Findings from a recent opinion poll were repeatedly shared on Labour Party-affiliated social media groups over the last weekend. The poll was commissioned by researchers at Queen Mary University of London’s Mile End Institute, and asked people in London both about their voting intentions and about how well they felt that seven particular politicians were doing in their current jobs. Social media users commonly focused on the politicians’ net job approval ratings: that is, the percentage of people saying that each politician was doing well in his/her job minus the percentage of people saying that each politician was doing badly in his/her job. The seven politicians in question were the leaders of the Labour Party, the Conservative Party, the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and Ukip (i.e. Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May, Caroline Lucas, Tim Farron, and Paul Nuttall, respectively), plus the Mayor and the ex-Mayor of London (i.e. Sadiq Khan and Boris Johnson, again respectively). If you are not fortunate enough to spend a little part of each week staring at the slow motion car crash that is political social media, you may also have come across the same poll in newspaper reports that similarly focused on the finding that ‘Jeremy Corbyn has a worse personal approval rating even in London than every other major party leader, including Ukip’s Paul Nuttall’ (Peck, 2017).
In amongst all the usual Trumpian blether about ‘fake polls’ and the ‘MSM’, there were some fairly reasonable objections made to various shares of this particular piece of news, namely that some sharers neglected to give the approval ratings for all seven politicians, that some of the politicians in question may have benefited from not being very well known in London, and that, in many cases, sharers did not give a source for the figures they were sharing. So I’m posting this now in order to address those objections — as well as to highlight some of the good news in the poll findings, because there’s a perception among many of the Labour Party’s remaining supporters that discussion has become unduly negative in recent months.
To begin with the first two objections, here are all seven politicians about whom respondents were asked, together with their net job approval ratings, which I have recalculated to exclude the ‘don’t knows’. This recalculation is not standard, but it’s possibly worth doing in this case, given that only 50% or less of respondents expressed a positive or negative opinion on the leaders of each of the three smallest parties:
(excluding ‘don’t knows’)
Now for the good news for Labour Party supporters, because I can see at least four pieces of it in the above figures. The first is that the politician with the highest recalculated net approval rating is a member of the Labour Party, Sadiq Khan. How can that not be great news? The second is that the leader of the Green Party pushes the leader of the Conservative Party into third place. Labour and the Conservatives are longstanding antagonists, and it’s clear that many Labour Party members have a soft spot for the Greens, so this again seems pretty good. The third is that Boris Johnson’s ratings are even lower than Tim Farron’s, indicating that Londoners do not think kindly of their Conservative former mayor (currently the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs). Nice one! And the fourth is that, when we consider only those who have an opinion on the matter, it turns out that Londoners generally don’t think that Paul Nuttall is doing a better job than Jeremy Corbyn.
Four causes for Labour Party celebration, I reckon!
And now, to address the third objection, here’s the source for the figures:
N.B. To reiterate: please try to bear in mind that this poll was not, as some Labour-supporting social media users appear to have assumed, commissioned by the Evening Standard. As indicated above, it was commissioned by researchers at QMUL. Also, the current editor of the Evening Standard is not George Osborne but Sarah Sands. You’re welcome.
Peck, Tom (2017). ‘Jeremy Corbyn less popular than Paul Nuttall in London: a new poll put the Labour leader’s personal approval rating in London at minus 44 percent’. Independent, 1 April. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/jeremy-corbyn-less-popular-than-paul-nuttall-in-london-a7661841.html