New poll shows it’s a party’s policies and ethos that matter most

30th May, 2014 7:00 am

It’s a common claim from Conservatives and political commentators that David Cameron’s personal ratings will deliver them victory in a year’s time. However a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday at the weekend questions this assumption. The pollsters asked voters to explain which factors were most important to them in determining how they vote. They found that the individual leader was not the most important factor for most people.

miliband cameron

When asked to rank the following factors in order of how much they affect which party people choose, the most important were:

  • The policies set out in the party’s manifesto 37%
  • The quality of the party’s leader 17%
  • The broader ethos of the party 17%
  • The quality of my local MP 13%
  • Preventing another party getting into power 10%
  • The quality of the party’s potential ministers 7%

Far from the assumption that we’re in a quasi-Presidential age, voters say the ‘broader ethos’ of the party matters as much as the individual leader. ‘Undecided voters’ in the poll also found that the policies were most important to them with the quality of the local MP marginally more important than the quality of the party leader:

  • The policies set out in the party’s manifesto 33%
  • The quality of my local MP 21%
  • The quality of the party’s leader 20%
  • The broader ethos of the party 12%
  • Preventing another party getting into power 8%
  • The quality of the party’s potential ministers 6%

The findings of this poll should provide a reassurance and a challenge to the Labour Party. While the press pack may pontificate about different strengths and weaknesses of the party leaders (including how well one eats a bacon sandwich in front of a camera) – the voters are looking for something else. A clear campaign with identifiable and memorable policies, consistent with a party’s ethos will likely give the party best chance of appealing to a broad range of voters. Wrapping up these policies with a party’s values and ethos won’t put off voters but would in fact likely to help broaden its appeal.

The poll also suggests that for those campaigning against a sitting Coalition MP, the record of the MP should be put under sustained scrutiny to win over undecided voters. This is all within Labour’s grasp. If the strength of a party’s policies will determine the next election then it only increases the importance of its policy development process. However these policies are going to need to be memorable to the public and consistent with the party’s ethos to give it best chance of winning most votes in 2015.

Neil Foster is the head of Progressive Polling. Full data tables from Survation can be found here (table14).

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  • Rex Hale

    “The findings of this poll should provide a reassurance and a challenge to the Labour Party”.

    No. We should completely ignore this poll. When clutching at straws anyone can commission a poll that will bring the particular reassurance we crave; you don’t need to be a psychologist to detect the limitations inherent in asking people to examine how they’ve arrived at a choice or decision. The process we go through isn’t transparent or simple, so a poll question like this is meaningless.If we really wanted to establish the degree to which personal traits affect the perception of leadership and voting intention then we’d need to commission a long, in-depth study of the subject with a rigorous methodology. Which Foster’s poll is not. I’d be interested to see such a research project because it’s a very interesting issue, and the question of how Miliband is perceived and the degree to which that affects voting intention is an urgent one for the Labour Party.

    • David Lewis

      It is not necessary. Just ask any normal person you meet if they can imagine Ed Miliband as PM. See how many `yes’s’ you get.

      I’ve got none so far.

      People too close to the party don’t understand how much more important perception is to policies where winning elections is concerned. That is the true meaning of `out of touch’ and until Labour realises this, their chances of winning just gets smaller and smaller, (if they are not too small already).

      I think it is far too late and the battle was lost some time ago.

      • Ian Robathan

        Maybe we should have elected the war mongering and rendition specialist brother then ?

        after all he would play well to the vested interested and carried on selling the state at knock down prices to his spiv mates like Mandy ?

        Maybe you are out of touch and after years of spin about leaders, maybe people see Ed as ‘strange’ but are liking the policies and will let that through.

        Fancy that, an election based on policies and not personalities ?

        Novel eh ?

        • David Lewis

          I don’t think that David ever had a real chance for the leadership even though he himself was convinced it was his for the taking, because he was arrogant and remote and had an air of superiority about him that alienated many people he had daily contact with.

          Frank Field could have brought it off in my view.

          Polices are an important part of the mix but elections are essentially beauty contests which sell confidence to the electorate.

          I do not believe that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have the capacity to sell sufficient confidence to win the day which is why the undeserving Cameron will an outright majority.

          I think that Balls is very likely to lose his seat anyway.

          Now you can hate me but I am telling the truth.


          • Ian Robathan

            Frank Field ha ha I suggest you stop smoking those funny fags …

            As for Ed Balls losing his seat, dream on ….

          • David Lewis

            Frank Field had electorate credibility and Miliband does not in spades.

            Look at Ed Balls’ majority 1101, 2.25% and look at the swing so far. He will lose his seat unless something very unexpected happens.

            He is Co-Op and Unite sponsored too, which will not help very much and as for his economic reputation…….?

          • MikeHomfray

            Frank Field – should have been thrown out of the Labour party years ago

      • BillFrancisOConnor

        Yup like all right wing trolls on here you know the result of the next general election.

        • David Lewis

          I’m not right wing and I am not a troll but I am realistic and you are not.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            No that’s right not right wing at all except that here’s what you wrote yesterday:

            I voted UKIP but that is a complete misreading of the facts on the ground.

            And here’s what you wrote 6 days ago:

            ‘I did used to vote Tory but not any more’.

            You’re an ex-Tory who’s switched to UKIP.

          • David Lewis

            You do not have to be a genius to work that out. I have never hidden my actions and think I was right in retrospect. How I will vote in the General election, I have n ot yet decided. I am not tribal any more but I certainly used to be.

            Cameron is my MP and I think he is a good international PM but a terrible party leader with the wrong policies.

            I also think that Labour is failing for reasons I have pointed out which seem obvious to the toiling bloke in the street.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            ‘I’m not right wing’

            ‘I have never hidden my actions’

            A Tory defector to UKIP sounds pretty right wing to me. So in that sense you’re a troll in pretending to be something you’re not.

