Politics professor debunks poll with the runaway Boris Johnson lead

PUBLISHED: 10:24 12 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:28 12 June 2019

Conservative MP Boris Johnson leaves his home in London on the day he launches his leadership campaign. Picture: ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images

Conservative MP Boris Johnson leaves his home in London on the day he launches his leadership campaign. Picture: ISABEL INFANTES/AFP/Getty Images

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A poll commissioned by the Telegraph has put Boris Johnson far ahead in voters' opinions - but several commentators have cast doubt on its methods.

The survey of 2,017 adults between June 7 and 9 found that if Boris Johnson were Tory leader, 24% would vote Conservative - nine per cent ahead of Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab.

The poll also found that under this hypothetical Johnson leadership, the Brexit Party vote share drops from between 12% to 14% under other candidates, to 9%.

The figures have spurred speculation that the candidate, who has gathered the support of 64 MPs, is the only person who can see off the Brexit Party threat.

The poll also found that 27% of respondents felt Johnson has what it takes to be a good prime minister, 13 points ahead of his nearest rival, Jeremy Hunt.

Crunching the numbers, Sky News has projected that a Johnson leadership would give the Tories a general election with with a majority of 140 seats.

But academics and professional pollsters have warned against taking too much from the poll.

"Making any decisions based on polling about a hypothetical general election with a hypothetical party leader and then trying to translate that to seats incorporating a new party into the equation with nearly a quarter of the vote would be ... Brave," said Deltapoll founder and former YouGov pollster Joe Twyman on Twitter.

Manchester University politics professor devoted a thread to breaking down "a number of obvious methodological problems" with the poll, calling it "badly designed".

In the thread, he elaborates on several assumptions that the poll has made.

He starts by pointing out the poll assumes both the candidates and their political positions are equally well-known by the respondents.

In addition, "The poll assumes voters are good at predicting their own behaviour in a hypothetical situation," he said. "They really aren't. There is a lot of good evidence on that."

It's "uttlerly nuts" to assume people can predict, after the year in politics we've had, their future reaction to the unknown impact of a new prime minister on the political context.

He also warned against the electoral maths being done on seat changes, suggesting it's simply not possible to translate votes into seats with the shifting party landscape.

"There's nowt wrong with the fieldwork or representativeness of this poll," he said. "It's just badly designed, pretending to give info that its simply not possible for a poll to give."

Johnson's campaign launch coincides with the poll results.

Although the Telegraph employs Johnson as a columnist, the poll conducted by ComRes was weighted to represent all British adults.

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