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.
After the 2010 election I established Lord Ashcroft Polls, with the aim of studying public opinion on all aspects of politics – parties, leaders, policy issues, topical questions and the social and cultural background against which voters make their decisions. My research has extended beyond the UK into Europe, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Russia and Ukraine, and has, I hope, helped us understand some of the momentous political events of the last decade.
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.