former foreign secretary is much more widely known than his younger brother.

We saw that in polling for the 2007 Labour deputy race where the early YouGov surveys had Hilary Benn well ahead – probably because everybody within the Labour movement has heard the name “Benn”. When the ballots were counted Hillary did not even make the top three.

Yes the voters are all committed in some way because they are party members or political levy paying members of the trade unions – but what proportion of the electorates are watching this as closely as those who visit the main political websites each day or track every minute news development? Not as many as we think I would suggest.

But levels of awareness will change as we move into September and there is more coverage. A week on Sunday, admittedly at the non-prime time slot of 10.30am, the Sky New Labour leadership debate will take place and my guess is that it’ll attract a lot of news coverage that weekend.

My reckoning is that the more the contest gets featured the more it will help candidates other than David Miliband simply because it erodes his higher name recognition advantage.

But there is one factor that will help DaveM that has not really been examined – that large segments of the party member and trade union voters will not exercise their alternative votes. This will reduce the number of potential 2/3/4th preferences in play that could help EdM to catch up. For the big theory behind the younger Miliband’s challenge is that he’ll do much better with the alternative votes.

So my reading is that David Miliband is still the odds on favourite but EdM has a better chance than the current prices suggest. As I write the Betfair odds make DM a 71% chance with EdM at 27.4%.

Mike Smithson

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