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The day I wagered my pension on the leader ratings…

June 20th, 2011

Why Labour should be concerned about Miliband’s numbers

The declining leadership ratings for Ed Miliband have raised again the question of whether these are a better pointer to electoral outcomes than standard voting intention surveys when those sampled are asked about the party they will vote for.

Exactly three months ago yesterday, on March 19th 2011, I gambled what was for me a large sum, more than half my university pension that month, on a very simple simple proposition:-

We were getting a better picture of what would happen in the coming Scottish election from the leadership-linked questions than the party voting intention ones.

At the time all all the polls had Labour with comfortable leads over the SNP in both the constituency and regional list sections and the red team looked a certainty at least to come out with most seats.  ICM had margins of four and three points respectively while YouGov was showing three and seven point margins.

This was reflected in the betting. Labour was a very right odds-on favourite and the most you could that day get was 1/5. The SNP, on the other hand were at 7/2 with some bookies.

Generally when I bet quite heavily and make a recommendation on PB the markets move. That didn’t happen in March and you could still get on the SNP at 7/2 the following week.

What was blindingly obvious was that pundits and punters were ignoring the findings that the pollsters were coming out with on the party leaders which to me were paramount. This is what I wrote:-

    “..ICM asked “Putting aside your own party preference, which one of the following do you think is best qualified to be First Minister of Scotland?”. The response was Alex Salmond: 43%: Annabel Goldie (CON) 10%: Iain Gray (LAB) 9%: Tavish Scott (LD) 3%: Patrick Harvie: 1%.

    So, extraordinarily, the leader of Scottish Labour, Iain Gray, came in third place behind the Tory.

    YouGov, meanwhile, asked a forced choice -”If you had to choose, which of the following do you think would make the better First Minister of Scotland?”  The response was Salmond 42% – Gray 29%.

Very different questions and two very different pollsters but with Salmond on either 42% or 43%. At the election on May 5th the SNP came out with 45% on the constituency vote and 44% on the regional list.

And the message for today? The current leadership ratings for Ed Miliband are a much pointer to the next general election than Labour’s voting intention shares.

Those have to improve sharply if Labour is to have any chance.

Mike Smithson