55% of voters want a â€œyounger, newer, less experienced, rising starâ€
The March survey by Populus for the Times follows the trend of the other recent telephone polls and shows a big increase in the Labour’s gap behind the Tories. The headline figures with comparisons on February are: CON 38%(+2): LAB 30%(-3): LD18%(-1). So last month’s 3% deficit has increased to 8% – which equals the biggest ever lead the pollster has recorded for the Conservatives.
A month ago when Populus asked their “named leader question” the Tory lead shrank to 1% when Gordon Brown’s name was mentioned. Today that has moved to 13% which is exactly the same as ICM recorded two weeks ago. These are the figures with comparisons on February: CON 42% (+7): LAB 29 (-5): LD ??. This is a massive change on the month.
The main consolation for the Chancellor from the survey is that when David Miliband’s name was substituted the split was CON 48%: LAB 28%: LD ??. This gap is party explained by the huge number of “don’t knows” – a product probably of the fairly low level of name recognition that the Environment Secretary enjoys.
But when the sample compared Brown with â€œsomeone in their early 40s who is more identified with new concerns like the environment and less tarnished by association with unpopular decisions the Government has taken over the yearsâ€ 33% said the Chancellor and 55% the alternative.
No doubt these numbers will be used against Gordon but the question is not totally satisfactory and it could be argued that it is leading respondents to answer in a particular way.
A technical issue with Populus polls is that the sample is split into two for the non-voting intention questions. So if the pollster has followed its normal pattern then the findings on the “named leader” item and the pro-Miliband question are based on the responses of 750 people – and not the 1,500 for the headline figures.
I’ve long argued here that the biggest threats to Gordon’s ambitions are the polls and figures like these today won’t ease the jitters amongst Labour MPs in highly marginal seats.
Two weeks ago I was pleased with myself after getting Â£400 on Gordon at what seemed to be the generous price of 0.25/1. Maybe that wasn’t a good bet after all. The latest betting has that at 0.26/1 and my guess is that it will ease further as punters take stock.