Clegg least popular since Foot

Peter KellnerPresident
September 24, 2012, 7:51 AM GMT+0

While many people see Mr Clegg as likeable, few see him as strong, decisive or trustworthy. These are terrible figures for a man who says he will lead his party at the next election, suggests YouGov President Peter Kellner

As I have brought consistently bleak news about Nick Clegg in recent months, let’s start with a glimpse of sunshine. His apology for messing up his party’s policy on student fees has gone down better than Gordon Brown’s apology in 2010 for describing a Rochdale voter as a bigot.

After Mr Brown discovered that his remark about Gillian Duffy had been caught on a microphone he wrongly thought was off, he dashed round to her house and told her how sorry he was. The next day we asked people about this apology. Just 26% said it was genuine, while 56% thought it was not. In our latest poll for the Sunday Times, we asked the same question about Mr Clegg’s apology. This time, 40% told us it was genuine, while 35% disagreed.

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That is where the good news ends. 41% think his apology makes him look weaker, while just 21% think it makes him look stronger. Only 5% say his apology will make them more likely to vote Lib Dem at the next election, while 15% say it makes them less likely. No wonder Lib Dem support is so low – just 8% in our post-apology poll – while Mr Clegg himself has slumped to his worst ever rating. Having risen briefly (after the first leaders’ debate on TV in April 2010) to become more popular than Churchill, he is now Britain’s least popular main-party leader since Michael Foot.

To explore views about Mr Clegg in more detail, we asked respondents how they regarded him according to four pairs of characteristics. This is what we found: