How does Tim’s poll rating compare with previous leaders?

With Tim’s Liberal Democrats being such a reduced force since the election, one might have expected such reductions – and proportional reductions in media coverage – to have affected his ability to make himself known in the one steady, solid indicator of such measures – the monthly Ipsos MORI leadership poll.

Ipsos MORI’s coverage of the question “Is X doing a good job of leader of Y” stretches right back to the second year of David Steel and thus covers the first months of Tim’s immediate predecessors – Paddy, Charles, Ming and Nick.

In his first month, with 22% of the public seeing Tim as doing a ‘good job’ he will be pleased to note that this placed him level pegging with Ming’s first month – and slightly higher than that of Charles, and a whole 7% ahead of either Paddy or Nick. The downside for Tim is that he has a much higher ‘disapproval rate’ (29%) than any of his predecessors, with Paddy being the closest at 19%. The overall score for Tim’s first month was a -7%, which was slightly lower than Paddy’s -4% and Nick’s -3%, but far lower than Ming’s +5% and Charles’ +11%.

One further thing to note however, is that 51% of the public felt able to offer an opinion on Tim. For Ming – a far better known personality through his years in post as Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, only 39% felt able to offer an opinion, with 35% for Paddy, 33% for Nick and just 31% for Charles. Tim has clearly made himself better known to the public – for better or worse – than any predecessor. It took until Paddy’s fifth month for him to get similar figures, Nick’s sixth month, and Charles’ – unbelievable to think now – 14th month!

Tim’s second month in post held his positive rating of 22% (4% behind Ming, 2% behind Charles, and 3% ahead of both Paddy and Nick at this time) but saw a reduction in the negative rating – from 29% down to 27%, which is now just 4% in excess of Paddy and 5% in
excess of Nick. This leaves Tim’s overall score at -5%, which is just 1% behind Paddy’s score at this time, and 2% behind Nick’s.

This still leaves 51% of the public not being able to offer an opinion on Tim, but this is still far lower than the scores given to any of his predecessors at this point.

I think one would do well to consider these figures the baseline. Tim has received a lot of coverage as a result of the Tax Credits vote on Monday and his PMQs debut as leader yesterday. I think those “don’t knows” will begin to fall away faster, and hopefully continue to reduce the (slightly) negative rating.

* Stephen is a lifelong Lib Dem voter, but one of many 8/5/15 members. He analyses and recommends for a major city Policy and Strategy organisation. He has two young children and used to have time for making and writing about music.

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  • Tony Dawson 30th Oct '15 - 3:41pm

    I’ve an idea that public approval of political leaders overall is lower these days, which renders direct comprisons between Tim Farron and his predecessors rather useless.

  • Tim Pollard 30th Oct '15 - 4:11pm

    Is his negative rating actually about him? Or is it a reflection of a more negative feeling towards our party from some voters, which would be applied to anyone in the job? I don’t know the answer, just posing it as a question…

  • I mentioned Tim Farron to one of my colleagues today and she said “don’t you mean Fallon?”. Getting that 51% down might be rather difficult.

  • Tim was president of one of the parties in Government for five years so it’s unsurprising that he is better recognised than previous generations of leaders. The Lib Dems were never off the media, not least Tim, because of various internal and external issues.

  • Thomas Shakespearr 30th Oct '15 - 5:47pm

    Great article but I’ll just be pedantic and point out a typo :-/ You wrote “51% of the public feel able to offer an opinion on Time…” and then “that leaves 51% still not being able to offer an opinion…”

  • David Evans 30th Oct '15 - 7:30pm

    What a curious way to start an article, which I think shows a frame of mind that became very common under Nick, but possibly earlier. Tim belongs to the Liberal Democrats, not the other way around. If there is any ownership of the party, it belongs to all of us equally. In a democratic, participative organisation it could never be any other way.

  • Erlend Watson 30th Oct '15 - 7:59pm

    I find David’s comment a little ungracious to someone new to writing here. They are also David Evans’ Lib Dems and even Erlend Watson’s Lib Dems. I have been around long enough to be on the bolshy pedantic wing of the party (eg when someone talks about conference delegates rather than representatives). The article as a whole makes interesting points. I also agree with both Tony and Tim although on Tony’s point I would argue that given the higher rate of antipathy to politicians as a class, Tim’s rating looks a bit better in the historical context rather than irrelevant.

  • Agree with Tim Pollard. It will take a while to get past the (overall very negative) effects of 2010-2015, for all of us. In the current circumstances, those ratings are a triumph, and will surely improve as Tim Farron gets more exposure, as the Coalition recedes into history, and as voters become more aware that he was not a part of that Government and actually displayed a bit of independence in voting against some of its worst measures.

