Written By Philip van Scheltinga

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Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! Each week, Magnified delivers insights and analysis straight to your inbox, allowing you to stay up to date on what the public thinks about the most important issues of the day. Keep reading for the latest updates on our weekly trackers, as well as our national and international polls. Today, we also take an in-depth look at how public demand for Government action on the coronavirus pandemic squares up to Britons’ individual behaviour.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Rishi Sunak’s Budget Gamble
  • Americans’ views on voter ID laws
  • Views on the impartiality of the BBC

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention
(1 Nov):

Conservative 40% (+1)
Labour 35% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 10% (–)
Green 6% (–)
Scottish National Party 4% (–)
Reform UK 3% (-1)
Other 2% (+1)

Changes +/- 25 Oct

All Net Approval Ratings
(1 Nov):

Rishi Sunak: +14% (-4)
Boris Johnson: -6% (-3)
Keir Starmer: -8% (+2)

Changes +/- 25 Oct

Our latest Voting Intention poll gives the Conservatives a five-point lead over Labour, with 40% (+1) of voters saying they would vote for the Conservative Party if an election were to be held tomorrow. This week’s poll finds the Government’s net competency rating at -12% (+1), while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s net approval rating has declined somewhat to -6% (-3).

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s net approval rating, which now stands at +14% (-4), has also declined slightly following last week’s Budget—one that, with its plans for more spending on public services largely financed by tax rises, increases in Universal Credit for those in paid work, and an increase of the national living wage, is more reminiscent of budgets delivered by Gordon Brown than George Osborne, as the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ Director Paul Johnson remarks.

“An economy fit for a new age of optimism”—such was the tagline the Chancellor chose to accompany his outline of the Government’s tax and spending plans for the year ahead. The public, however, is in a different mood. While 31% of Britons say they are optimistic about the general direction in which the UK is heading, 41% say they are pessimistic, including 19% who are very pessimistic.

To be sure, optimism among 2019 Conservative voters and thus the Chancellor’s key target audience is significantly higher, at 51%. But the Chancellor nevertheless faces the challenge of making his overall promise of “an economy of higher wages, higher skills, and rising productivity of strong public services, vibrant communities, and safer streets” credible to majorities of Britons.

Above all, Sunak’s most recent budget is a clear attempt by the Conservatives to challenge Labour’s strong points head on. By claiming that the Conservatives are “the real party of public services,” the Chancellor and his Party are attempting to prevent Labour from reasserting itself nationally through its heretofore established policy areas.

Such areas are ones in which pluralities of Britons currently trust Labour more than the Conservatives. When it comes to social services, for example, 35% trust Labour most to tackle poverty, compared to just 21% who trust the Conservatives most in this area. 36% of Britons also trust the Labour Party most to support the NHS, compared to 28% who trust the Conservative Party most, and 34% trust the Labour Party most on education, while 25% trust the Conservative Party most in this area.

The promise to make streets safer, by comparison, may be one of the easier ones to imbue with credibility: A plurality of Britons trust the Conservative Party more than the Labour Party to tackle crime (30% to 27%). This area, unlike others, is where Conservatives are playing to their traditional strengths. When it comes to the remaining aspects of Sunak’s vision, however, he is setting himself up for a formidable challenge.

If the Conservative Party succeeds in delivering improvements in these areas that are tangible to Britons, the Labour Party will find itself in an even tougher spot than it already does, with its political capital becoming more and more limited by a Government that, in its approach to spending and taxation, is decidedly taking on positions that Labour used to hold.

On the other hand, by not playing to its strengths, the Conservative Party risks taking for granted and endangering its reputation on the economy. In this domain, the Conservatives still have a relatively strong lead of 35% to Labour’s 28%. Yet, due to recent supply chain issues and petrol shortages, this lead has become noticeably narrower since June, the last time the Conservatives had attained the trust of more than 40% of the public on the economy. In the face of the present economic problems, losing sight of this key pillar of the Conservative platform would be a major blunder Sunak and the Conservatives cannot afford to make.

Charts of the Week

Americans’ Views on Mandatory Voter ID Laws

60% of American voters overall say they would support the introduction of mandatory voter ID laws for all national and state-wide elections. Support is particularly heightened among 2020 Donald Trump voters, 81% of whom express their support—including 61% who voice their strong support. 2020 Joe Biden voters are somewhat less enthusiastic, though a considerable 48% still say they would support the introduction of mandatory voter ID laws for all national and state-wide elections.

Opposition to voter ID laws is minimal among Republicans, with only 5% of 2020 Trump voters saying they would oppose their introduction. Among 2020 Biden voters, on the other hand, opposition rises to 22%.

