Archive for the 'Leader approval ratings' Category


The Lord Adonis guide to predicting elections: The best leader wins – nothing else matters

Saturday, September 9th, 2017

The LAB peer and former cabinet minister, Andrew Adonis, has a fascinating essay in the latest edition of Prospect on the best guide to election forecasting. His conclusion is encapsulated in the headline above – the party with the leader perceived to be best wins and nothing else matters.

He opens by recalling a Guardian article by Jonathan Freedland when Brown was PM and when many in the Labour party were demanding a new debate on “the issues”

Freedland cautioned that “people do not believe in ideas: they believe in people who believe in ideas.” The moment I read those words, a penny dropped, and my conviction has become stronger with each passing year I have spent in politics, that the battle of ideas in politics—indeed in life—cannot be comprehended separately from the people who hold and espouse those ideas.

This is a view I have long espoused noting that the leader ratings in the elections where the polls were out on voting intention (1992, and 2015 for instance) were a better guide to the eventual outcomes.

Adonis has produced the above ratings on every UK and US election since 1944. The numbers for each main party leader/presidential are derived not from polling but his personal assessment. He notes:-

“. Instead, “leadership points” are given to the two individual leaders contending for power on a 15-point scale. Up to 10 points are awarded for raw leadership talent, and up to another five for fitting with the times. The “winner” is the candidate with most points.”

His ratings appear broadly about right though, no doubt, many would quibble.

So his overall verdict that only in one of all the US and UK election since 1944 did the person perceived as not the best leader win is derived from his own numbers. That does not make the analysis or the main point wrong.

Elections are about choosing those we wish to lead us and if we are broadly satisfied with someone on that count then we are generally more willing to accept policy positions that we are less happy about. We see this in those polling tests when we can observe changed levels of support for an policy if we link a leader’s name to the proposal. Thus in the run-up to GE2015 the EdM plan to bring in energy price controls attracted greater levels of support when his name was not linked to the plan.

Mike Smithson


The GE2017 gloss starts to come off Corbyn

Friday, August 18th, 2017

His YouGov favourability drops a net 13% on June

For only the second time since the shock General Election outcome YouGov has carried out a favourability poll on the main parties and their leaders and the contrast with the post election survey is striking.

Theresa May is moving up a notch though still in deep negative territory. She was a minus 34 – that’s down to 27%.

Corbyn is going in the other direction. He was level pegging in June and is now a net minus 13%. So overall the PM has moved a net 20 points closer.

Given his position on BREXIT Corbyn’s remain voter split is a surprising 53% favourable to 39% unfavourable. Amongst Leavers it is 68% unfavourable to 25% favourable – numbers which suggest that that Labour’s creative ambivalence is continuing to have a political impact.

The YouGov numbers also allow us to compare leader ratings with how the sample viewed their parties. Both LAB and CON rated higher than their leaders by 3 and 6 points respectively. The only recent leader who generally polled better than his party was Cameron.

Mike Smithson



At last! Mr. Trump shakes hands with a leader who has worse leader ratings than he does – Mrs. May

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

One of the most worrying features for Mrs. May following her failed GE17 gamble and her determination to stay in the job has been the sharp move downwards in her leader ratings. Whether the format has been about favourability, satisfaction, approval or doing well/badly she has seen a very sharp reversal since June 8th.

Trump has had poor ratings right from the start and in recent weeks the President has seen his net favourability numbers down at a net minus 25%. The trend is getting worse.

    But for all Trump’s numbers amongst US voters are poor he is not yet down at the levels being experienced by Mrs. May amongst British voters.

The post general election polling has been really bad for the Tories and TMay. Recent polling from YouGov had TMay’s favourability at a net minus 34% – a picture that is broadly the same as other pollsters. The latest ICM had just 28% say she was doing a “good job” as PM with 54% saying “bad job”.

I’ve long argued that the trend in leader ratings is as good, if not better, pointer to electoral outcomes than voting intention numbers. Indeed in the lead up to June 8th Corbyn enjoyed a significant boost in his numbers which were broadly over-looked because they did not fit the prevailing “CON landslide” narrative.

Mike Smithson


It is the trend in TMay’s YouGov “best PM” ratings that should really worry the Tories

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

The miniscule lead with YouGov that Corbyn now enjoys as “best PM” is not what should concern her party but the trend which is illustrated in my chart above.

It all peaked in the first polling after she made the brave, and in retrospect disastrous, decision in April to go for a general election three years ahead of schedule. Then she was a walloping 39% ahead.