  • Stephen Hesketh 31st Oct '15 - 8:23am

    @Erlend Watson I read David Evans’ comment and found myself to be in instant agreement. All democratic parties and movements (should) belong to their members collectively.

    Media commentary often focuses on the portrayal of the PM and party leaders in presidential and autocratic terms. This is both constitutionally inaccurate and democratically dangerous.

    “‘Tim’s’ party” finds itself in such a weakened position following the general election for the very reason that the immediately preceding incumbent refused to listen to comment and advice from the wider party and appeared to believe that he and his circle knew better than thousands of experienced councillors, MPs and former MPs.

  • nvelope2003 31st Oct '15 - 9:41am

    Is Tim Farron the first Liberal Leader who is not a member of the Privy Council and why is this ?

  • David Evans 31st Oct '15 - 9:48am

    Erlend, I’m afraid I totally disagree with you. Whether it is a new member or an old hand like myself, I believe it is better to point out misconceptions early than allow them to take root. It is one thing that makes us different as Liberal Democrats from most other parties that we believe in the rights of the individual and as such none of us, nor the party itself, belongs to the leader or anyone else. It is a profound weakness in the Labour party and to a lesser extent the Conservatives that obedience to the message coming down from above is the norm. Our party embraces diversity and new ideas, and that is our strength, the other parties are much more authoritarian, illiberal and so set in their ways.

    Hence, I repeat, Tim belongs to the Liberal Democrats, not the other way around. Indeed, if you asked him, I very much doubt he would express the idea that it was Tim Farron’s Lib Dems. And as for the idea of “David Evans’ Lib Dems”, I can honestly say that such a concept has never crossed my mind. If anything it conveys a sense of the arrogance of ownership and dominance; something as liberals I hope we will always oppose, in ourselves as much as in others.

  • It would be a good idea to compare the popularity of Lib Dems with Tim Farron in any figures here. Each set of figures would allow better understanding of the ‘reach’ being made to the voting public. On that latter point [voters], few non-voters know or care much about any party or personality – and their views are not a good measure of what would happen at any election.

  • Toby Keynes 31st Oct '15 - 7:24pm

    Sorry, but the Liberal Democrats is my party, it has been since the merger and I hope it always will be.
    It belongs to all of us.
    This isn’t just pedantically true (are you really claiming that England isn’t my country and London Frontrunners isn’t my running club?); it’s an emotional truth, which is far far more important.

  • Toby, I have no difficulty in you describing the Liberal Democrats as “your party”, I would describe it as mine, but thinking that is the same as describing it as Toby Keynes’ party or David Evans’ party or the London Frontrunners as Toby Keynes’ London Frontrunners, unless you were the founding member, is just a bit much. As you say, it belongs to all of us, but it has never belonged to just one of us, not even Tim, Nick, Ming, Charles or Paddy.

  • Toby Keynes 1st Nov '15 - 12:04pm

    Well, actually I am a founder member, and it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.
    But the article was about Tim’s poll ratings, which are rather more interesting and important. A choice of words or phraseology can be hugely significant, and sometimes it’s really important to challenge their underlying assumption. This isn’t one of those occasions.

  • David Evans 1st Nov '15 - 1:12pm

    Toby, I accept that you have your opinion and that you believe it to be totally valid. I have mine and I consider it to be very important for the reason I put in my first post; simply that the total primacy over the party by the leader shows a frame of mind that became very common under Nick and is one of the reasons nothing was done as things went ever more badly wrong. Indeed, if we are to believe what we are told, even when Nick realised that the game was up after the May 2014 debacle, some people were so loyal to the idea of his supremacy, they persuaded him to stay on even though it condemned the party to an even worse fate in 2015.

    As a party we are full of people with great ideas, and without doubt the wisdom of the party is greater than that of any individual within it, but if we allow our leader to be put on some sort of pedestal, we inhibit those ideas and we end up with a party where unthinking loyalty and deference to one individual alone is perceived of as more important than anything else, even than the party and its values.

  • David Evans you are absolutely right.

  • Stephen Ruffian 2nd Nov '15 - 11:46pm

    Thanks for the comments, all! Looking back I’m very surprised to find “Tim’s Liberal Democrats” in the first line. Think it must have been a slip of the mind and I probably meant to use ‘the’ instead of ‘Tim’s’!

    Thomas Shakespearr – what you quote is not incorrect, however. One poll has 51% don’t knows and the other had 49% don’t knows, hence the phrasing. I probably should have explained that better.

    You’ve asked for an attempt to compare party poll ratings with leader ones. Interesting challenge. I’ll give it a go!

  • David Faggiani 5th Nov '15 - 12:15pm

    It will be interesting to see how Farron’s visibility in the Oldham West by-election goes down. with the general public!

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