With their success in May’s local elections in England and Wales, the Conservative Party appears in a strong position as the country prepares for the final easing of lockdown measures on 19 July. The latest polling by Redfield & Wilton Strategies—which took place before the media reporting leading up to the resignation of UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week—surveys Britons who voted Conservative at the 2019 General Election, finding widespread support both for Boris Johnson’s leadership and for the Conservative Party’s position and performance on key policy areas. Interestingly, our research also reveals that a substantial proportion of Conservative voters say they would support Boris Johnson being replaced by the next election.
A sizeable majority (73%) of 2019 Conservative voters think that Boris Johnson is the right leader for the Conservative Party at this point in time, whereas 18% think he is not the right leader, and a further 9% are unsure. This support for Johnson’s leadership is reflected in broad confidence in the likelihood of his re-election among Conservative voters: 69% find the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson capable of winning the 2024 General Election—a slight, marginal decrease from 73% in early April—compared to 14% who think the Party would be incapable of doing so under Johnson, and 18% who don’t know.
Fascinatingly, amid this general approval for the Prime Minister’s leadership, a plurality (42%) of Conservative voters say they would support Boris Johnson being replaced as Leader of the Conservative Party before the next General Election in 2024. In fact, around a fifth of respondents (18%) say they would support such a replacement strongly. Furthermore, the proportion of those who would neither support nor oppose this prospect (28%) marginally outnumbers those who would oppose it (26%), suggesting that Conservative voters with staunch loyalty to Boris Johnson as Party Leader are in the minority.
This support for replacing Johnson is largely driven by young 2019 Conservative voters. A clear majority (69%) of 18-to-24-year-olds say they would support him being replaced, while only 32% of those aged 65 and over share this position.
Significantly, these levels of support among Conservative voters for replacing Boris Johnson as Party Leader are almost identical to those among 2019 Labour voters for the same proposition. A plurality of 44% of Labour voters would support Boris Johnson being replaced as Leader of the Conservative Party before the next General Election in 2024, again with around one fifth (18%) saying they would support this prospect strongly.
To an extent, it would seem that Boris Johnson’s Party leadership is not a particularly decisive factor in ensuring voter support. The majority of Conservative voters (58%) say they would be no more nor less likely to vote Conservative at the next election if the Party were to have a different leader. Nevertheless, those who do feel they would be more likely to vote Conservative with a different leader (26%) significantly outnumber those who feel they would be less likely to do so (10%).
Beyond questions of party leadership, the Conservative Party enjoys broad support from its voter base across a range of policy positions. Overall, a majority (69%) of respondents agree that the Conservatives have the ideas and policies the country needs, whereas only 11% disagree and 17% are unsure.
When it comes to assessing the Conservative Party’s performance in specific policy areas, it appears that voters are most impressed with their health and economic management: solid majorities approve of the Party’s position and performance on the coronavirus pandemic (65%), the economy (65%), and the NHS (61%).
With a plurality (19%) of 2019 Conservative voters identifying the economy as the issue which would most determine how they would vote in a General Election in the near future—followed by 14% who identify healthcare—these findings suggest that the Conservative Party is delivering in the areas most likely to secure re-election.
Furthermore, around half of Conservative voters approve of the Conservative Party’s position and performance on Scotland (52%), foreign policy (51%), and environmental policy (49%).
Meanwhile, pluralities express their approval regarding the Conservative Party’s position and performance on crime and policing (48%) and cultural issues (42%), with the lowest levels of approval—though still a decisive plurality—existing for the Party’s stance and performance on housing (40%). The relative lack of approval for the Conservatives’ housing policies is in large part driven by 35-to-44-year-olds and those aged 65 and over, just 34% and 36% of whom, respectively, say they approve of the Party’s performance in this regard. Younger Conservative voters aged 25 to 34, by contrast, are much more approving of the Conservative Party’s performance on housing, at 53%.
Interestingly, though a plurality (42%) approves of the Conservative Party’s position and performance on immigration, a considerable proportion (26%) of Conservative voters disapprove of the Party’s stance on this issue, suggesting that immigration is an especially contentious area of policy. This contention exists to varying degrees among the age groups, as respondents aged 35 to 44 (30%) are the least likely to approve of the Conservative Party’s position on immigration, compared to 47% of 25-to-34-year-olds, 48% of 45-to-54-year-olds, and 49% of 55-to-64-year-olds.
Broadly, the Conservative Party’s popularity among its 2019 voter base is unmistakable: the Party’s current performance and policy platform enjoy widespread approval, with clear majorities of 2019 Conservative voters holding favourable views toward the Conservatives’ performance in government. A considerable 87% of Conservative voters also say they are happy with how they voted in 2019 and would not change their vote if given the opportunity to go back in time. Still, 8% say they are unhappy and would change their vote, and despite relatively high levels of confidence in Boris Johnson being the right Party Leader and capable of leading the Tories to election victory in 2024, a plurality of Conservative voters would nevertheless support replacing him before the next General Election.