It is no surprise that the public disagree by 60% to 33% that Gordon Brown has successfully “changed his image” over the last year – people don’t like politicians manipulating their image and if the question implies that intent, then they are likely to reject it.
And we knew already that people now think that Labour is divided. It’s an electoral problem, but the best moment to rectify it has to be when the new leader and deputy are elected.
It is interesting, but perhaps not entirely surprising, that the public agree 79-15 that “Brown is just as responsible as Blair” for “unpopular decisions the government has made, such as the Iraq war or more private sector involvement in the health service”. But the question is cumbersome and biased, which must cast some doubt on the results.
Perhaps the most interesting question got no coverage – the public agree 57-39 that “whoever takes over from Blair, they need to take a break from the policies of the last ten years”.
This got a massive 50-point lead among 18-24 year-olds, but far more important is the 25-point lead among the 65+ age bracket, which is most numerous and inclined to vote. There was a 20-point lead among women and while social class AB voters were split 48-48, there were consistent leads of around 20 points across the CDE categories.
The poll also backs up our earlier conclusions that Scottish voters particularly dislike Blair and prefer Brown, but also that they want and expect different policies from him. This presents tricky opportunities and threats for him (and the party) when considering both the leadership and Scottish Parliament elections.
All of this is subject to the usual caveats about use of data sub-sets, of course, and the poll did not provide breaks by party allegiance. But it does reinforce some of our previous suggestions that actually the voters we have lost want new policies rather than just a new face.
The questions were simple and avoided specifics. But we have pointed out before that foreign policy is a major problem area.
The Daily Politics also used their “perception panel” – a sample of voters who watch speeches and give basic reactions in real time – on Ming Campbell. This is a common private polling technique (seen on the West Wing episode about preparing the President’s State of the Union address) but we rarely see the results.
There are many possible pitfalls with this – the size and make-up of the sample are unclear – but there were some interesting results. Labour voters, for example, approved the plan to cut tax for low-earners much more than even Lib Dem voters did. And women were very impressed by a passage on Rwanda and Darfur, though men were unmoved.
Watch out for the analysis of Brown’s speech on Monday – his aides will probably undertake a similar exercise.