In a previous post (also published on the LSE British politics and policy blog) I showed that satisfaction with the leaders of the two main parties was a good predictor of electoral outcomes over the past 9 UK general elections. That measure, however, combines responses from people who support the party and those who don’t. So in this post I’m exploring leader satisfaction among party supporters as a way of measuring the level of ‘enthusiastic support.’
Using the Ipsos MORI polls since 2010, I calculated the percentage of the electorate who both support a party and are satisfied with its leader (and also the percentage who are satisfied with the leader but don’t support that party). These data series are shown in the following figures.
Figure 1: Calculated from Ipsos MORI monthly polls by multiplying leader satisfaction among party supporters by voting intentions (among all naming a party) (dark data series) and subtracting that percentage from overall leader satisfaction ratings (light data series).
Conservative supporters were consistently more satisfied with David Cameron (averaging 79% satisfied) than Labour supporters were with Ed Miliband (51%) and (after Sept 2015) with Jeremy Corbyn (54%). This meant that for most of the period more people supported the Conservative party and its leader than supported the Labour party and its leader. The Liberal Democrats, with a much smaller voter base (about 11% of the electorate), had few supporters of both that party and its leader, although the leader scored well among both party and non-party supporters.
Figure 2 shows satisfaction with their own leader among supporters of the two main parties, expressed as a percentage of the whole electorate. We might term these the ‘enthusiastic voters’ who may be more likely to vote.
Figure 2: Source as Figure 1.
Cameron’s 8 percentage point lead among ‘enthusiastic voters’ just before the May 2015 election seen in Figure 2 contrasts with the much less clear-cut picture given by ‘voting intention’ alone (Figure 3, below). At that time the result was, according to the polls, ‘too close to call,’ even though that election resulted in an overall Conservative majority.
So in summary, I suggest that the proportion of the electorate who are satisfied both with a leader and with their party may be a useful supplement to other predictors of electoral outcomes.