          • David Lewis

            We must all be grateful that you have volunteered to police this site.

            In fact I am not right wing and I would urge you to look at the proportion of new UKIP voters who have come from Labour. You may be very surprised.

            As I have stated, I am not a lemming and have not yet decided for whom I will vote at the general election but am mindful that UKIP is unlikely to win any seats at all.

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            ‘How I will vote in the General election, I have n ot yet decided’.

            Sounds like you’ve decided not to vote Labour.

            ‘which seem obvious to the toiling bloke in the street’.

            You speak on behalf of the toiling masses do you? So you can see into the future and you can read the collective mind of millions of people?

          • David Lewis

            Well I think I can pick up the runes as successfully as most others. I like most others have lots of conversations and as I am interested in politics, the subject almost always comes up and I meet a very broad cross section of the populace.

            The difficulty of making a decision is that there are so many reasons not to vote for each of the major parties but I don’t believe in not voting..

          • Danny

            “the subject almost always comes up and I meet a very broad cross section of the populace.”

            You live in David Cameron’s constituency.

          • David Lewis

            Conflating what you most want to happen with probability is what amateurs do and are very confused to see the end result.

            I travel all the time both in the UK and abroad. I am in Europe at present but I was in Hartlepool three weeks ago and Scunthorpe before that.

            Rather than just trying badly to catch me out, why not give sensible consideration to what I am actually saying?

          • BillFrancisOConnor

            You’re a Tory defector to UKIP and a troll. I’m a democratic socialist. I’m not interested in what you’re ‘actually saying’. It’s sh**e.

          • David Lewis

            Consequently, you are not terribly bright either since you have absolutely no understanding of my assertions which are sensibly argued and based upon data available to all.

          • Danny

            Because what you say is largely idiotic or based entirely on carefully selected data or else conjecture.

            I’ve just brought myself 10 minutes closer to home time by chortling my way through some of your other comments. Do you honestly believe you deserve sensible consideration?

            All socialists are on benefits? Is that a sensible assertion based upon available data?

            No one in the private sector votes Labour. Another sensible assertion based upon available data? I’ve never worked anywhere other than the private sector and the vast majority of my colleagues currently and historically have been Labour supporters.

            Any “normal” person you meet cannot see Ed Miliband as PM? Based on the solid data of people you bump into in Scunthorpe, Hartlepool, Witney and Europe. Well done. Perhaps we have a different view on what is “normal”, but I have encountered dozens of people who would prefer Ed Miliband in 10 Downing Street over David Cameron. To be honest, given the online persona, I would imagine that most of the people you bump into to discuss politics opt for a “get this conversation over as quickly as possible” strategy and elect to smile and nod, giving an impression of agreement. Believe me, it’s far easier than giving “sensible consideration” to some of the garbage you spout.

            Just out of interest, do you believe that 10.7 million voters will be enough to deliver your professed Tory majority? If not, who are these swathes of people who didn’t vote Tory in 2010 that are going to in 2015?

            Oh and I’m sure my irony-detector wasn’t the only one that went into overdrive after reading, “Conflating what you most want to happen with probability is what amateurs do and are very confused to see the end result.”


          • BillFrancisOConnor

            Correct Danny. But more puzzling is how Mark thinks the site benefits from the idiocies he spouts. Beats me.

    • PoundInYourPocket

      I see no reason to rubbish this poll simply because you dislike the results. Sample size of 1017 people, so it wasn’t a completely “mickey-mouse” excercise. Results make sense to me as policies are what count in the end. Although I agree that with a media-awkward leader you need plenty of compensatory support by way of policies, narrative and campaign strategy. All of which are lacking at present.

      • Rex Hale

        I don’t think I’m rubbishing the poll because I don’t like the results. I’m making a fairly straightforward, moderate point about methodology and robustness in research. I tried to do that dispassionately – I’m not axe-grinding here. I’m genuinely interested in how people perceive leadership qualities and what influence this has on voting intention – and this poll is shallowly conceived, in my view. That’s all.

        • David Lewis

          Yes, if you sit someone down and ask him to breakdown and analyse his attitudes, he will have to make a good stab of it but in reality people vote from perception rather than logic related to policy.

          The current perception rightly or wrongly is that Labour have few if any policies and the perception of the leadership is well known.

          • Rex Hale

            Thinking about my own decision making, I’m suspicious of my own ability to answer the question “how did you arrive at this decision?” with any sort of insight. The processes of my mind are, to a significant degree, hidden from me. I suspect that’s fairly true of many people. I’m not saying it’s not an interesting question to think about, just that it;s not a transparent, straightforward factual question and so methodologically it’s harder to get to the bottom of it.

          • Danny

            To quote Cormac McCarthy’s fantastic Blood Meridian, “A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with”.

          • Rex Hale

            That’s perfect. Exactly.

          • David Lewis

            Yes, I entirely agree. When put on the spot, we try as hard as we an to analyse our own thought processes but when it comes to decision making, emotion and instinct, right or wrong, is out in the forefront.

  • Paul Bateman

    Perhaps not the best picture to publish. Dave looks like he’s choking and Ed looks unsure if he should be copying. Seems allegorical to the other article on the Cutsfinder General.

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  • Mukkinese

    Labour have the best policies, except when they are trying to be Tory-lite and more people trust Labour to be fair than trust the Tories, which isn’t saying much.

    Give up trying to out-do the Tories on austerity. If there is one message that the voter has sent loud and clear over the last week it is that they have had enough of austerity.

    Give them some hope for God’s sake!

    So get the message out, which probably means a central theme that is easy to grasp – like fairness for instance, hammered home again and again and try harder to be positive Labour, rather than wet Tory…

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