YouGov poll on Lib Dem leadership: Ed Davey is a country mile ahead (contains caveats)

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Stephen Bush has written the following on the New Statesman “The Staggers” blog:

Ed Davey is on course to win the looming Liberal Democrat leadership election, a YouGov poll for the Economic and Social Research Council-funded Party Members Project, run out of the University of Sussex and Queen Mary University has found. YouGov asked members to choose between a field of Ed Davey, Layla Moran and Daisy Cooper, the new MP for St Albans, all of whom are widely tipped to stand. In that field, Davey wins outright in the first round, with 52 per cent of the vote against Moran’s 24 per cent and Cooper’s 9 per cent.

I did a little light Googling to see if I could find the data on this poll.

The first thing that struck me was the vast variety of subjects on which YouGov conducts polls:

How often do you get a song stuck in your head?

“Occasionally” said 49%. Well that really adds to the sum total of human knowledge, doesn’t it?

Have you ever worn your pyjamas out in public?

(That question seems a bit sexist, by the way). 15% had done so “once or twice”. 79% have not worn their pyjamas in public. Marvellous.

That said the Party Members Project seems an extremely serious project. I just can’t, so far, find any data to back up the poll mentioned in the News Statesman. I looked on the websites and Twitter accounts for YouGov, ESRC Party members project, and the wesbites for Sussex University and Queen Mary University .

If you spot any back-up information please let us know in the comments below.

For example, what is the sample size? 20? 200? 2000? or 2?

There are some cautionary notes even in the News Statesman piece:

42 per cent say they cannot decide yet

The piece also notes that much of Ed Davey’s lead is due to him acting as co-leader of the party at the moment and that could all go horribly wrong, dependent on how we do in the May elections.

The 42 per cent undecided tends to give hope to Daisy and Layla, as well as candidates who were not in the rather narrow poll of three names. Christine Jardine and Wera Hobhouse, for example.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • David Becket 28th Jan '20 - 11:34am

    They did not ask me!!!!

  • Neil Sandison 28th Jan '20 - 12:08pm

    This could backfire on Ed if the perception is that it is a one horse race .Didnt do Mrs Theresa May much favours as other candidates fell away prior to the the contest Ms Long Bailey is only still in the race because of Unites block vote and Momentum .
    Liberal Democrats deserve a real choice between Ed the continuity candidate and perhaps fresh approaches from outside of the Westmiister bubble where newly elected MPs may bring in more enlightened campaigning methods.

  • > “Have you ever worn your pyjamas out in public?” – That question seems a bit sexist

    OK, you’ve lost me

  • After the results of the recent election and mistakes made, I feel experience and a safe pair of hands is what is needed next. It seems Yougov found the same result implied.

  • David Evans 28th Jan '20 - 1:26pm

    Sadly, a safe pair of hands who refuses to accept any responsibility for the disaster that was coalition which happened on his watch. Not that he is so different from all the other senior Lib Dems around at the time [sigh].

  • David Becket 28th Jan '20 - 1:31pm

    A safe pair of hands is not a pair that held an important role in the coalition.
    I am not impressed with the current leadership, we need to move on to our view of the UK after Brexit, and our relationship with the EU.

  • I voted for Ed last time, since our choice was between two politicians both tainted by the coalition, and I had doubts about Jo – which the ensuing election campaign appear to have vindicated.

    It was great to have our first female leader, but I didn’t conclude from that any imperative to vote for the first female that happened to come along.

    The key this time is whether there are any credible candidates on offer that aren’t tainted by the coalition.

  • David Becket 28th Jan '20 - 2:18pm


  • I don’t wear anything in bed, never mind pyjamas…

  • David Beckett “A safe pair of hands is not a pair that held an important role in the coalition”.


  • nigel hunter 28th Jan '20 - 7:10pm

    Safe pair of hands.Yes. Little influence in the coalition. Yes. However you can expect his being part of the coalition will come up cos it is a weapon that can be used against us. Like Johnson NOT putting him in front of the cameras(if he becomes leader) could help. That is as long as we have a spokesperson who is good in front of the cameras.
    Why only mention the 3? Who contracted this poll? You Gov or ,maybe the Tories to influence the vote to get a person they can use (Ed.). Better the devil you know,can manipulate, than someone unknown and is fresh to the battle. Someone who can grow as leader in the next 4 years.

