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The Great Hughes 2nd Preference Gamble

February 27th, 2006

    Why did Ming’s lead on Hughes 2nd preferences drop 19% in three days?

At this stage in the Tory leadership contest there’d been seven Tory member polls and the only outstanding issue was whether or not the 39 year-old’s share would top the 66% mark.

Contrast that with the Lib Dem race where the only members’ poll in a newspaper was on January 7th – a few hours before Charles Kennedy’s announcement. This showed that Hughes was being beaten by Ming by 49-21. From then on Hughes looked out of it – a view that was reinforced by the statement he had to make about his private life.


    The only real question since then was how the Hughes second preferences would split.

Two privately-funded polls by YouGov seemed to provide the answer. One where the fieldwork took place from February 2-6th and another during the period February 7-9th. Although there have been a lot of rumours we have never seen full details of the former. The latter, paid for by a Huhne supporter, was made public.

Although the first preference figures from the Feb 2-6 poll have remained private a poster on this site under the name of “Webpoll2” did make some information available at comment 27 in this thread. At the time there was a lot of scepticism about its authenticity but the YouGov boss, Peter Kellner, confirmed that it was correct. So of the limited information available we know that:-

  • The Feb 2-6 poll has Campbell getting 49% of the Hughes 2md preferences with Huhne on 27%. There were 12% undecided.
  • The Feb 7-9 poll had Campbell getting 39%, Huhne getting 36% with 13% then undecided.
    • Thus the Campbell-Huhne 2nd preference gap from Hughes supporters dropped from 22% to 3% in little more than three days. Could this be plausible? Did the huge change reflect the momentum of the Huhne campaign or could there be specialist polling factors?

    The first survey was said to have been commissioned by a Ming supporter and we have not seen how it was structured, what other questions were put and the order in which respondents answered them We do know that in second poll the voting intention questions were put last – and when that happens there is always a suggestion that people’s responses might have been conditioned by earlier answers.

    All will become clear on Thursday. This is a close call although I’m just inclined to think that Huhne has it. The latest betting is here.

    Mike Smithson






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