Friday 16 April 2010

ComRes poll will fundamentally change election tactics

A poll this morning from ComRes, just hours after the first leaders’ debate, has the following:

Con 36 (-3)
Lib Dem 35 (+14)
Lab 24 (-3)
Others 5 (-8)

This sounds absolutely sensational, no matter how you look at it, however there is one caveat. The sample was only viewers of the programme. So don’t get too excited about Cleggomania just yet. I hear cries of "meaningless", but I wouldn't go that far - the population in question was 10 million, of an electorate of less than 50 million, and it's fairly safe to assume that turnout will be higher in the portion of the electorate that watched the debate than of the portion that didn't.

 Either way, it’s pretty dramatic stuff. From this, it doesn’t take a genius to draw a few basic conclusions:
  1. I’m not sure what questions the ComRes poll asked or their methodology, as their website is down, but assuming it’s a standard voting intention poll, then that’s categorical evidence that the debates will affect the election result. As such, they now take on a doubly important role. What’s more, it’s pretty much guaranteed that they’re here to stay.
  2. All party leaders need to make the remaining debates their absolute priorities. If viewing figures go up, and you’d expect the BBC figures to be significantly higher and Sky, I would say, to be about the same as ITV, then you’re looking at potentially millions of people voting. Brown, Cameron and Clegg alike, all need to rethink what they spend their time doing. Visits to marginal seats can be held off in favour of gemming up knowledge, studying last night’s debate, looking for potential holes to attack, presentation skills, and so on. This goes equally for all three candidates.
  3. The Lib Dems, quite simply, need a quick strategy to maximise viewing figures for the remaining debates. They also urgently need to maximise viral viewing of highlights of last night on YouTube. All parties will want to viralise the best bits but the Lib Dems have most to gain; casual interest will mostly make its way to the Lib dems from people who didn’t watch the debate – they’ll be asking “what did this Clegg guy say that was so great?”
  4. Both Labour and the Tories need to downplay last night’s results, downplay the upcoming debates, and rethink being so friendly to Clegg. Marginal seats are at stake here.
It’s yet more great news for Clegg and co, though, and virtually guarantees favourable headline billing, once again, on tonight’s news programmes. The bandwagon is well oiled at the moment.

***Update*** Just to confirm, the raw figures above are being widely quoted as national figures. The weighted results, (ie for the whole electorate) are:

Con 35 (nc)
Lab 28 (-1)
Lib Dem 24 (+3)

This merely backs up my arguements above, especially the one that it's imperative for the Liberals to somehow maximise viewing figures.The debates do clearly affect anyone who watches them (comparing the unweighted data to the weighted data is insightful). All my points above are doubly valid.

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