As can be seen this has moved steadily downwards ever since and now she is behind.

    The election campaign exposed her weaknesses to such an extent that it is hard to see how she can recover.

Her attempt to avoid media scrutiny and the manner she merely repeated platitudes when pressed on key issues didn’t go down well. Not taking part in a leaders’ debate was a mistake as was avoiding programmes like Woman’s Hour.

My view is that TMay was not helped by the manner of her election as CON leader last July. If she had secured the post by going through the Tory members ballot her campaigning skills would have been enhanced and she’d have been better able to cope with the scrutiny of a general election campaign.

Andrea Leadsom pulling out after the race had been reduced to the final two in the MP ballots was bad news for her.

Her now poor leader ratings are going to be used against her even assuming that she gets through next week’s Queen’s Speech vote.

Will she survive? It is becoming less likely.

Mike Smithson


If indeed GfK is part of a conspiracy against Corbyn then how come other pollsters have similar numbers?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

There’s a fierce attack in the Canary on GfK and its research director known well to PBers, Kieran Pedley.

The chart says it all and shows all three sets of published leader ratings in March. And you know what – all the numbers are very close – the Canary favourite Corbyn is doing appallingly however you look at the numbers.

So if there is a conspiracy against Labour’s bed-blocker leader then Opinium and Ipsos MORI are involed as well.

The Corbyn cultists have simply got to accept that their man is electoral poison.

Mike Smithson


Fifty shades of grey voters. Corbyn’s punishing polling with older voters.

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Corbyn is doing worse with older voters, and history shows older voters turn out to vote and are a growing demographic.

A few weeks ago whilst looking at the polling entrails I was struck by how much of a lead with older voters Mrs May was developing over Jeremy Corbyn in the best Prime Minister polling. As we can see with the chart above, there’s a clear correlation with the older you get, the more you prefer Mrs May as Prime Minister.

With the recent YouGov poll, just 7% of the overs 65s think Corbyn would make the best Prime Minister, whilst 75% thought Mrs May would be.

Whilst some of this is an incumbency bonus because Mrs May is Prime Minister, these figures are explained because of the poor esteem Corbyn is held in by the electorate as evidenced in most polls.

When looking at how the over 65s plan to vote at the next general election from the most recent polls in the chart below, there’s some occasionally eye watering figures that appear, as Ipsos MORI looking like an outlier, with four of the regular pollsters showing the Tories leading Labour by at least 41% with the over 65s. This is something I shall be tracking over the next few months on PB.

With the recent Opinium and YouGov polls, Labour are now in third place with the over 65s, behind UKIP. With YouGov Labour are only 3% ahead of the fourth placed Lib Dems.

Adam Ludlow of ComRes pointed out that by 2020 “people aged 65+ will make up a quarter of the adult population” and coupled with the greater propensity of older voters to vote, these figures tend to presage an absolute shellacking for a Corbyn led Labour party at a general election, to use a popular culture reference, at the next general election a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party is set to play the role of Anastasia Steele to the electorate’s Christian Grey.


A couple of technical points about the second  chart. 

i) The ICM figure is from the VI before the spiral of silence adjustment, as the post spiral of silence figures are presented as headline figures and not broken down by demographics. The Tory lead with all voters over Labour before the spiral of silence was 20%, afterwards it became a 18% Tory lead.

ii) Ipsos MORI split their figures into two groups, 65 to 74 year olds, and 75 year olds and over, to ensure consistency for comparative purposes, I’ve averaged these two out to get an overall aged 65 and over figure.


Theresa May is still the only politician with a net favourable rating with the voters YouGov finds

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

YouGov’s latest favourable ratings follows the pattern from the end of November where Mrs May is the only politician with a net positive rating, her lead over Mr Corbyn has widened from 40% at the end of November to 46% now, mostly because Mr Corbyn’s ratings have moved from minus 35% to minus 40%, for this Labour leader it appears things can’t get only better for him and his party. The only positive Labour and Team Corbyn can glean is that Mrs May is down from her honeymoon high of 12% net favourability rating last Autumn.

The fieldwork for this poll was Thursday and Friday of this week, given all the publicity Trump’s had this week, his ratings have improved by 11% since the end of November, which might be explained by the positive pro Brexit comments/post Brexit deal comments President Trump has made.

Though Trumpers shouldn’t get too excited, his net rating of minus 51% is still pretty dire and only Vladimir Putin has worse ratings than Trump does, only Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer could put a positive spin on these figures for Trump.