  • Jennie,
    Have mercy, that sort of information may cause a poster of mature years to suffer severe medical complaints. My ticker isnt what it once was.

  • It will be four to five years till the next GE, the coalition will be a distant memory, especially if our leaders are not foolish enough to try to defend it.

  • Barry Lofty 28th Jan '20 - 8:32pm

    Frankie, the GE will be four or five years away and coalition will be a distant memory by then, I wouldn’t bet on it, I might be, but I would take bets that it will still be being blamed if we do badly again??

  • Alex Macfie 28th Jan '20 - 8:58pm

    Jennie: That’s WAY too much information.
    This “poll”, on the other hand, gives no useful information at all. How can you have a poll for a leadership election for which the campaign hasn’t started yet, and no candidates have formally declared?
    I agree that the next leader needs to have no connection to the Coalition.

  • Th.ere is one good thing for Ed. in this leadership election. That is his environmental stance. If the party needs a new direction the environment is it. If he does not win he should be deputy and be at the forefront of this area

  • I was polled. The question was: “Imagine that these were the only three candidates, but Layla Moran and Daisy Cooper weren’t competitive. In this scenario, which candidate would you vote for?”

    Results coming to a bar chart near you soon…

  • If this poll is legitimate, it likely amounts to a question of familiarity more than anything else. Take it with a pinch of salt.

    Ed Davey is, in all probability, the default pick if no one else can make a better pitch. But, the other candidates should be given a fair and open-minded hearing. There are many issues that require robust debate, and an ambitious yet pragmatic approach to tackling the tough questions will be a necessity, not a nice-to-have.

  • Barry,
    Events dear boy events. By the next GE the overiding discussion will be the scarcity of unicorns, the lack of faries to staff the NHS and the inablity of the sun to break through the storm clouds and light up the uplands; the coalition will be ancient history and should be left as that.

  • Daniel Walker 29th Jan '20 - 9:21am

    @Dan M-B “Imagine that these were the only three candidates, but Layla Moran and Daisy Cooper weren’t competitive. In this scenario, which candidate would you vote for?””

    Bit of an odd question for a vote using a preferential system, too!

  • Paul Holmes 29th Jan '20 - 1:21pm

    @Daniel Walker. Regrettably it seems to be the sort of question that misled LD Strategists into believing right up to 10pm on Polling Day in 2015 that we would retain around 30 seats (we won 8) and in 2019 that we could win big (we went down from 12 to 11).

    For example – “If it were close between Lib Dem and Conservative [or other Party as relevant locally] in this constituency who would you vote for?” is the sort of question that will produce a bigger Opinion Poll response for the Lib Dems.

    But what if, back in the real world, it is not in fact obvious that such is the choice because a) Some other Party is actually in clear contention in the local ground campaign b) The national air war is presenting/prioritising a different perspective. c) An issue we are push polling on such as opposing Brexit is not in fact the key determinant of how people are going to vote – note that the Ashcroft survey of 13,000 people who voted on Polling Day last year showed 74% of Labour voters citing the NHS as the most important factor and only 53% even of LD Voters saying opposing Brexit was the prime motive in casting their vote.

    Something has very clearly been badly wrong on our national Party’s assessments of what is happening in the last 3 GE’s. This type of polling question is I think definitely a part of that major error.

  • @DW – I was being facetious and cribbing the polling question that was used in NE Somerset to create the ridiculous bar charts pretending that we were close to beating Rees-Mogg.

  • Daniel Walker 29th Jan '20 - 3:07pm

    @Paul Holmes “Regrettably it seems to be the sort of question that misled LD Strategists into believing right up to 10pm on Polling Day in 2015 that we would retain around 30 seats (we won 8) and in 2019 that we could win big (we went down from 12 to 11).

