Thursday, September 22, 2005

On The Trail Of A Long-Legged Canard

One of the points constantly made by hand-wringing Tory bloggers is that we are now so unpopular, that voters who like our policies in blind tastings immediately turn off when it's revealed they're Tory policies rather than Stork.

Who says? Well, it's well's been established in polls.

Oh, yeah? Er...what polls exactly?


OK, turn to the helpful ConservativeHome's Ten Things briefing on "The Conservative Party's electoral plight". It says:

'The Tory brand is so tainted that it has a reverse Midas touch effect on policies. 64% of voters agreed with a Conservative immigration policy when it wasn’t identified with the Tories. The level of agreement collapsed to 30% if voters knew it was a Tory policy.'

Oh. Right. So...just to satisfy my own curiosity, where did that come from?

A C Change report.

C Change? What you mean that modernista outfit headed by...umm, Chairman Maode? Hmmm. So can I see the report?

Go to C Change Website. Umm...nothing doing. Report not posted.

OK- turn to the definitive Anthony Wells. He comments on the C Change report:

'Conservative policies are actually popular - when the public was asked about actual Conservative proposals they were often very supportive of them, until they found out they were Conservative policies, when support plummetted. The thing the Conservatives need to put right is, for want of a better word, their “brand image”, which is invariably negative. C Change’s report (based I believe on the Michael Ashcroft polling) shows 54% thought the Conservative campaign “mean, nasty and negative”, 68% thought them opportunistic, 67% thought them out of touch, 58% uncaring.'

So still no polling data on the actual Stork test, just some general material on how voters have a pretty dim view of us. And I've got to say that with Anthony saying "based I believe on...", it makes me even more curious to see the actual poll data. Who were the respondents? How many? When asked?

Anthony naturally also took a shuftie through the Ashcroft polling itself. He says:

'It’s an interesting study, albeit low on any actual conclusions...That said, you can’t commission 12 large tranches of opinion polling without finding something interesting out. I’ve had a peer through the tables, though the sheer volume of them means there is probably much more to look at, but there a few points that leap out.'

Yes, I've had a peer through the tables too...danged if I could find any mention of that Stork test.

Maybe it didn't come from that unposted C Change report at all. In February, BBC Newsnight commissioned an ICM poll, which found that 82% of voters supported the 'idea that immigration should be controlled more strictly', but only 65% supported 'Conservative Policy to control immigration more strictly'.

And on that very slender basis, and chats with Shagger Norris and Rick Nye (both of whom arguably have the teensiest of teensy axes shoved up their jumpers), the BBC apparently concluded that we Tories have "an image problem".


Can anyone out there actually point us in the direction of the original Stork test data? So we can take a good look at it.

(Why do I care? Well, because it's being used as another one of those twenty great reasons why we need to elect Ken. And I'd be much more impressed if there were some facts behind the myth.)

UPDATE: Thanks to a steer from Anthony himself, I've now found a real poll that does contain a Stork Test- on immigration policy. It was conducted in March for the Times by Populus. And what it actually shows is that the proportion of respondents agreeing with Tory policy remained roughly unchanged at about 70% , both blindfolded and with the Tory brand visible. This compared to just over 60% achieved by the Labour policy.

However, the proportion of respondents who disagreed with the Tory policy increased with the blindfolds removed- from around 20% to around 30%. So the net balance in favour obviously fell- from 55% to 43% (still 10% above Labour's policy).

What should we make of this? Well, one interesting point is that in the blindfold test, Labour voters far preferred the Tory policy to their own, which they also disagreed with more than the Tory policy. However, once the blindfolds were removed- guess what- they suddenly discovered they preferred their own policy, and disagreed with the Tory one. A similar effect was present with Tory voters, but because so many more of them agreed with the "home" policy blindfolded, there was much less switching once blindfolds were removed.

On my calculations, that effect alone accounted for almost half of the observed 10% increase in disagreers once tasters could see that Tory brand label.

This is not something we should be losing too much sleep over. And I would not describe it as King Midas In Reverse.


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