Women voters don’t mind Cameron after all
David Cameron’s “problem with women voters” – widely reported two years ago – was based on a misreading of opinion polls, according to new research. At the time, the Prime Minister was criticised for telling Angela Eagle, the Labour frontbencher, to “calm down, dear”, and for joking that Nadine Dorries, a Tory backbencher, was “extremely frustrated”. Yvette Cooper, Labour’s equalities spokeswoman, said he had a “problem with women”, and the media reported that women were less likely to support the Conservatives than men, suggesting that there had been some change.
But a new analysis of the polls leading up to Cooper’s attack in October 2011 finds that “they mostly point towards an opposite conclusion”. Roger Mortimore, a director of the polling firm Ipsos MORI and professor at the Institute for Contemporary British History, says in a paper in Parliamentary Affairs last week that the Conservatives achieved a bigger swing in their favour among women than among men at the 2010 election, and concludes:
Conservative support among women was not lower than their support among men,* there had not been a big fall in women’s support for the Tories since the election, and women’s support had not declined relative to that of men since the election.
The only polls that supported the idea of Cameron’s “problem with women” were those by YouGov, which showed that Tory support had risen since the election and then fallen back, but this pattern was not found by other pollsters and is attributed by Prof Mortimore to sample variation.
Prof Mortimore suggests that the gender gap theory was popular because it “ﬁtted the narrative that reﬂected opposition attacks on Cameron … and the Conservatives’ own concerns about the attitudes of female voters”.
My cursory check of the latest polls from the five companies studied by Prof Mortimore suggests that the gender gap – Conservative support among women is two points lower than among men – has not significantly changed since Cameron had a “problem with women” two years ago, when it was three points.
*Not significantly lower, anyway: as I say in the last paragraph, it was about three points.Tagged in: david cameron, gender gap, opinion polls
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