What does the polling say about David Cameron?
Welcome to the 82nd edition of The Week in Polls, featuring David Cameron. Looking at his popularity wasn’t on my editorial ideas shortlist, longlist or even the not-yet-made-it-to-a-list list. But then there was the Cabinet reshuffle. So Cameron it is.
Then it’s a look at the latest voting intention polls followed by, for paid-for subscribers, 10 insights from the last week’s polling and analysis. (If you’re a free subscriber, sign up for a free trial here to see what you’re missing.)
But first a thank you to the eagle-eyed readers who spotted that I mixed up William Hague and John Major in one sentence last time around (now corrected online). It was Major who lost in 1997, not Hague.
And let’s not forget this week’s gently raised eyebrow of surprise, which is directed at Matthew Goodwin for writing, “the fact remains Suella Braverman spoke for a large majority of people in Britain” while omitting her hugely negative approval numbers. The majority did not approve of her record, a finding consistent across pollsters, and nor even did a majority of 2019 Conservatives. (His own polling has also found people approving by a large margin of her sacking, a finding also matched by other polling, again including of 2019 Conservatives.)
As ever, if you have any feedback or questions prompted by what follows, or spotted some other recent polling you’d like to see covered, just hit reply. I personally read every response.
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What does the polling say about David Cameron?
The substantive political question about David Cameron’s return to government is whether his appointment as Foreign Secretary or Esther McVey’s as Minister For War On Woke is the one that gives the greater insight into the future course of the government. Much coverage, including from the usually excellent Stephen Bush, takes it almost for granted that Cameron’s appointment is the more significant one even though McVey’s is the one with a domestic agenda and is the one that matches Sunak’s own leadership campaign rhetoric.
But that’s for political punditry and this is a newsletter about polling, so let’s take a look at what the polls say about Cameron’s appointment.
First up, what do people now think of Cameron’s time as Prime Minister? In June, Opinium asked people if they thought UK politics would be more or less chaotic if Ed Miliband had beaten David Cameron in 2015. Just over a quarter - 28% - thought things would have been more chaotic with Miliband, compared to a third - 33% - thinking it would have been less chaotic with Miliband.
That’s a rather equivocal verdict, although you don’t have to be a Cameron fan to reasonably add that these days a politician is doing pretty well to get even an equivocal verdict. What’s more, Opinium found that 2015 and 2010 are less regretted than more recent general election results:
Moreover, 2019 Conservatives particularly liked the 2010 election result (net +28) and 2019 Lib Dems - perhaps a target now for the Conservatives - rate the 2010 outcome at a relatively high net -6.
Best of all for David Cameron is how he polled compared with other recent Prime Ministers:
It’s a similar picture with polling over the summer from Ipsos. Cameron didn’t come out in the Thatcher/Blair polling league, but he did poll better than many others:
Even so, that’s not a strongly positive retrospective verdict, and it’s worth noting that for 2019 Conservatives, evaluations of his government on public services and immigration - two big issues for them - are pretty poor:
In line with this a third pollster - YouGov - found earlier this year that by 47%-22% people said Cameron had not been a good Prime Minister.
Nor were pre-reshuffle current ratings of him better. Savanta in September found 24% feeling favourable towards Cameron and 45% unfavourably. Among 2019 Conservatives that was 39%-32% - noticeably better but not a big thumbs up. (Do you spot a pattern here?)
We’ve also got the first post-reshuffle polling. Again, it’s not great for Cameron, though much better than the polling for Braverman:
Opinium have similar figures this weekend, with people saying by 45%-31% that Cameron’s appointment was the wrong decision.
Even zooming on the voters the government may be particularly after - 2019 Conservatives and 2019 Lib Dems - the picture is still muted:
Net +9 among 2019 Conservatives with Ipsos, net +0 with Opinium among 2019 Conservatives, or net +1 among current Conservatives and net +0 with current Lib Dems with yet another pollster, is a small nudge of helpfulness, not a politics-remaking move.
Another pollster, JL Partners, has a similar picture:
As a result of all this, expectations for Cameron in office are low, and people think he will do badly in his new role by 36%-31%, figures that vary little between Remainers and Leavers.
Again, though, note that getting a ‘pfft, so what?’ reaction in the polls is better than the ‘aaargh, not them’ reaction that hangs over the Conservative Party even if the reaction looks a long way short of a game-saving move by the Prime Minister.
Or as one focus group participant put it:
Finally, because it’s a fun fact but doesn’t fit anywhere in the above, here’s a good spot by my former colleague Will Howells:
Know other people interested in political polling?
National voting intention polls
Yes, once again it was a week without a poll putting the Conservatives on more than 30%, extending the run stretching back to late June (when a Savanta poll gave them 31%). Although the very latest polls have quite a spread in their figures (note Opinium particularly),1 it’s all variations of scale of bad news for the Conservatives.
Here then are the latest figures from each currently active pollster:
Last week’s edition
More credible polling of British Muslims, and other polling news
The following 10 findings from the most recent polls and analysis are for paying subscribers only, but you can sign up for a free trial to read them straight away.
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