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Nick Clegg wins on performance, not policy

Stephan Shakespeare
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THE question in everyone’s mind: will the Nick Clegg bounce last? Will we get a hung parliament? Is this the start of a new politics or a fun moment before we return to politics-as-usual?

Let’s look at a new kind of data to see if it suggests anything about Clegg’s strengths and vulnerabilities, from our new crunchable data engine “TellYouGov”.

Like other forms of opinion research, this has seen Nick Clegg’s stock soar since the first live debate last Thursday. However, unlike regular polls, TellYouGov allows respondents to use their own words about any topic they choose, and so we can drill deeper into what the electorate is thinking in its own terms.

Since the debate, Nick Clegg alone has been the subject of more than 3,000 “tygs” (“tellyougovs” – spontaneously offered opinions from our panel), far more than his opponents. The overwhelming majority of these have been positive, (while the others have been strongly negative). One tygger commented that Clegg “definitely won the live debate, Brown and Cameron looked like squabbling children”, and others were ready to switch their allegiance – “A bright light in a dirty world (and that is coming from a normally true blue!)”. The highest positivity was in relation to the word “performance”.

But when we analysed the sentiments which referred to Nick Clegg and included the keyword “policy” in the same comment, tyggers were more negative than positive. Many were wary that policy may be forced into the shadows by a strong TV debate performance. Typical was the claim that Clegg “looked good during the TV debate but the Libdem policies don’t stand up to scrutiny”.

Others were more prepared to give their ready support to Clegg when it comes to his policies, with tygs describing his policies as “interesting” and “innovative ideas”.

Stephan Shakespeare is co-founder and co-chief executive of YouGov