In line with more favourable views on voter ID laws in general, 2020 Trump voters are particularly inclined to say they would be more likely to vote for a political candidate at an election if that candidate advanced the cause of mandatory voter ID (70%). Only 4% of these voters would be less likely to support a candidate with such an agenda. Among 2020 Biden voters, views are somewhat more split—perhaps due to the association of voter ID laws with voter suppression among this demographic. While 36% of 2020 Biden voters would be more likely to vote for a candidate who advances the cause of mandatory voter ID, 22% would conversely be less likely to vote for such a candidate.

Looking towards next year’s Midterm Elections, making stricter voter ID laws part of their platforms thus will be a key promise for Republican candidates, especially as election integrity remains a major issue for their voters. For Democratic candidates, the issue is not quite as straightforward but may still represent an opportunity rather than a threat. Given that support is strong among right-leaning voters and support outnumbers opposition among left-leaning ones, the Democratic Party could adopt a pro-voter ID stance and show that they are equally serious about the issue of election integrity with a view towards negating this motivating issue for Republican voters and appealing towards middle-of-the-road voters.

Our Global Data

Great Britain: Younger Britons are the most likely to spend money on take-away and restaurant food and drinks. In the past week, 55% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 62% of 25-to-34-year-olds reported spending between £1 and £100 on take-away and restaurant food and drinks, compared to 33% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 24% of Britons aged 65 and above who spent this amount.

Great Britain: Despite the general trend of increased online shopping—which has been further accelerated by the pandemic—Britons continue to prefer making high-value purchases in person. Among those who have made a purchase exceeding a value of £1,000 in the past week, nearly half (48%) made said purchase in person, while 34% made it online and 12% over the telephone.

United States: When Americans are asked which party they trust most on the environment, 78% of 2020 Joe Biden voters select the Democratic Party, whereas a still significant but noticeably lower 58% of 2020 Donald Trump voters select the Republican Party—perhaps suggesting doubts among a proportion of Republican voters in the ability of their preferred party to effectively deal with environmental issues.

United States: 31% of Americans think it is likely a military conflict between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China will occur in the next year, compared to 16% who judge this prospect unlikely. Over the longer term of the next ten years, 43% think a military conflict between the two sides is likely, while only 6% think it is unlikely.

Hire Us: If you are a business, campaign, or research organisation looking to expand your understanding of public opinion, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has the tools to help. Get in touch to find out more.

Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis

Coronavirus Restrictions: Why Current Disapproval of the Government’s Handling of the Pandemic Is Not Enough to Make the Government Change Course

In late October, daily coronavirus cases rose above 50,000 in the UK for the first time since July. While recognising that infections were high, Prime Minister Boris Johnson maintained that cases remained within the parameters of what was predicted. Health Secretary Sajid Javid echoed this assessment and warned daily cases could potentially even reach 100,000 over the coming months. Amidst this latest development, the Government unitedly rejected calls for coronavirus restrictions to be re-introduced.

The Government’s decision to stick with plan A—that is, to rely on high vaccination rates and booster shots to keep cases, hospitalisations, and deaths under control over the autumn and winter months—has not gone uncriticised. The British Medical Association, for instance, described the Government’s inaction at this point in time as “wilfully negligent,” and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) highlighted that “earlier intervention would reduce the need for more stringent, disruptive, and longer-lasting measures.”

Such warnings may be striking a chord with the British public. As we noted in last week’s issue of Magnified, there has been a considerable increase in the number of Britons who think the Government is not taking the right measures to address the pandemic. At the moment, 46% adopt this view, compared to 38% who think the Government is taking the right measures and 16% who don’t know.

The public’s views on this matter have varied significantly over the past year, as the graph below shows. With the UK’s second national lockdown coming into force in November 2020, previously dominantly negative public opinion on the Government’s measures regarding the pandemic began to change, and with the introduction of a third national lockdown in January, those who thought the Government was taking the right measures to address the pandemic started outnumbering those who thought otherwise. With the combined effect of this strict third lockdown and the increasing success of the vaccine rollout on case numbers, public approval of the Government’s approach continued to rise, reaching a peak in May 2021, when 61% thought the Government was taking the right measures to address the coronavirus pandemic and only 25% thought it was not.

The emergence of the Delta variant caused a short-term panic, leading to a temporary spike in negative views of the Government’s actions that then reversed when it became clear that hospitalisations would not rise as dramatically as seen in the winter surge. The latest rise in negative views—which may already be lessening again—may be reflective of a similar short-term panic in the face of rising case numbers.

Nevertheless, dissatisfaction with the Government’s measures regarding the pandemic currently remains high, and Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have remained negative since the earlier surge in cases this summer, suggesting, on the surface, that a significant proportion of Britons want the Government to act differently and re-introduce coronavirus restrictions. Compared to the 47% who say the current approach is about right and the 9% who say it is too strict, a sizable 44% say the current approach to the coronavirus pandemic is too relaxed. Such individuals may prefer the Government’s “Plan B,” for instance, which would involve vaccine passports, compulsory face mask wearing, and increased working from home again.

