It’s no secret that the polls do not look good for the Prime Minister at the moment.
The most recent Ipsos Mori political monitor, released this week, shows that seven in ten Britons are now dissatisfied with the job Boris Johnson is doing. The PM’s numbers now are similar to Theresa May’s just before she left office in 2019, Tony Blair’s in January 2007 and the types of figures registered by Gordon Brown throughout 2008 and 2009. In this context, some six in ten Britons think the Conservatives should change their leader before the next general election (up from 42 per cent last July), including more than one in three Conservative voters.
Johnson’s struggles appear to be having a real impact on wider public perceptions of the Conservatives too. Our polling shows that hostility towards the party has been steadily rising since last May, with 52 per cent of people now viewing the Conservatives unfavourably. Meanwhile, Labour have opened a nine-point lead over the Conservatives in terms of voter preferences.
Looking deeper, the public appear to trust Labour significantly more than the Conservatives across a host of key issues. It may not surprise you to know that the public trust Labour to ‘improve the NHS’ over the Conservatives by a margin of 45 to 18 per cent. The NHS is traditionally seen as something of a ‘brand strength’ for Labour. However, it ought to worry the Conservatives that Labour is more trusted on other key issues of the day as well.
For example, Labour is more trusted than the Conservatives on ‘reducing you and your family’s cost of living’ by 38 to 21 per cent and on ‘reducing regional inequalities / “levelling-up”’ by a sizeable 30-point margin.
Meanwhile, our polling has previously shown that 2019 Conservative voters are frustrated with the party’s policies on immigration too. This is not to say that Conservative voters will flock to Labour over the issue of immigration – far from it. However, the Tories should be seen as politically vulnerable if the opposition are leading on key issues such as the NHS, the cost of living and ‘levelling-up’ at the same time as their own voters are unhappy about the party’s performance on issues that typically matter to them.
Taking all these numbers together, it is perhaps no surprise that a majority of the public (56 per cent) disagree that the current Conservative government deserves to be re-elected – up ten points from last September.
Of course, we should be careful not to over-interpret the polls today in terms of what they might mean for tomorrow, or indeed a future general election. The next general election is likely years away and Labour is starting from a long way behind the Tories. Dissatisfaction with the government itself is not unusually high and we also know that public opinion can be volatile. For example, just last August the Conservatives were 11-points ahead according to Ipsos Mori polling, yet now they are nine points behind. Even now, the Tories retain a six point lead over Labour in terms of being trusted to ‘grow the economy’ (37 to 31 per cent); often viewed as something of a barometer for overall competence.
The public also remain divided over whether Labour is ‘ready for government’. Thirty-eight per cent agree that the opposition is ready and 40 per cent disagree. Although it should be said that these numbers are some of the most positive that Labour have registered since losing office in 2010, they are not yet at the heights registered under Tony Blair in the 1990s, or by David Cameron’s Conservatives when they were in opposition.
The challenges for the Conservatives are stark. The current Prime Minister is unpopular and registering satisfaction ratings comparable to some of his predecessors at their lowest ebb. Labour is ahead in the polls and more trusted than the Conservatives today on a host of key issues. Meanwhile the next general election, when it comes, will not be fought on ‘getting Brexit done’ or on keeping Jeremy Corbyn out of Downing Street. Things can change and there is a long way to go but right now the Conservatives should not underestimate the position they are in.
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