If you want to sum up the difference in world views of Remain and Leavers, those that vote Remain, they have a net favourable rating of minus 84% of Trump, whereas with Leavers, Trump’s net rating is ‘only’ minus 22%.

For those betting on Sir Keir Starmer as next Labour leader (and those hoping inside Labour that he’s the man to replace Corbyn), Starmer’s rating don’t look that impressive, but he has the highest don’t know figure on this list, with 75% of voters having no opinion on him, the more higher profile he becomes, I suspect his ratings will improve.



Analysing the best PM polling – is it as good for Theresa as it appears?

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Graphic: The most recent YouGov polling on who would make the best PM

It has become a regular occurrence.  At least once a month, YouGov release an opinion poll.  Each recent month, the Conservatives have recorded a very comfortable lead over Labour.  And each month, Theresa May has recorded an enormous lead over Jeremy Corbyn in the public’s assessment of who would be the best Prime Minister.  This has widely been taken to mean that the Conservatives’ position is even stronger than the headline polling suggests, given the quasi-presidential nature of the modern British politics. Is that true?

First things first, this is not generally thought to be the most reliable measure of a party leader’s standing.  The Prime Minister has the institutional advantage of actually being in the job, making it easy for the public to imagine them in the role.  For example, Gordon Brown still led by this measure in early 2008, well after the botched election that never was that was widely thought to have punctured his credibility.  But it’s worth looking at because it in part reflects the institutional advantages that any government has over the opposition.

When Theresa May took over as Prime Minister, the initial split on this measure when YouGov first polled in July 2016 was May 52% Corbyn 19% Don’t Know 30%.  In the most recent YouGov poll earlier this month, this had moved to May 47% Corbyn 14% Don’t know 39%.

It is perhaps not surprising that Theresa May has lost some of her early support – it is usual for the gloss to come off honeymoons slowly – but Jeremy Corbyn, far from profiting, has seen his own position deteriorate.  So both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have lost supporters to “Don’t Know” at an equal rate over this period.

There has been much chortling among Conservative supporters about Jeremy Corbyn being outpolled by “Don’t Know” but this is not in fact unusual for a party leader.  In five years of YouGov’s polling, Ed Miliband never beat “Don’t Know” once (though he came within one percentage point twice).  David Cameron also spent most of the last Parliament lagging behind “Don’t Know”, after 2011 only clearly overtaking it in the last two months of polling.

Nor is Jeremy Corbyn’s 14% unprecedentedly low.  YouGov have been polling on this question since 2003 and Iain Duncan Smith twice recorded 14% on this measure, regularly lagging behind Charles Kennedy in third place.  This, however, is not perhaps a comforting example for Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

Two main things stand out about the party leaders’ respective standings on this measure.  First, Theresa May is polling at historically high levels.  It is rare for either party’s leader to poll in the 40s with YouGov, never mind the 50s.  The Conservatives can indeed be quite pleased about this.

Secondly and in my view more importantly, the “Don’t Know” levels are surprisingly high. They are not unprecedentedly high and indeed throughout the last Parliament they quite regularly topped 40%.  However, if conventional political wisdom is to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is out of his depth, a joke and far too extreme for the British public.  Yet nearly 40% find themselves unable to give a preference for Theresa May, presumably finding this a difficult choice.  Considering this is a relative judgement not an absolute judgement, this suggests either that conventional wisdom is writing Jeremy Corbyn off too quickly or that Theresa May has so far failed to particularly impress large chunks of the public even when measured against a very undemanding target.  Since Jeremy Corbyn is only persuading 14% of the public of his relative merits, I lean towards the latter explanation.

YouGov’s approach is not the only measure of leadership popularity.  Ipsos MORI in particular have polled on satisfaction ratings for many years.  And on this measure also Theresa May’s figures, while good, are not that amazing for a newly-installed Prime Minister.  David Cameron, for example, had higher satisfaction ratings in his first few months in office (only coming to an end at the time of the university tuition fees saga).  Given the exceptionally weak opposition that she faces, she might have hoped to have been doing better still during her political honeymoon.

As the public are getting to know her, her net satisfaction ratings – as is to be expected – are starting to decline.  Those who previously gave her the benefit of the doubt while they were making their minds up have now decided to give her the thumbs down.  This decline will probably continue.

As always, you can look at the polls and see what you want to see.  But as I hope I have demonstrated, there is at least the possibility that Theresa May’s poll ratings flatter to deceive.  She’s safe enough while she’s faced with a useless opponent.  If she finds herself up against someone more competent, she might find herself struggling far more quickly than most pundits currently could imagine.

Alastair Meeks