Is Cameron an asset to his party?

John Rentoul

paralympic boris c 2318871b 300x187 Is Cameron an asset to his party?Our ComRes opinion poll in today’s Independent on Sunday suggests that David Cameron, with a net minus 29-point unfavourability rating, is level with the Conservative Party, on an identical -29 points.

This marks a change, in that the Prime Minister has long been more popular than his party, and his strongest argument against the swivel-eyed tendency has been that they need him to win elections.

At the start of this month a Lord Ashcroft poll found that, on a forced-choice question, Cameron trailed his party: “Would you say you were more favourable to? … David Cameron 18 per cent … or the Conservative Party generally 22 per cent.”

This was not necessarily as bad for the Prime Minister as it looked, because the 18 per cent could include some of the floating voters that the Tories need to win over, whereas the 22 per cent by definition comprises people who are likely to vote Tory, even if that is despite rather than because of Cameron’s leadership.

Naturally, I prefer our methodology, which is to ask simply whether people have a favourable or unfavourable view of a number of people and parties.

But there is still an ambiguity about the findings, into which we can delve by looking at the figures broken down by party support.

Cameron’s net unfavourability, which is -29 overall, is only -11 among Lib Dem voters, while among UKIP voters it is -56. This compares with the Tory party’s unfavourability of -38 among Lib Dems and -45 among UKIP voters.

What this suggests is that Cameron appeals to centre-ground voters and mightily annoys right-wingers. There are complications about this, in that some of UKIP’s support is drawn from the Labour Party (whose supporters tend to be both to the left of Cameron and more disapproving of him), and UKIP support is nearly twice as much as that of the Lib Dems in this poll (19 per cent to 10 per cent). But generally it suggests that, although his appeal is weaker than it used to be, Cameron still has some capacity to pull in the votes where it matters – the centre ground – while some UKIP voters can be persuaded to vote Tory by pointing out that otherwise they risk putting Ed Miliband in No 10.

The worry for Cameron, of course, is that Boris Johnson is viewed so much more favourably than any other politician in the country. His rating overall is +17; among Lib Dems it is +20 and among UKIP voters +29. We need one of those how would you vote if Boris were prime minister/Tory leader questions to quantify the Boris effect more precisely. I still think it is possible, if the polls suggest the Tories are facing certain defeat six months out from the next election, that a seat will be found for Boris and that he could take over as prime minister in time for the campaign.

In the mean time, Cameron can take consolation from another of Lord Ashcroft’s findings (page 2):

Which of the following statements do you most agree with?

I am satisfied with the job David Cameron is doing overall as PM 24%

I am dissatisfied with the job David Cameron is doing as PM but I would prefer to have him as PM rather than Ed Miliband 33%

I am dissatisfied with the job David Cameron is doing as PM and I would prefer to have Ed Miliband as PM instead 30%

The total preferring Cameron to Miliband, 57 per cent, has been essentially unchanged since January, when it was 56 per cent.

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  • Pacificweather

    The worry for Mr. Cameron is that he did not manage to get his boundary changes for the next General Election so a rabbit has to be pulled out of the hat. Which rabbit and whose hat is his main concern at the moment.

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