UK Politics

Poll shows what voters really think about politicians

Party leaders Image copyright Otehr

What words spring to mind when you think of our leading politicians?

The Conservatives pray you see David Cameron as strong.

Labour hopes Ed Miliband is seen as fighting for you.

Nick Clegg wants to be seen as a member of "alarm-clock Britain".

And Nigel Farage - well, he's ready for a pint when you are.

Bad news guys.

The BBC commissioned polling firm Populus to find out the labels voters use to describe the party leaders. The results are not pretty.

David Cameron is described as "out of touch" by a quarter of voters. Ed Miliband was labelled "out of his depth" by 27% of voters.

The most common description for Nick Clegg was "weak".

Image caption Populus divided the country into six political tribes

Some 26% of those polled said Nigel Farage "stands up for Britain" but 22% of people thought he was weird.

Apart from the - admittedly very fun - personality stuff, the poll also found that a majority of people trust David Cameron and George Osborne to manage the economy over Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

Of those polled, 58% opted for the Tories and 42% favoured Labour as stewards of the nation's finances.

But this is not your common-or-garden opinion poll. The Daily Politics and the World At One have been given access to the unique model being used by Populus.

It is a departure from traditional methods which use measures like age, class, or income to carve up the electorate.

Instead it divides the country into six segments, based on attitude and worldview:

  • Comfortable nostalgia: voters who are unhappy with modern Britain
  • Optimistic contentment: happy, secure people
  • Calm persistence: hard-workers feeling the pinch
  • Hard-pressed anxiety: voters who are stressed about life
  • Long-term despair: those who feel left out
  • Cosmopolitan critics: voters who would criticise the government whoever was in power

The Conservatives are said to be using a similar method as they prepare for the 2015 general election.

Populus found that David Cameron is perceived more positively by the people who feel most secure.

Those groups also tend to trust the Tories on the economy rather than Labour - 85% of the comfortable nostalgia group preferred George Osborne to Ed Balls, for example.

Voters who worry about the future are more likely to say the prime minister is "arrogant" or "out of touch".

55% of the long-term despair category and 66% of the hard-pressed anxiety group said they would prefer Labour to manage the nation's finances.

But all groups - apart from cosmopolitan critics - used words like "weak" or "out of his depth" to describe the Labour leader, Ed Miliband.

And look away now, Nick Clegg.

"Nick Clegg comes out of it pretty badly across the board. His most popular adjectives are out of touch, weak, out of his depth and that really doesn't change across the segments," says Rick Nye, managing director of Populus.

"A quarter of cosmopolitan critics think he's indecisive as well, and in 2010 quite a lot of them voted for Liberal Democrats after the Iraq war."

Nigel Farage is wildly popular with the Comfortable Nostalgics: 52% of them said that he "stands up for Britain". But four out of ten Cosmopolitan Critics described the UKIP leader as "arrogant" and a third said he was "weird."

To my eyes, two big things stand out.

Firstly, voters tend to choose very negative words to describe politicians. "Strong… on your side"? They wish.

Secondly, the gap between the Conservatives and Labour on the issue of the economy is narrowest among the Calm Persistence group, which is the biggest segment of the electorate.

It suggests this group is where the next election will be won or lost.

You can find out your political tribe by completing the quiz on the Populus website.

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