Monday, September 25, 2006

Luntz versus ICM

We got the results of two focus groups today, both repeating the exercise they did just before David Cameron became leader of the Tory party. They give slightly different results.

Frank Luntz, writing in the Times reports that this focus group found Alan Johnson "boring", Alan Milburn equally boring, David Milliband Tory-looking but articulate, John Reid as "action not talk", and Gordon Brown as "old, Scottish, and history". He concludes that John Reid won, even though Reid is as Scottish as Brown, and older - which suggests that during the exercise, Luntz emphasised Brown's Scottishness (he admits that he "pushed them" on it), but played it down when talking about Reid. He also seems to have spent some time dwelling on Brown's "duplicity" about stabbing Blair, despite the evidence that the coup against Blair came from Blairites as much as Brownites, with predictable results. Luntz works for David Cameron and has an agenda to push.

ICM did a similar exercise for the Guardian. Their results were different. The voters prefered Brown, but said that he should be himself, and not try to make himself over. "Gordon Brown deserves his chance but they shouldn't try to make him dance and be a people person," said a 2005 Tory voter. They thought Alan Johnson was "lightweight" and "a bit 70's". John Reid came across as a "hard man".

The ICM results fit with what other polling says. That the voters respect Gordon Brown's brain, but are aware of his social awkwardness and are in turns amused and embarassed at his attempts to fix this. No one feels menaced by him. John Reid does frighten some people, while others feel relieved that he is at the home office.

I think that Gordon Brown will be elected leader of the Labour party (and hence PM), and that John Reid will stay permanently at the Home Office. The message of the Luntz exercise is this - Reid has managed to fix the problem that caused Labour's ratings in the polls to plunge in May - the impression of lack of control in the home office.

That leaves just the other remaining problem to fix - Tony Blair, who came across angry in his interview with Andrew Marr. He struggled to admit that the post-war phase in Iraq had been badly handled (unlike the chancellor, who readily volunteered this opinion, which everyone else holds anyway). He's clearly churned up at the thought of having to leave office, and by the looks of it, hasn't come to terms with the idea that it's his poor performance over the summer, along with deterioration in Iraq, that has contributed to his premiership ending earlier than he would have liked.

3 comments:

Hughes Views said...

As always with polling and focus groups, the answer you get depends on the way the question is put.

It's called leading the witness in legal circles.....

Andrea said...

I think the Guardianì's advice to be himself and not try to soft his image is right. Both him and Ming tried to look trendy, but it's apparent they're trying hard and in the end you can look a bit silly.
So I think he should be himself and use it as positive point.

Mike Ion said...

I thought Brown did well yesterday but agree that he does not ‘do’ sincerity well at all. He says that he is not a celebrity politician, which is fine, but he must at least come across as a likeable politician. For the public at large my guess is that Gordon is seen as competent, even clever but he does not inspire them. Does it matter? Yes it does. Is there time to turn it all around? Possibly.