Whether it’s Worcester Woman or Mondeo Man, segmenting demographic groups is de rigueur for political strategists, and it’s often up to pollsters to research these inevitably alliteratively-named portions of the population. Parents are often a key part of this segmentation, and we recently asked parents of school-aged children, ‘which of the three leaders of the main political parties do you think best understands the issues facing parents in Britain today?’
David Cameron: 28%
Ed Miliband: 20%
Nick Clegg: 4%
Don’t know: 48%
Base: GB Parents of children aged 4-16
What does this tell us? Well the first thing to notice is that half of the public don’t know which leader to pick – a dispiriting result for all concerned. However, the real filip here is for Ed Miliband. Although he is behind David Cameron by 8 percentage points, that is not an insurmountable gulf. Indeed, it is far from the abject 4% Nick Clegg scores, particularly for a man who has gone out of his way to fit his diary around family life, and make sure the press know about it (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/nick-clegg-we-have-put-back-cabinet-meetings-so-we-can-take-our-children-to-school-1988980.html).
The biggest challenge for Ed Miliband, following his accession to the Leader of HM Opposition, was and continues to be his public profile, and there’s plenty of evidence that he still has a long way to go on this (http://www.youtube.com/embed/MbwFcLuXRME?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1). Indeed, when we showed the public pictures of senior members of the Parliamentary Labour Party back in June, they were better able to recognise Ed Balls than the Labour Leader, and around a quarter of the public thought Ed was actually his brother David.
However, the familiarity gap will shrink, and if he can continue to raise his profile among voters there are encouraging signs that he can reduce the gap to David Cameron on the kinds of metrics that make up the public’s broad conception of a political leader – something that Gordon Brown was unable to do. Understanding the issues facing parents is a good place to start.