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What are we to make of the latest Frank Luntz metering?

April 22nd, 2006

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    The US pollster puts the three leaders and Gordon under the microscope

The BNP story has somewhat overshadowed the latest focus group on Newsnight by the US pollster, Frank Luntz which was screened in two parts. These always make good television and the positive reactions of the panel last October played a big part in David Cameron’s bid for the Tory leadership.

In the latest studies – available to watch here – Luntz tests the views of floating voters to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Ming Campbell. While clips from speeches are being shown members of the group press buttons so that negative or positive reactions can be seen on the screen.

    Rating the four men at the end none of the 32 went Tony Blair or Ming Campbell, eight went for Gordon Brown and the rest went for David Cameron.

Interestingly, given the criticism it has attracted, Cameron’s “fossil fuel Chancellor” attack on Gordon Brown in the Budget debate received widespread approval.

As Andrew Grice describes it in the Independent today “..most hands went up for Mr Cameron. But a hesitant woman cried out: ‘If he wasn’t a Conservative.’ It was a revealing moment. People like Mr Cameron but remain very unsure about his party.”

In his conclusion Luntz said “David Cameron was the winner. But they still question whether or not he will deliver and, more importantly, [whether he] represents the Conservative Party or is alone in the Conservative Party.”

The reaction to Ming Campbell was depressing for Lib Dems. He was dismissed by almost all as being “old” and not appearing to “have it”.

There was an almost unanimous view of Tony Blair with all but about three of the panel agreeing that he should go as soon as possible.

Gordon Brown got a mixed reaction – with respect for his abilities but questions over his personality and whether he is liked.

    So the problem for Labour is its leader while for Conservatives it’s their party

The problem with a programme like this is that it is artificial. Most people give very little attention to political speeches and have only a small interest in politics and politicians – except every four years in the couple of weeks before a General Election.

It was probably a good foretaste of the 2009/10 General Election – the charismatic Tory leader getting an extraordinary positive response as a person – up against the less-liked but highly respected Brown. In the General Election betting Labour continues to tighten while the Tory price eases out.

Mike Smithson






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