Phone hacking scandal

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
July 26, 2011, 7:38 PM GMT+0

While the public inquiries and police investigations means the story is far from over, the phone hacking scandal has at least stopped dominating the headlines in the way it had for the last two weeks. It gives us a chance to survey the landscape and see how the phone hacking saga has changed the British public's political views.

In terms of voting intention, the Conservatives have taken a small but genuine knock. Before the revelation that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked brought the phone hacking story to its height our daily voting intention tracker was showing a steady Labour lead of around 5-7 points. Since then the Labour lead has increased to around 7-8 points ‒ a small change, but significant when it is maintained over several weeks.

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There has also been a knock to David Cameron's ratings. At the beginning of July 42% of people thought Cameron was doing well as Prime Minister, 52% badly ‒ a net rating of minus 10. Our latest poll has 39% of people thinking Cameron is doing well, but 55% badly ‒ a net rating of minus 16. This is his lowest score as Prime Minister and the first time that fewer than 40% of people have thought that he was doing well.

The biggest shift, however, has been in perceptions of Ed Miliband. At the beginning of July only 26% thought Miliband was doing well, with 60% thinking he was doing badly ‒ a net score of minus 34 and on a sharp downwards trend. Last weekend 35% of people thought he was doing well (up 9), 50% thought he was doing badly (down 10), giving him a net score of minus 15 and meaning that, for the first time since September, the public see Miliband as doing a better job as Labour leader than David Cameron is doing as Prime Minister.

What remains to be seen is whether these changes are lasting, or whether they fade away as the news agenda moves away from the phone hacking scandal. In hindsight, will we look back on the phone hacking saga as the making of Ed Miliband, or will the pattern of opinion go back to normal as the spotlight moves back to the economy, cuts and public services?