Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Popularity Factor

An important part of Ken's pitch is that his personal popularity will attract loads of votes from people who don't currently support us.

The excellent Anthony Wells draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of opinion polls to examine this claim. Briefly, he finds that 'Ken has been the public’s choice for Conservative party leader for the last ten years, for what little good it’s done him' . He reckons this is probably 'down to a mixture of three factors: recognition, ideological stance, and genuine likeability'. He thinks DD is now getting more recognised, although:

'Ken Clarke is still head and shoulders above other candidates in terms of recognition - last month Populus asked people to name various Tory politicians from photographs - only 6% could name David Cameron, only 27% could name David Davis and even Ken Clarke was only named by 50% of respondents.'

But of course the key question is whether such recognition and blokish likeability would actually translate into votes. Wells says:

'I have only been able to find one poll that actually asked voting intention, and then asked it a second time, imagining that Ken Clarke was leader - it was carried out by YouGov in February 2003. Normal voting intention was CON 32%, LAB 37%. If Ken Clarke was leader, people said they would vote CON 30%, LAB 37% - in other words, Ken’s imaginary leadership lost support.'

Just read that again to make sure it's sunk in: 'Ken's imaginary leadership lost support.'

Why might that be? Wells points to two factors. First, his age:

'No pollster has asked “Is Ken Clarke too old?” - the closest we have is a Populus poll from last month, which asked which characteristics people thought were desirable or undesirable in a new leader. The characteristic that elicited the most negative response, by some distance, was for a candidate to be in their mid-60s. Ken Clarke is 65.'

Second, his Europhilia. We obviously need a post-recantation poll, but 'back in 2001 ICM found that 69% of Tory voters thought that a Clarke leadership would split the party over the Euro.'

So- one more time- 'Ken's imaginary leadership lost support'.

Very interesting, no?

PS During his interviews yesterday, Ken reckoned age wasn't an issue, that there are many leading politicians older than him and still firing on all wossnames. I've been trying to find out who they are. Despite wide-ranging research, so far I've only got Robert Mugabe (81) and Fidel Castro (78).


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