Friday, 19 June 2009

Pollwatch: Nick Clegg is starting to click with voters

Three major polling agencies say that after a patchy first year, marked by low levels of public recognition, Nick Clegg is steadily becoming more popular.

The Populus leader index measures Messrs Brown, Cameron and Clegg on a 10-point “how good a leader”, scale. In June, Nick had a score of 4.64 (and 4.71 in May). This is well up from 4.08, in November 2008, his lowest score. Nick’s previous highest score was 4.52, in May 2008. (Note: Populus doesn’t run the leader index every month).

YouGov asks voters whether they think each leader is doing very well, fairly well, fairly badly or very badly. For most of 2008, Nick’s ratings were on the positive side of the graph, but only just. Last autumn his numbers went south, finishing at net minus 6% in December. But in March 2009, Nick had a net satisfaction rating of plus 4% and by June it had shot up to plus 18%. These, and the Populus figures, suggest that the bolder Nick Clegg of recent months, with the Gurkhas vote, the public call on Speaker Martin to quit and, perhaps, the expenses scandal have all had an impact.

Ipsos-MORI tells a different story about Nick. It asks voters to say whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the way each party leader is doing his job. For his first six months as leader, more people were dissatisfied with Nick than satisfied, by margins of between 1% and 9%. Ipsos-MORI found a turn in the tide in June 2008, when Nick’s net satisfaction rating moved up to plus 9%. It stayed at around that level for the rest of last year and into the first two months of 2009. Since then, he has had a surge, from plus 9% in February to plus 22% in May.

There’s one caveat: Nick’s ratings may be on the up, and are generally better than Ming Campbell’s, but he is still not as popular as Charles Kennedy. For instance, Ming Campbell’s satisfaction ratings from YouGov polls were usually in negative, single figures and finished in the negative 20s. But Charles Kennedy’s went as high as plus 35 per cent at the start of the last general election campaign.

Another feature of Nick’s early months as leader was that not many voters knew who he was. He is now establishing a higher public profile. In May 2008, Ipsos MORI found that half of all voters had no opinion about how he was doing his job as Lib Dem leader. In May 2009, just under one in three had no opinion. YouGov tracks a slightly less dramatic shift, from 37% “don’t knows” to 24% in June 2009. But the trendlines are all in the right direction.

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