Political

The mysterious poll putting Sunak only 5 points behind Truss

At first glance, The Times has an impressive scoop: inside data showing that the Conservative leadership race is looking much closer than widely assumed. At second glance, however, things look rather different, so let’s take those glances in turn.

Here’s what The Times reports:

Liz Truss is now only five points ahead of Rishi Sunak in the race to succeed Boris Johnson, private polling carried out for the foreign secretary’s campaign suggests … The polling was carried out by the Italian data and public affairs firm Techne and asked Tory members their views on both candidates as well as their policy plans.

Note the reference to members in that. Sunak being five points behind Truss with Conservative members would be quite the change from the previous YouGov poll of Conservative members.

But if this is a poll of the wider public, then that five point gap would be much less notable. And at second glance, the poll does indeed appear to be of Conservative voters and not just members.

Because up on Techne’s website is their polling from last week which has this:

If you had to choose the leader of the Conservatives, who would you choose between:

Rishi Sunak 43%
Liz Truss 48%

Voters of the Conservative and Unionist Party (today and in 2019 General Election), active supporters of politics’ activities (grade 9-10)
Number of cases: 257

That doesn’t sound like a sample of party members only. (257 would also be a much smaller sample size than usual, though if this is a poll of members the question of whether it’s a representative sample of members is likely to matter more than it being 257 rather than, say, 1,000.)

So at second glance, this appears to be another example of how wary to be of media reports about private polling (more on that – much more – in the book, see below), rather than a reason to rush to bet on Sunak winning.

UPDATE: However, on third glance… a source at The Times tells me this is a different poll from the one I’ve quoted above. Different fieldwork dates, for a start. Both of the polls, with their different samples, having a five point gap is just a coincidence.

The data tables are now up on the Techne website too:

It’s a poll of 807 Conservative members, fieldwork 19-27 July, concluding:

If you voted today to choose the Conservative leader, who would you vote for?

Liz Truss 48%
Rishi Sunak 43%

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Polling Unpacked: the history, uses and abuses of political opinion polls is, according to the Sunday Times, is “Essential reading for anyone seeking to understand modern politics … comprehensive yet surprisingly fun”.

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