    That may well be true (although I think it is known that the first step for non-duopoly parties under FPTP is to convince people that you are in contention at all (hence all the bar charts and to a certain extent the leading questions) ) but my point is that it’s a FPTP question (i.e. it presupposes you needing to choose the “least bad” out of the top two) when our leadership election is under Instant Run-off / Alternative Vote. A question like that at least makes some sense under FPTP even if far fewer people actually tactically vote than the question-setter hopes or assumes.

    However, I note that the Party didn’t set the question this time from what I can tell and so can’t really be blamed for it!

  • Ianto Stevens 29th Jan '20 - 4:32pm

    Perhaps the poll (or more likely The New Statesman) was out to make us prematurely take sides over the next leader. Political opponents don’t want us to think about policy and strategy. I thought we were (very wisely) postponing a leadership contest till an election ‘Wash Up’ was complete and the tasks facing a new leader had become more clear.

  • Paul Murray 29th Jan '20 - 4:52pm

    With “Mrs Brown’s Boys” having won some award or other, YouGov have announced the results of a poll in which they picked out programmes people who *dislike* Mrs Brown’s Boy are more inclined to like that people who *like* Mrs Brown’s Boys. The 5 programmes were:

    Black Mirror
    University Challenge
    Only Connect
    Peep Show
    Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe

    Given that I really, really dislike Mrs. Brown’s Boys and the list above is essentially my entire TV viewing, I think YouGov must be getting their polling about right.

  • Paul Murray
    Not, really. Taste is, in most cases, pretty predicable and tells you more about social/tribal groupings and what is acceptible or not in any given circle than anything else.

  • Michael Maybridge 29th Jan '20 - 6:13pm

    @Paul Murray and Glenn: I love Mrs Brown’s Boys and University Challenge and have just auditioned to be on Only Connect (I don’t think I’ve ever seen the other three). Am I YouGov’s nightmare?

  • Paul Bennett 29th Jan '20 - 10:47pm

    The Coalition a failure? I don’t see it that way. It succeeded in its objective – getting the UK out of the mess Labour left it in. We got all the flak for the unpleasant aspects of it, but we didn’t do it for our benefit. All of our ‘tainted’ colleagues are to be congratulated for putting public duty over personal ambition, unlike two other parties one could mention.

  • RogerRoberts 30th Jan '20 - 8:57am

    As a backbench member of he Lords I remember well the meeting where we decided to go ahead with a Tory-Lib Dem Coalition. The main reason for my support was the pledge to end the detention of children for immigration purposes. That happened. But much else and often we had to hold our noses as we went through the division lobby. Others can say whether the end of detention for nearly 1,000 children a year was worhwhile ! Ed and Jo were compelled ,often, to vote in ways not of their choosing. What really galls me is that while we doing this the Tories were spending millions to unseat our M.P.s. ! Never again.

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Jan '20 - 9:44am


    But much else and often we had to hold our noses as we went through the division lobby. Others can say whether the end of detention for nearly 1,000 children a year was worhwhile ! Ed and Jo were compelled ,often, to vote in ways not of their choosing.

    We needed to make this clear. If it was felt it couldn’t be done while the Coalition was in place, certainly it should have been done straight afterwards: explain that a Coalition is a compromise where you have to accept things that are not your ideal, and that if there is only one coalition that can be formed and your party is just a small portion of it, you will only have a minor say in it.

    Because this wasn’t done, voters have been encouraged to think that every one of us in the Liberal Democrats was a keen supporter of everything the Coalition did, so a Liberal Democrat dominated government would do much the same if it came into existence. And that has lost us most of the votes we used to get.

    Our leadership seems to have thought that not even mentioning it, and instead just coming out as the part that loves the EU and staying in it is the main thing we are about, was what would help us recover. That won us a few votes in the last election, but not enough to win back the seats we used to hold. It probably means we are now seen by most voters as the party most close to what the Conservative Party was like up to 2016, which means we lose what was our main source of votes: being the best opposition to the Conservative Party in places where Labour was weak and places where Labour was arrogant and places where Labour was lazy.

  • richard underhill 31st Jan '20 - 11:31am

    and in the news today

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