Mr Ferguson’s complaint follows Joe Murphy’s coverage of our questions about Ed Miliband in the Evening Standard. He states that “To read the report you’d think that the results were abnormally bad for Ed Miliband (as it happens, Cameron was far further behind Brown at this stage than Miliband is behind Cameron)”, and Joe Murphy himself reported that “A Labour source said David Cameron was further behind Gordon Brown at the same stage in the last Parliament.” But the results are, all, abnormally bad for Ed Miliband, and Cameron was not further behind Brown at the same stage in the last parliament. The Evening Standard article led on the findings from our question “Do you agree or disagree that Ed Miliband is ready to be Prime Minister?” This is a question that we generally ask about the leader of the opposition two or three times in each parliament. (Ipsos MORI is not selectively targeting Ed Miliband by polling on public attitudes towards him. We periodically ask poll questions about various political figures: for example, last month our questions centred on George Osborne. Those results were also negative, and were also reported prominently in the Evening Standard as well as on Ipsos MORI’s website.) On this occasion, 24% of the public said that they agreed that Ed Miliband was ready to be PM and 66% that they disagreed. It is hard to see how this could possibly be interpreted as anything but a poor result for Miliband. When we asked the same question about David Cameron in July 2008 (when Cameron had been leader for just as long as Ed Miliband has now), 43% agreed that he was ready to be Prime Minister and 43% disagreed. Nor do the leadership satisfaction questions, which we ask every month and which Mr Ferguson would apparently have preferred us to emphasise, show Mr Miliband doing better than Mr Cameron at the same stage either. Quite the contrary. In July 2008, 50% of the public were satisfied with the way David Cameron was doing his job and 29% dissatisfied, a net score of +21. In the same poll, 21% were satisfied with Gordon Brown as Prime Minister and 72% dissatisfied, net -51. So David Cameron had a satisfaction score 29 points higher than Gordon Brown’s and a net score 72 better. This month, 32% are satisfied with David Cameron as PM and 60% dissatisfied, while 34% are satisfied with Ed Miliband and 50% dissatisfied, giving Mr Cameron a net score of -28 and Mr Miliband one of -16. So Mr Miliband has an advantage on satisfaction of just 2 points, or of 12 on net scores. He is much less far ahead of Mr Cameron than Mr Cameron was of Mr Brown in 2008, and his absolute scores are also much weaker. Alternatively, compare the situation now with corresponding stage of the last parliament, April 2008, with just over two years to go until the election. Then, Gordon Brown had 23% satisfied with his performance for a net -38, David Cameron 35% satisfied and net +2. Still a bigger advantage over the PM on both criteria than Ed Miliband has now (and also a significantly better net satisfaction score than Mr Miliband’s current one, although no significant difference in the percentages of the public satisfied with the two opposition leaders). Similarly, Labour under Mr Miliband cannot claim to be doing better in voting intentions than were the Tories under Mr Cameron. In the April 2008 poll, the Tories had a nine-point lead (40% to 31%), the same margin as Labour’s lead at the moment (38% to 29%). In the July 2008 poll, the Tories had a twenty-point lead (47% to 27%). Mr Ferguson suggests that instead we should have emphasised that “Furthermore, in the last month Ed Miliband has improved his leadership ratings with Ipsos-Mori from -20 to -16, whilst Cameron’s was up slightly less from -30 to -28.” In fact neither of these movements is statistically significant: in other words, we have no reliable evidence whether there has been any movement all since last month. But even if we were to accept these movements as real, it seems unquestionable to us that to emphasise that rather than the other more negative findings for Labour would be to misreport the substance of the poll and to mislead on its implications. We therefore request that Mr Ferguson:
- provides evidence for or corrects his assertion that Cameron was further behind Brown than Miliband is behind Cameron at this stage of the parliament;
- makes it clear in his piece that the changes in satisfaction for both Cameron and Miliband since last month are not statistically significant.