Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest voting intention poll of 2,500 respondents in Great Britain finds the Conservatives and Labour tied at 40% support. Significantly, after 22 consecutive national polls showing Labour trailing, this poll is the first we have conducted in which the Conservative Party does not lead. Our latest poll is also the first instance where Labour has polled 40%. The full numbers (with changes from 15-16 September in parentheses) are as follows:
Conservative 40% (-1)
Labour 40% (+1)
Liberal Democrat 7% (-1)
Scottish National Party 4% (-1)
Green 5% (–)
Plaid Cymru 0% (–)
Other 4% (+1)
Notably, in this poll, Labour has been able to win back many of its 2019 voters (85%), while a significant portion of 2019 Conservative voters selected ‘don’t know’ (14%). A small subset of 2019 Conservative voters say they would vote Labour (6%), while only 2% of 2019 Labour voters say they would switch to the Conservatives at this moment. Although the subsample size is small (n = 198), Labour also appears to be winning a significant portion of 2019 Liberal Democrat voters (23%), compared to the Conservatives gaining just 7% of this group.
As such, the decline in the Conservatives’ lead is not as much a case of many of its 2019 voters switching to the Labour party, at least not yet. Rather, a sizable portion of its recent voters simply say they do not know how they would vote if there were to be a General Election in the near future. As we have written in recent weeks and write throughout this piece, the British public is becoming increasing pessimistic regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and this pessimism appears to translate into a growing decline in confidence that this Conservative Government can take the appropriate measures to curb the virus, a decline which began in May.
This week, 61% said they would be certain to vote in the event of a General Election in the near future, a narrow decline of two percent from last week but broadly in line with results over recent months. It is worth noting that without incorporating respondents’ stated likelihood to vote, Labour would in fact be leading by 1% (i.e. more respondents who selected they were voting Conservative expressed a greater likelihood to vote). As you can see by clicking the chart below, 71% of 2019 Conservative voters said they would be certain to vote against 65% of 2019 Labour voters saying the same for themselves.
Last week, we recorded Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s net approval rating falling below zero for the first time since his peak of +44% in April, when members of the public rallied around their Government and, indeed, when the Prime Minister himself nearly died. This week, Boris Johnson’s net approval rating has declined by a further four points, and now stands at -7%. Overall, 37% approve and 44% disapprove of the Prime Minister’s overall job performance.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer maintains a +15% net approval rating for the third poll in a row, with 38% approving and 23% disapproving of his overall job performance since becoming Leader of the Labour Party. A considerable proportion of respondents continue to remain undecided on the performance of the Labour leader: a third (33%) neither approve nor disapprove of the Labour leader’s tenure to date. This neutrality suggests that the broader public is not fully aware of what Keir Starmer has to offer them, and it is likely to be a key explanation for why many of those 2019 Conservative voters who do not have confidence in this Government selected ‘don’t know’ instead of ‘Labour’ to our voting intention question.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also sees no change to his approval rating, which remains at net +33%. Currently, 50% approve and 17% disapprove of his Rishi Sunak’s job performance since he became Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Despite Labour’s notable gains on the Conservatives, and Keir Starmer enjoying an approval rating over 20 points higher than Boris Johnson, a plurality (42%) of the British public believe that Boris Johnson would be the better Prime Minister for the United Kingdom rather than Keir Starmer (36%).
For the first time in 13 polls, Rishi Sunak has pulled ahead of Boris Johnson when voters are asked which individual would be the better Prime Minister for the United Kingdom. Currently, 37% of the British public believe the Chancellor would be the better Prime Minister for the UK, while 34% say the incumbent would be. However, it must be noted that Boris Johnson leads 57% to 29% among those who voted Conservative in December 2019.
Moreover, Rishi Sunak continues to enjoy an 8% lead over Keir Starmer as the public’s preference for Prime Minister, although this margin is 5 points lower than the start of this month. At this stage, 41% favour the Chancellor and 33% opt for the Labour leader. A further 26% don’t know. Notably, 21% of those who currently intend to vote for Labour in the next general election would prefer Rishi Sunak becoming Prime Minister over Keir Starmer.
The Conservatives’ reduced lead may reflect the increasing proportion of the public which believes the party has been incompetent in government. At this stage, a strong plurality of respondents (47%) view the current Government as incompetent, while only around a quarter (24%) believe it is competent. Notably, 23% of 2019 Conservative voters view the current Government as incompetent.
A key reason why there is increasingly less confidence in this Government is the coronavirus pandemic. Altogether, a third of the public agreed and a third disagreed with a statement suggesting that the coronavirus crisis is likely to be over this time next year. This result is a decline in optimism since our first poll in September, when 37% agreed and 29% disagreed with this statement.
Altogether, Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ latest poll presents multiple significant findings. In particular, as pessimism regarding the coronavirus pandemic increases, we now see, for the first time since our team started tracking voting intention in February, the Conservatives no longer holding a lead over Labour. Moreover, in another novel result, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has overtaken Boris Johnson as the preferred Prime Minister. Indeed, Boris Johnson’s approval rating has dropped to its lowest level recorded thus far. Conservative supporters and officials will be reassured, to an extent, by the fact that Rishi Sunak continues to be viewed positively, while both the Chancellor and Boris Johnson continue to be preferred to Keir Starmer as Prime Minister, despite the Labour leader’s high approval ratings.