“Polling reminds politicians what matters – the voters and the things they care about.”
My interest in polling began in the run-up to the 2005 general election, when I commissioned research to find out why the Conservative Party had failed to recover from its crushing defeat in 1997. I published the collected results in Smell The Coffee: A Wake-Up Call For The Conservative Party. David Cameron subsequently asked me to become Deputy Chairman of the Party with responsibility for target seats and opinion research. In this role I continued to offer objective analysis of public opinion – analysis that was, to varying degrees, acted upon. Minority Verdict, which I published after the 2010 election, draws on polling evidence to explain why the result of that election was as good as it was for the Conservatives, but no better.
Since the 2010 election I have kept up the supply of political polling. The difference is that rather than presenting it privately to David Cameron or the Shadow Cabinet, as I once did, I now publish my research in full for anyone to read.
The value of this work lies in its objectivity. Though I myself am not impartial – I’m a Tory, and always will be – commentators from across the political spectrum have noted that the research is professionally conducted and reliable. Some of the research yields encouraging conclusions for the Conservatives, and some of it does not.
Most important of all, the reports do not convey my views, but those of the voters.
Why do I do it? Several reasons. The interaction between politicians and voters is fascinating in itself. I like to offer new evidence as to how voters see things, and to provoke discussion and debate.
And if it doesn’t sound too pompous, there is an element of public service in keeping politicians on their toes. If my research has a unifying theme, it is to remind politicians and parties what matters and what their priorities should be – the voters and the things they care about.