Monday, December 18, 2006

Cameron and the polls

Not long after David Cameron became leader of the Conservative party there were a number of polls that suggested that the Tories had become electable again. They showed support for the Conservatives at around 40% - several points clear of Labour and enough, in theory, to put Cameron's Tory party back into power in the event of a General Election.

Since then, the Tories lead in the polls has slipped back down to the level it was under Hague, IDS and Howard - in other words, not enough to win elections.

Why is this?

Why did support for the Conservatives rise so rapidly under Cameron's leadership?

When Cameron first took over, the feeling was that he had enough of an impact to have convinced certain liberal voters that they may consider voting Tory bolstering support for the Tories. This seemed quite plausible and may well indeed explain why the Tories did so well in early polls. The Tories could add this additional support to their core support and that gave them enough of a lead to suggest that they were back in with a shout. In July last year the Tories polled 39%, Labour 35% and the Lib Dems around 17%. The Tory gain appeared to be largely at the expense of the Lib Dems - again, suggesting that the core Tory support had been somewhat bolstered by swing voters.

By August, the Tories had reached 40%, Labour slipped down to 31% and the Lib Dems recovered to 22% - most of this Lib Dem gain probably down to voters deserting Labour.

A recent November poll, however showed that Labour was still just 32%, the Lib Dems still just 22%, but the Tories had dropped 3 points to 37%! How come? Their support doesn't appear to be switching back to Labour or the Lib Dems - just drifting away.

Why is the Tories popularity in the polls waning away while the popularity of the other main parties not increasing?

Could it possibly be that Cameron has so alienated the core Tory supporters that they are now saying that they will not vote Conservative any more? This seems likely to me. The fact is that many Conservative voters do not like what Cameron is doing and have actually done what was once considered inconceivable - given up the intention of voting Tory.

This should be a major concern for the Tories. It is all very well winning over some of the swing voters if you can maintain your core support, but if you can not - then your chances of winning an election are zero. Perhaps even more worrying is that these polls demonstrate that barely 50% of people are absolutely certain to vote at the next election while only around 10% are certain not to. That's around 40% of the electorate who are not sure IF they will vote, let alone who they will vote for! Those that are certain to vote are usually the same people who make up the core support for each party.

Given that, then pinning your hopes on swing voters who might not bother to vote anyway while alienating your core vote who would otherwise be certain to vote and cast their vote your way seems like a move of monumental stupidity.


Tom Tyler said...

I think that Cameron's big "shift to the centre" demonstrates a lack of self-belief and lack of principle among the Tory party.
Michael Howard's 2005 election campaign was, I thought, a good one. And although the Con's didn't win (obviously!), they did gain more seats than they had before. I see no real reason for them to abandon traditional conservative views and chase after the swing-voters. Surely it would only be a matter of time before the natural 'pendulum' of public opinion gets fed up with Labour and votes the Con party in again.
I'm sure David Cameron is a nice chap, but the more I hear from him, the less I like his political approach.

Stan said...

I think that you are right to say that it demonstrates a lack of principle from the leaders of the party, but I believe the bulk of the membership are still people who believe in conservatism and what it stands for. Cameron has abandoned these people in his quest to appeal to the floating voters and I believe that many of the Tory core have now had enough - hence their dip in the polls, but no increase to Labour or the Lib Dems.

As you say, Tom, it will only be a matter of time before the pendulum swings back to the right - in fact, I believe it already is - but there won't be a Tory party on the right to vote for!

I also think the Labour party have also been guilty of ignoring their core voters in recent years, but at least they recognise this.

BNP have made inroads at the expense of Labour and if UKIP could do the same with Tory voters we could see a significant switch in British politics over the next 10-20 years.

xoggoth said...

I find Cameron appalling but I was a lot less polite on my blog. I find it frustrating that anyone on the moderate right should now be so totally disenfranchised. Like you, I now regard UKIP as the only party that might not a total waste of a vote.

Rarely comment here as I have a problem doing so in the week due to technical probs on laptop but may I say I really like your blog. Apart from anything to do with secularism and religion (as I am a fundamentalist raving atheist) it is what I would like to have written if I could be bothered.

Stan said...

I think you are right, xoggoth - we are disenfranchised. I wouldn't say that I am convinced by UKIP yet - far from it - just that there are signs that they may be starting to get serious as a party. They have a long way to go yet.

Thanks for the vote of confidence on the blog, too. I do appreciate the comments I get so if you get the chance to comment please do - but don't worry if you can't. I have stats monitoring that tells me how many visits I get and I have to say I am truly amazed that there are so many people from such a wide variety of places visiting my blog - amny of them coming back day after day!

I know from previous comments that you're not a fan of religion, but although I might make the odd comment on my Christianity here and there, I'm not here to evangelise. Hey, some of my best friends are atheist!