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REVEALED: Davis poll boost based on support of just 61 people

November 9th, 2005
    Full details of the poll that shook the markets

Populus Polls have now published on their website the full data set of today survey in the Times which has sent punters running to David Davis and changed the way ddin which many are viewing the contest.

The headline was that Tory supporters were supporting Davis over Cameron by 50%-37% – a huge turnround from other recent polls in this contest. When news of the poll first emerged late last night the Davis price tightened from 7.5/1 to almost 2/1. At the same time the Cameron price moved out sharply.

But from the information that has come from the pollster this evening it’s clear that the actual numbers that made up that 50-37 split were very small indeed. For from the total of 1500 people who took part in the survey a number of things happened:-

  • The sample was split into two with different question being put to different groups
  • Out went those who said they were not registered or were not likely to vote
  • Out went those who said they did not know which party they would vote for
  • Out went those who refused to answer
  • Out went those who said they would would for parties other than the Tories
  • So the figures are based on those saying they were Tory supporters on one half of the survey. This amounted to just 122 people. Of these 61 said David would make the best leader and 46 said Cameron. The rest did not know. In the other group there were 172 Tory supporters but they were not asked the question.

    In an excellent contribution to the site – (post 107) the Head of Populus, Andrew Cooper, makes a number of observations. This is part of what he wrote:- Personally I would not have put the headline they (the Times) did above the findings, but that isn’t a matter for me. What is clear from the poll is that it bears mixed messages. Davis has a lead as ‘best leader’, but Cameron has a (much bigger) lead when it comes to which of the two is judged more likely to win an election, unite the party, get it in touch with ordinary people etc. And all the poll questions on the Tory leadership indicate that Cameron attracts more support than Davis does from those not currently Conservative supporters.

    Also it is very important to bear in mind that the bases for these questions about the Conservatives – reasonable enough at 750 at topline level – become quite small when it gets down to the level of Tory supporters. The figures on which The Times headline is based derive from a sub-sample of fewer than 150 Conservative supporters in that half of the poll sample (a fact which should be immediately obvious to sophisticated poll-followers such as the commentators on this site).

    Our poll is not a projection of how Tory members will vote (nor even, precisely, of how Tory voters would vote if they had a vote). It is a comparison of how voters overall, and current Conservative supporters in particular view the two candidates. It is interesting that – as on so many other issues – Conservative voters and non-Conservative voters have a very different perspective. It suggests that Tory supporters are ambivalent about the candidates – seeing Cameron as more positive in many respects but still judging Davis, overall, as likely to make the best leader. It could easily be argued that Tory voters are, when it comes to these questions, the most irrelevant audience of all: they are not the electorate (except, obviously, the tiny sub-set of them who are members, whose responses are buried beneath the views of the huge majority who aren’t); and since they are the diehards, who – the past 3 elections seem to suggest – vote Conservative more or less regardless, their views about potential leaders could be regarded as immaterial.

    Mike Smithson






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