How voters see Cameron, Clegg and Miliband on the political spectrum


7:12 pm - January 30th 2011

by Sunder Katwala    


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Voters no longer believe that David Cameron is more centrist than the Conservative party as a whole, having changed their minds about this since May. That is one of the striking and potentially politically significant findings of a YouGov/Prospect poll (see graphic here).

Voters are asked to use a 200 point scale, with 0 as the centre, and where -100 is very left-wing and +100 is very right wing.

The average voter continues to think of themselves as very close to the political centre, though there has been a mild lean leftwards among the electorate.

The January 2011 survey now puts the average 3 points to the left-of-centre, compared to 1 point right-of-centre in May 2010. There are other interesting findings too.

Cameron is now as right-wing as his party, according to voter perceptions
At the time of the General Election last May, voters placed the Tory party at 48 points to the right of centre on a 0-100 scale, but perceived Cameron as being somewhat more centrist, placing him at 37 points to the right.

This month, Cameron has a +48 score, having moved 11 points to the right in voter perceptions, while perceptions of his party remain pretty steady at +47, shifting one point left on the index.

Conservative voters – at 33 points to the right last May, and 32 points today – considered themselves more moderate than how either Cameron or the party were seen by the electorate as a whole. But Cameron was perceived (by all voters) as being quite close to this position, just six points away from Tory voters to their right; he is now seen as being 16 points to the right of Tory voters.

Voters now see Nick Clegg as having flipped to the right
Voters believe that Nick Clegg has flipped from the centre-left to the centre-right, moving 23 points to the right in voter perceptions since May 2010, beginning 13 per cent along the left scale and moving to 10 points right of centre.

This post-election rightwards shift in perceptions of Clegg is more than twice as big as that of Cameron, though Clegg is seen as much more centrist than Cameron having been perceived as somewhat left-of-centre, and considerably closer on left-right positioning to the median voter than either the Tory or Labour leader. (The opinion polls show that being closer to the median voter is not always everything in politics, as Kellner notes).

In May, the LibDems were seen as a centre-left party, 17% from the centre along the left-wing scale. Voters no longer think that this is the case. The Coalition has shifted perceptions of the party 18 points to the right, and they are now almost dead centre, 1 point to the right, as a party.

LibDem voters in May placed themselves 17 points to the left-of-centre – with five times as many voters placing themselves left as right. The smaller number who say they still intend to vote LibDem still place themselves 7 points left of centre, but this shift rellects the loss of many left-leaning LibDems, with the party now routinely polling at half of its May 2010 level.

Ed Miliband seen as to the left of his party, yet still closer to the median voter than Cameron
Ed Miliband is perceived as shifting his party some way leftwards. He is placed 45 points left of the centre, with his party at 39 points to the left, a shift of 12 points from 27

Labour voters place themselves 33 points to the left, having been 31 points left last May.

Voters placed Gordon Brown and his party 27 points to the left of centre last May.

It is interesting that polling consistently showed that the electorate thought Gordon Brown significantly more centrist than David Cameron, since you may have struggled to find many newspaper colunmists who knew this. (Next Left did note that Cameron was placed twice as far from the centre as Brown back in Autumn 2008, reporting a Populus survey of left-right perceptions).

Voters place Miliband 42 points left of where they, on average, place themselves, and Cameron 51 points to their right. Miliband is placed 12 points to the left of his own party’s supporters, and Cameron 16 points to the right of his.

What the Prospect piece doesn’t reveal is where different groups of voters place politicians.
For example, both Cameron and Milband’s ratings could well be driven by political opponents placing them further right/left respectively than their own supporters do.

The Ed Milband/Labour findings may create some grumblings inside his own party, though the findings reflect a lack of public knowledge of the Labour leader after his first few months.

Future perceptions of the Labour leader and his party, after four months, are likely to be considerably more malleable than those of David Cameron, who has had more than five years.

—-
A longer version of this piece is on Next Left

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments


Well it is too late now. People should pay more attention, and not believe what they read in the Right wing press.

As for the Lie Dems, well, they are the lowest snakes in the grass. To listen to Vichy Cable spout the complete opposite as what he said before the election is vomit inducing.

Oh ho! The political spectrum is it? Who thought that one up – the average man? If it was Mr Average then I have news for him – he doesn’t exist. Bah Humbug!

Who cares about left and right? It’s reductio ad absurdum.

Before we have anyone trumpeting on about Milliband being seen as closer to the average voter than Cameron, I should point out that Clegg is being seen as closer to the average voter than either of them – which just goes to show that this is pretty useless at indicating which leaders voters support.

Details are now up on the YouGov archive:

http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-Prospect-Left-Right-310111.pdf

What is striking is how closely voters see their own political orientation to that of the leader of the party they currently support. Current Tory supporters put themselves at +32, Cameron at +33. Labour place themselves at -33, Miliband at -36. Lib Dems say they are -7 and Clegg at -3. However those who voted Lib Dem in May, but would not now, have him at +13.

How much of this is people justifying their own choices is difficult to say. But there are some interesting figures there.

It would make more sense if you asked about their views on libertarian vs authoritarian as well. Then graph it with the new info on the vertical axis. It gives a deeper view of sentiment than the left/right idea (which is increasingly meaningless). How about individual vs communitarian ?

Labour may vary where it stands to the left, but it consistently and shamefully tends towards authoritarian. It would be useful to find out where the public stand on this.

@6

“Increasingly meaningless?” The only auth/lib issue that’s received a noticeable amount of coverage is control orders. Maybe in 2007 it was still fashionable to get het up about ID cards, overzealous health and safety and fox hunting, but recently it’s all been about the big economic decisions- and it’ll continue to be for quite some time, with our current economics straits.

And that’s not to mention how misleading the auth/lib axis tends to actually be on representing views on social issues. Look at America for example. Is somebody who’s vehemently anti-gun control and equally vehemently anti-cannabis authoritarian or libertarian? What about somebody pro-life who also wants the government to put their foot down over how evolution is taught in schools? What about the death penalty or electoral reform? Are those authoritarian or libertarian?

@Ben

The problem with left/right as I see it is that, like beauty, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. My sympathies may be left, but to NuLab I’d be a dangerous “lefty” while the old tankies would dismiss me as a closet Tory.

You might say, that doesn’t matter, it’s self-perception. But, to a greater or lesser extent, most of us want to believe we are moderate and centered upon majoritarian concenrs (or what should be such) in our own eye


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