Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, voters in London were due to go to the ballot box in May 2020 to elect the London Mayor and London Assembly members. In February, polling conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies indicated that the Labour Party candidate and current office-holder, Sadiq Khan, commanded a strong lead in the race for Mayor.

Now, ahead of the re-arranged London Mayoral Election scheduled to take place in May 2021, our latest voting intention poll of 2,500 Londoners has found Sadiq Khan leading by 23% in the first preference vote.

Nearly half (49%) of Londoners currently intend to vote for Khan as their first preference, while 26% state that they will vote for Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate.

A near equal proportion of voters in Inner London (48%) and Outer London (49%) intend to vote for Khan next May. Khan also polls well with younger voters: 65% of 18-to-24-year olds, 60% of 25-to-34-year olds and 52% of 35-to-44-year olds believe they will vote for the Labour Party candidate next year. Moreover, 13% of those who voted for the Conservatives in the 2019 General Election, and 23% of those who voted for the Liberal Democrats last December, will vote for Khan in May 2021.

Currently, 12% of Londoners believe they will vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate, despite the party’s previous candidate quitting the race. The Green Party candidate Sian Berry is currently polling at 9%.

In London Mayoral elections, if no candidate receives an overall majority of first preference votes, the top two candidates proceed to a second round and all other candidates are eliminated. Voters whose first preference candidates have been eliminated and whose second preference candidate is in the top two have their second preference votes added to the count.

Among those who currently intend to vote for one of the minor parties (Liberal Democrats, Green Party, or another candidate), yet have one of the major party candidates as a second preference, 61% have Sadiq Khan as a second preference vote, while 39% have Shaun Bailey as a second preference vote. At this stage, when second preference votes from smaller parties are counted, Khan would achieve a fairly convincing victory.

A significant proportion of Londoners will vote for minor parties with their second preference. A plurality (31%) believe they will select Sian Berry – the Green Party candidate, while over a quarter (27%) think they will opt for a Liberal Democrat candidate with their second preference.

In terms of likelihood to vote, half (50%) of Londoners say they are certain to vote in the Mayoral Election, while a further 21% will probably vote. 10% of the electorate consider that they are leaning towards voting but might not vote, with 8% leaning towards not voting yet could vote. At this stage, 7% probably will not vote and 4% definitely will not vote.

Overall, 43% of those polled believe Sadiq Khan is most likely to win in May 2021, while 22% consider that Shaun Bailey is most likely to be victorious. A significant minority (23%) don’t know who is most likely to win the next Mayoral Election.

Sadiq Khan’s approval rating stands at a net +20%, with 46% saying they approve of his job performance since becoming Mayor and 26% saying they disapprove. A quarter (25%) neither approve nor disapprove of Khan’s performance, while 4% don’t know.

Voters are strongly divided on which policy issue will be the most likely to determine how they vote in the upcoming mayoral election. A slight plurality (20%) consider that the economic growth of the capital will be the defining issue in deciding their vote.

A plurality (28%) of those intending to vote for Shaun Bailey next May believe economic growth is the key issue, while over a fifth (21%) consider that policing is central to their vote. Although a significant minority (18%) of likely Khan voters believe economic growth is most important, a slight plurality (20%) think that housing is the issue most likely to determine how they vote next year. Only 5% of likely Khan voters are primarily concerned about policing.

A plurality (35%) of Londoners are satisfied with the Mayor’s policies aimed at reducing crime, yet a significant minority (29%) are dissatisfied. There is a clear partisan dimension in responses to this question ­– of those who intend to vote for Shaun Bailey as their first preference in the Mayoral Election, a majority (52%) are dissatisfied with the Mayor’s crime policy, yet a majority (51%) of those intending to vote for Khan’s re-election in 2021 are satisfied with his actions aimed at reducing crime. Overall, Londoners are strongly divided on the current Mayor’s policies aimed at reducing crime.

When presented with a range of areas, a plurality (32%) ‘don’t know’ which has improved most with Sadiq Khan as mayor. 28% of the London public consider that transport has improved most with Sadiq Khan as Mayor, while 10% believe the environmental situation has most improved under Khan’s Mayoralty.

A slight plurality (23%) think that ‘policing’ is the area which has least improved (or even worsened) with Sadiq Khan as mayor. A further 14% believe that the housing situation in London has improved least, or even worsened, since 2016.

When he ran for Mayor in 2008, Boris Johnson was a recognisable and already distinguishably unconventional public figure. By contrast, Shaun Bailey, a former Government adviser and London Assembly member, is the Conservative Party candidate for the 2021 Mayoral Election. At this stage, 55% of Londoners have heard of Shaun Bailey, although our presentation of a voting intention question earlier in our survey, which included Bailey as an option, may have affected this result. A significant minority (37%) of the London public have not heard of Shaun Bailey.

Less than half of those aged 18 to 24 (39%), 25 to 34 (45%) and 35 to 44 (48%) have heard of Shaun Bailey. Moreover, a quarter (25%) of Londoners who voted for the Conservative party at the 2019 General Election do not know who Bailey is, which underlines that his campaign has been unable to gain traction in some parts of the party’s base, as well as the wider public. The party has recognised that Bailey has struggled to publicise his candidacy to the city and have therefore decided to rebrand his campaign around the slogan “Shaun Bailey for a more equal London.” 

Since launching his candidacy 2018, Bailey has primarily focused on law and order issues, yet he has recently stated that the campaign will increasingly highlight London’s inequalities. Bailey’s attempt to change his campaign narrative may succeed to an extent, given that a plurality (39%) of the London public currently ‘know nothing’ about what he stands for. Only a fifth (20%) of Londoners say they ‘know many policies’ or ‘know everything’ about the Conservative candidate.

Some prominent Conservatives have reportedly called for Bailey to be replaced as the party’s mayoral candidate. Overall, a plurality (37%) don’t know if changing candidates would improve the Conservatives chances next May. Almost a third (32%) of Londoners consider that the Conservative Party would not stand a better chance at winning in the London Mayoral election with a different candidate, yet a significant minority (30%) think the party would stand a better chance with someone different.

Notably, a plurality (37%) who currently intend to vote for Bailey in the election believe the Conservatives would have a better chance with someone else. In addition, 36% of Londoners who voted Conservative in the 2019 General Election would favour a swap. Although many Conservative supporters believe the party should replace Bailey, who such a candidate would be remains unclear.

Overall, the current Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, continues to enjoy a commanding lead ahead of the London Mayoral Elections in May 2021. Khan’s lead is only further strengthened when second preference votes are considered, with many Liberal Democrats and Green voters considering Khan a more preferable candidate than his Conservative opponent, Shaun Bailey. Voters are split on which is the most important issue in the election, yet many Londoners consider that Khan’s administration has made improvements in regard to transport and the environment. While the Conservative campaign has until this point focused on Khan’s record on law and order issues, a small plurality of Londoners appear satisfied with the Mayor’s crime-reduction policies.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

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