Only one in five people believe Ed Miliband has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, according to a poll for i which highlights the mountain the Labour leader has to climb.
ComRes found that almost twice as many people think David Cameron has the qualities to be a good Prime Minister, and that the Conservatives are more trusted on the economy than Labour, despite the slide back into recession.
In a highly personal speech to the Labour conference today, Mr Miliband will contrast his education at a London comprehensive school with the privileged background of Mr Cameron, who went to Eton. "My family hasn't sat under the same oak tree for the last 500 years," he will say.
But according to ComRes, only 22 per cent of people believe Mr Miliband has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, while 63 per cent do not. Labour supporters are split about his ability to lead the nation. Some 44 per cent think that he has what it takes, but 42 per cent do not.
Although a majority of people (52 per cent) do not believe Mr Cameron has what it takes to be a good premier, 39 per cent do – a much higher rating than Mr Miliband's. Four in five Conservative voters (81 per cent) agree that Mr Cameron "has what it takes", compared with 41 per cent of Liberal Democrat supporters and 21 per cent of Labour voters.
The findings show why Labour decided to use its conference to tackle Mr Miliband's credibility gap as a potential prime minister. Last night his aides insisted he is unknown rather than disliked, and pointed to recent surveys showing his net approval rating is now higher than Mr Cameron's. They said prime ministers often outscored opposition leaders because they were already doing the job.
However, only 24 per cent of people say they trust Mr Miliband and the shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, to make the right decisions on the economy, while 64 per cent do not. The figures are little changed since January.
Labour's seven-point lead in the last ComRes survey for i a month ago has dropped to three points. The Liberal Democrats appear to have secured a bounce after their autumn conference. Labour is now on 38 per cent (down four), the Conservatives are on 35 per cent (no change), the Liberal Democrats are on 15 per cent (up three), and other parties are on 12 per cent.