In the meantime, many Britons have returned to a more familiar way of life. Even without the active use of vaccine passports, for example, majorities already say they feel safe eating at a restaurant or drinking at a pub inside (58%) or doing so outside (68%). Strong majorities further feel safe engaging in other activities of daily life, such as food shopping (74%), going to work (63%), and visiting a friend’s house (63%).

Mask wearing has also declined. In February, a peak of 83% of respondents said they were ‘always’ wearing a mask when shopping for food at the supermarket. At present, 54% say they ‘always’ wear a mask when going to the supermarket, though the actual proportion of customers wearing a mask may be lower at any given supermarket, not least because those not wearing masks may have fewer inhibitions about going to supermarkets more frequently.

There thus appears to be somewhat of a mismatch between Britons’ calls for Government action and their behaviour at an individual level. The Government not re-introducing social distancing measures, for instance, does not preclude individuals from taking such measures on their own accord. Yet, as feelings of safety demonstrate, majorities feel no such need for taking stronger protective measures at an individual level, be it wearing masks more often or avoiding crowded indoor locations such as restaurants or pubs.

Simply put, coronavirus vaccines have (rightfully) removed fear of coronavirus for a substantial proportion the public. With Britons having lived with the pandemic for the better part of two years now, there is also only so much energy and attention people can devote to actively feeling anxious on the back of this vaccine success. Britons do not deny the potential threat coronavirus poses, as is visible from their willingness to support stricter measures if if the Government deems such measures necessary. But the pandemic has also lost some of its urgency for Britons, as is clearly visible from their behaviour in practice. If hospitalisations remain relatively low (as we all hope!), the Government’s coronavirus approach will have the broad support of the public even as cases rise.

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

BBC unveils ‘significant’ 10-point impartiality plan
BBC | 30 October 2021

Our take: In a move intended to challenge claims of bias, the BBC has published a 10-point Impartiality and Editorial Standards action plan that includes regular reviews of content, increased transparency, and a new editorial whistleblowing policy. According to the BBC’s Director General Tim Davie, this new plan—which has been informed by a review into the BBC’s editorial processes—aims to safeguard the BBC’s editorial values of impartiality and accuracy. The need for Britain’s public broadcaster to act is reflected in public opinion: While 43% of Britons think the BBC has succeeded at being impartial in the past year, a similar proportion of 39% think it has failed—resulting in mixed evaluations of the BBC’s performance regarding the mission of television news broadcasters to be impartial. Even so, overall opinions on the BBC remain more positive than negative, as 38% of Britons have a favourable view of the public broadcaster, compared to 29% who have an unfavourable view and 30% who are neutral.

Climate change could bring near-unliveable conditions for 3bn people, say scientists
Financial Times | 1 November 2021

Our take: New research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America suggests that by 2070, 3bn out of the world’s projected 9bn population could be exposed to temperatures on par with the hottest parts of the Sahara. The latest research highlights that while currently, only 0.8% of the planet’s land surface area experiences mean annual temperatures greater than 29°C, this proportion could rise to 19% under the worst-case scenario for climate change set out by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It appears as many as 1 and 4 Britons take such predictions seriously: 25% of those polled now think that a rise in global average temperatures to 2°C above pre-industrial levels would make Earth uninhabitable for humans, and a further sizable 34% say they don’t know. 41% meanwhile say they do not believe this claim.

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

Electric cars: Price of EVs puts people off switching from petrol and diesel, poll finds
iNews | 25 October 2021

Government plan to increase taxes to fund social care and NHS meets public support
Express | 24 October 2021

Half of Brits expect Boris Johnson to plunge UK into another Covid-19 lockdown
Mirror | 23 October 2021

Are you a journalist needing a stat for your latest piece? We can be your resource—our polling covers hundreds of issues in multiple countries each week. If you are working on an article on a topical issue, chances are we have already asked the public about it. Get in touch and we’ll share our polling data with you!

Most Read on Our Website This Week

Latest GB Voting Intention (1 November 2021)
27 October 2021 (5 min read)

Younger Britons More Likely to Find That Climate Change Impacts Their Daily Lives
25 October 2021 (4 min read)

Building on Greenbelt Land is Still Politically Toxic, Despite the Severity of the Housing Crisis
21 October 2021 (4 min read)

Our Research on Social Media

Top 5 Tweets This Week

  1. Compared to recent leaders of the Labour Party, who do Britons think Keir Starmer is most like? (31 Oct): (see full tweet)
  2. Do Britons agree or disagree that they personally are doing enough to reduce their carbon footprint? (31 Oct): (see full tweet)
  3. For which OTHER party could current Labour voters see themselves voting? (28 Oct): (see full tweet)
  4. Which party do Britons trust most in specific policy areas? (29 Oct): (see full tweet)
  5. Home Secretary Priti Patel Approval Rating (1 Nov): (see full tweet)

Have a question or want to know more about our research? Get in touch! Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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