Stephan Shakespeare

Clarke’s advantage fades away

YouGov’s Stephan Shakespeare on how the public would view the four candidates — if they were all better known

YouGov’s Stephan Shakespeare on how the public would view the four candidates — if they were all better known

Up to now, polls on the Conservative leadership have been flawed in a fundamental way: they have tried to gauge public reaction to a group of candidates, when one of them is much better known than the rest. But this contest is about the future — about how they might be regarded after they become leader, when the public gets to know them better. And so YouGov and The Spectator designed a poll to get some vital added insight.

First, we asked 4,000 people representative of the UK electorate how likely they were to vote for each of the main parties, on a scale from 0 to 10. Labour’s average rating was 4.0, the Conservatives’ 3.3, and the Liberal Democrats’ 3.2. We then randomly split them into four groups, with each group finding out more about just one of the main candidates.

They were shown a picture of either Ken Clarke, David Davis, Liam Fox or David Cameron, and given five statements about him. The purpose was not just to discover each candidate’s strongest points, but more importantly to engage the respondent in what, for most of them, would be new information. Finally we asked them to imagine that the candidate they had just assessed had become the leader, and to say again how likely they would then be to vote Conservative.

Comparing the opening score and the end score tells us something about the effect of each candidate. This is a truly scientific test, as each group has been given the same opening and closing questions, but with a different stimulus in between. Assuming the five statements are a fair reflection of the candidacy, this gives us better data than any previous poll.

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