Thursday, May 24, 2007

Grammar School thing starts to hurt Tories

Bullingdon Boy may have thought he was being smart escalating the row over grammar schools in order to take media attention away from Gordon Brown, but evidence is piling up that this is not playing well with Conservative voters (as opposed to activists).

In a YouGov poll for the Telegraph, people were asked whether they supported the change in grammar school policy from the Tory position at the last election. 31% said they supported the change in Tory policy, 36% said they opposed it, with 33% Not Sure. Among Tory voters 30% said they supported the change in policy, 51% said they opposed it, with 19% Not Sure.

What will the refusenik Tory voters do at the next election? Either abstain or switch to UKIP or hold their noses and vote Tory. The earliest signs are that they are abstaining. The latest ICM poll for the Guardian shows Conservatives on 34% (down 3%), Labour on 32% (up 2%), LibDems on 21%. We don't have the detail of the poll yet, but I'm certain this is down to Tories abstaining, rather than switching to Labour, while Labour abstentions decrease as people come back as Brown takes over.

Tories though are consoling themselves with the fact that on the named leader question, they are 8% ahead of Labour (though they are down 2% on last month on this). However, it's worth noting that when Populus did a "named leader" question in July 2006 with Blair named in the "named leader" question, Labour is mysteriously 7% behind the Tories (as opposed to 2% in the "voting intention" question asked at the same time) - despite Blair having been leader all along and people fully aware of this when they answered the "voting intention" question.

This leads me to conclude that when the "voting intention" question is asked, people polled respond thinking about how they would actually vote in their particular constituency (including tactical voting in Lab-LibDem marginals or LibDem-Tory marginals) - i.e. they are simulating an actual general election. With the "named leader" question, they respond as though they were voting in a presidential election.

Of course we don't have a presidential system, and voters arn't clamouring for one either. In the next election votes will continue to be cast on a constituency by constituency basis. Tories who go on about the named leader question should be asked whether they want to ditch our parliamentary system for a presidential system, in the same way that Tories who go on and on about the popular vote should be asked if they intend to ditch FPTP.

No comments: