NEWS

Labour Manifesto Policies May Be Popular But That's Not Enough To Win, Pollsters Say

A tale of two very different approaches to campaigning.

11/05/2017 18:17 | Updated 11 May 2017

After a difficult day dealing with Labour’s manifesto being leaked, Jeremy Corbyn said its polices were “very popular”.

During his calamitous leadership, many of his supporters have insisted the party’s policies will eventually cure its disastrous polling. 

While re-nationalising the railways and more money for the NHS do enjoy wide support, pollsters have told HuffPost UK that policies alone aren’t enough for Labour close the wide gap with the Tories before the June 8 election.

Joe Twyman, Head of Political and Social Research at YouGov, said Labour was wrong if it believed policy detail was the path to victory.

“The idea there are people out there in the real world, who are diligently downloading copies of each of the party’s manifestoes, reading each one from cover to cover, making copious notes... It just doesn’t happen,” he told HuffPost UK.

As an example, he cited May’s soundbite pledge to provide “strong and stable” leadership, which has received blanket coverage but last week YouGov found only 15% of people had heard it. 

“Normal people aren’t paying that much attention,” Twyman added.

He called Labour’s dilemma a “Marillion Problem”, which Twyman named after a friend’s attitude to people who didn’t share his love for the 1980s band.

“He believed, that if you didn’t like Marillion, the solution was to listen to more Marillion,” he said. “That’s the trap Labour are falling into. ‘If we just play more of our Marillion, people will start liking it’.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Jeremy Corbyn addresses the press after the leak of the party's draft manifesto

Leadership is more important to voters in this election than 2015, research has shown.

Meanwhile, on the question of who would be a better prime minister, Theresa May enjoys a wider lead over Corbyn than David Cameron had over Ed Miliband.

Twyman said Labour’s approach contrasted with the Conservatives promoting themselves as capable in broad terms, particularly by emphasising May’s leadership.

He said this was similar to the 2015 election but the difference was starker now.

“This time, it’s all ‘strong and stable’,” he said of the Tories. “’What’s your policy on education?’ ‘I’ll tell you what our policy on education is: Strong and stable’.

“On the Labour side of things it’s: ‘What’s happening with the divisions within your party?’ ‘Well, what people are really interested in is the re-nationalisation of the railways’.”

Re-nationalising the railways is popular. A total of 58% of people support it, while 17% oppose, a 2015 poll found.

PA Wire/PA Images
The Tory campaign has emphasised Theresa May's 'strong and stable' leadership

But according to polling firm Ipsos Mori, people are increasingly satisfied with May - 56% said this. Just 27% said the same of Corbyn, while 62% are dissatisfied with him.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos Mori, said that the “political triangle” of policies, leader and party was how people decided how to vote.

The pollster’s research suggests people’s priorities have shifted slightly at this election. While they still list policies as the most important of the three, they rated leadership as more important than in 2015.

Skinner told HuffPost UK that the Tories’ lead on leadership was “if anything... only extending”.

“It’s obviously better to have popular policies than unpopular policies. We know some of those individual policies do have support but they’re only part of how people make up their minds,” he said.

“They’re also concerned about leadership and competence and their general image of the party and the values the party stand for.

“That’s where the real challenge facing Labour lies.”

Skinner added that people don’t vote on “a purely rationalistic model” that would enable parties to “increase X and it increases votes by Y”.

Twyman said the Tories’ approach was better suited to average voters who are, he said, “thinking about broad questions”.

YouGov
YouGov's polling from April, a week before the election was called

YouGov polled people on which party they trusted most on a variety of issues. Labour won on just two of the nine areas - health and housing - and their lead on housing is just 2%. 

Twyman added: “The Tories are seen as strong, effective and relatively united... [Labour] believe, if they just keep talking about their policies, people will miraculously become interested.

“That may be true for their base but the last election shows that’s not enough to win.”

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