This week’s Times-Populus poll of Labour – Conservative marginal seats tells us a bit more about voters’ views of the three main party leaders, including Nick Clegg.
Nick is perceived as the most authentic of the party leaders. Asked whether each leader “generally says what he really thinks, not just what spin doctors tell him to say”, they gave Nick a spread of plus 25 per cent. For David Cameron the figure was plus 18 per cent. Both opposition party leaders were well ahead of Gordon Brown (plus 6 per cent).
The Populus result ties in with previous polls that gave Nick high marks for being honest and not just saying what people want to hear. Last week’s YouGov poll for The Sun found that he came top for being “honest” with a 23 per cent score, compared to 21 per cent for Brown and 20 per cent for Cameron.
The YouGov poll gave Nick the highest rating (21 per cent) for “being in touch with the concerns of ordinary people”. This is also consistent with previous surveys.
Voters may see Nick as the most sincere and empathetic leader, but they may not know what he stands for. When Populus put the proposition “I have a clear sense of what he really believes”, respondents gave him a spread of plus 14 per cent. That compared to plus 27 per cent for David Cameron and plus 15 per cent for Gordon Brown. And 26 per cent, more than three times the figures for the Labour and Tory leaders, replied “don’t know” when asked this question about Nick.
Now, here’s the real rub. Voters like Nick but they are still unsure about his leadership qualities. According to Populus, he had a spread of plus 49 per cent for being “nice, likeable”, the same figure as for David Cameron and much better than for Gordon Brown (plus 8 per cent). They see Nick as “strong and determined” (plus 40 per cent) but not as much as Cameron (plus 62 per cent) and Brown (plus 52 per cent). And people in the Populus survey were evenly split on whether “he has what it takes to be a leader”.
The YouGov survey told a similar story. Just 7 per cent of respondents saw Nick as “strong”. Brown came top on this one (!) with 26 per cent. And just 6 per cent saw Nick as “a natural leader”, compared to 22 per cent for Cameron.
Nick’s real challenge is a familiar one: a large chunk of voters still don’t know him. In the Populus poll, at least a quarter of those voting replied “don’t know” to the questions about him. (And 40 per cent did not know if he was a “family man”!) In the YouGov survey, 38 per cent did not know which of the listed qualities to associate with him. The general election campaign should resolve that, one way or the other.