One of Britain’s leading pollsters has written to the Prime Minister to rebuke him for misleading his supporters over whether the Conservative Party would suffer in the polls if they legislated on gay marriage. The Spectator has seen an incredible exchange of letters between the Prime Minister, the former Welsh Secretary, Cheryl Gillan, and Andrew Hawkins, the CEO of the polling company ComRes.

Since being sacked in September, Gillan has become one of the Prime Minister’s more vocal critics and recently slammed the government’s gay marriage proposals. Responding to Gillan in a letter that was then leaked to the Pink News, David Cameron relied heavily on polling data from ComRes to claim that legalising gay marriage would make more people vote Conservative.

However, Hawkins has now accused the Prime Minister of misinterpreting his polling data and thus misleading the public:

‘Your letter of 19 October 2012 to The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP states that “a recent poll by ComRes found that 10 percent of current Conservative voters say that the policy [to legalise same-sex marriage] would make them ‘less likely to vote Consen/ative’ compared with 7 percent saying it would make them ‘more likely to vote Conservative’.

I should like to put the record straight because the wrong figures have been quoted. Your figures relate to whether current Conservative voters are more likely to vote Labour, not Conservative, as a result of the policy. The correct figures are that 19 percent (of current Conservative voters) are more likely to vote Conservative, while 11 percent are less likely to do so.’

However, this is to miss the more important point from the poll which shows both that the party loses more votes than it gains as a result of the policy, and that former Conservative voters are especially less likely to return to the fold.’

Hawkins went on to say that other ComRes polling, conveniently ignored by Downing Street in their response to Gillan, shows ‘the general detrimental impact on the Party’s fortunes’ if the gay marriage policy is pursued.

Hawkins concludes that ‘your letter states that “all of the published polls have found that more voters support equal civil marriage – however described – than oppose it”. That is simply not the case.’

Given Cameron’s reliance on his own internal pollster, Andrew Cooper, Mr Steerpike would be fascinated to see if the Tories’ polling is showing similar warning signs over the policy. With the growing likelihood that this could be a one term government, it is widely believed in Westminster that the gay marriage issue is seen as ‘a legacy policy’ in case the election is lost.

Cameron concluded his own letter stating: ‘I know that it is very doubtful that any of this information will change anyone’s mind.’ Given the voodoo numbers, Mr Steerpike shares Dave’s doubt.

UPDATE: Some ComRes polling is here (pdf). Mr Steerpike tips his hat to Harry Phibbs.

Tags: Andrew Cooper, Cheryl Gillan, Conservatives, David Cameron, Gay Marriage, Polls