Neck and neck

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
September 13, 2010, 5:35 PM GMT+0

Our latest YouGov/Sunday Times poll of Labour's leadership election college shows the race is neck and neck. Six weeks ago David Miliband was leading his brother by eight points. Today the two brothers are within 2 points of each other, with Ed Miliband narrowly ahead.

As before, YouGov asked people their first preference, their second preference, and then who they would prefer between the two frontrunners. Samples of party members and members of Labour affiliated trade unions were polled, and MPs' preferences were based upon research by the website Left Foot Forward.

Trade Unionists

The main movement since July is amongst Trade Unionists. In July, Ed and David were exactly equal amongst Labour party members, and in our latest poll David Miliband remains ahead amongst members on their first preferences, but in a final run off between the two brothers Ed Miliband would be 4 points ahead, 52% to 48%. Amongst the MPs and MEPs section there has been a very slight movement towards David, and Left Foot Forward’s projected split for MPs & MEPs is now David 56%, Ed 44%. In the Trade Union section of the college there has been a large movement, in July we found a lead of 12 points for David amongst eligible trade unionists. Since then there has been a huge shift, and Ed now leads David in that section by 57% to 43%. At first sight, it would appear that the big trade unions' endorsements of Ed Miliband had a decisive effect.

Putting all three parts of the college together this leaves Ed two points ahead, 51% to 49%. David Miliband is still ahead amongst MPs, but it’s not enough to overcome Ed Miliband’s lead among members and trade unionists.

Most likely to win?

Amongst both Labour members and trade unionists David Miliband is still seen as the candidate who would be most likely to win the next election, and most likely to make a good Prime Minister. This would suggest that members and trade unionists are backing the candidate they see as best reflecting their views, rather than the candidate they see as most likely to win.

One big caveat is MPs second preferences – there is little good information on how MPs will cast their second preferences. In both YouGov projections we have made the crude assumption that the second preferences of MPs who back Abbott, Balls and Burnham will divide evenly between David and Ed Miliband, but obviously this could go either way. Another unknown is turnout, but notably over 40% of those polled said they had already voted, and these respondents were more likely to back Ed Miliband. With the MPs second preferences unknown and the two candidates within the margin of error it really could go either way, but Ed Miliband is now in poll position.

Labour leadership results: Summary
Labour leadership results: Labour members
Labour leadership results: Trade unionists

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