Written By Philip van Scheltinga

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Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to 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 why political comparisons between Keir Starmer and former Prime Minister Tony Blair are not politically expedient for the current Labour Leader.

This week, our research also covered:

  • The Conservative Party’s lowest voting intention result since the 2019 Election
  • Americans’ experiences with working from home
  • French, German, and Italian car-owners’ plans to purchase electric-powered cars

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention
(8 Nov):

Conservative 37% (-3)
Labour 36% (+1)
Liberal Democrat 10% (–)
Green 6% (–)
Scottish National Party 5% (+1)
Reform UK 5% (+2)
Other 1% (-1)

Changes +/- 1 Nov

All Net Approval Ratings
(8 Nov):

Rishi Sunak: +12% (-2)
Boris Johnson: -6% (–)
Keir Starmer: -9% (-1)

Changes +/- 1 Nov

Our latest voting intention poll gives the Conservatives a one-point lead over Labour, with 37% (-3) of voters saying they would vote for the Conservative Party if an election were to be held tomorrow—the lowest voting intention result we have recorded for the Conservatives since the 2019 General Election.

This week’s poll finds the Government’s net competency rating at -16% (-4), while Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s net approval rating has remained at -6%. Meanwhile, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has received the lowest net approval rating we have recorded for him, at +12% (-2).

This poor showing for the Conservative Party this week is in no small part a consequence of the news that emerged surrounding Conservative MP Owen Paterson. The Conservatives face renewed accusations of ‘sleaze,’ after an investigation found Paterson committed ‘serious breaches’ of lobbying rules and Conservative MPs attempted to prevent his suspension from Parliament. The Opposition is framing the incident as the latest display of Tory misconduct, with Keir Starmer accusing the Prime Minister of ‘damaging our democracy.’

Even before the Owen Paterson news came to light, Britons tended to agree that there exists a pattern of misconduct in the UK Government. In an April 2021 poll that came on the heels of the David Cameron lobbying controversy, 50% of respondents agreed that there is a culture of ‘sleaze’ in the UK Government, including 43% of 2019 Conservative voters. While 43% of Britons believed then that all the major political Parties in the UK were equally likely to have improper links with big businesses, 30% expressed a belief that one Party in particular was more likely to have such links. Among these respondents, 67% said that Party was the Conservatives.

Yet, the Owen Paterson case is only the latest of many contributing factors to the Conservatives’ decline in the polls. The Party’s lead over Labour has gradually narrowed since May 2021, around the same time that the proportion of Britons who thought the Government was not taking the right measures to address the pandemic began to grow, as outlined in last week’s edition of Magnified. While some still feel discomfort with the Government’s current measures against the pandemic, others, now fully vaccinated, feel the pandemic has become less salient, amid supply chain issues and inflation fears. Plans to increase taxes and spending, meanwhile, have likely reduced the Conservatives’ appeal to voters who prioritise fiscal restraint.

Any public can look beyond accusations of corruption or ‘sleaze’ when those in power still deliver to voters (and when such accusations concern those not currently in Government, such as David Cameron and Owen Paterson). With the coronavirus pandemic simultaneously in the past and also uncomfortably still present, however, the Government’s deliverance of a vaccine success—so critical to their strong voting intention leads earlier this year—is no longer sufficient for voters to look beyond controversies like this latest Owen Paterson case.

The good news for the Conservatives, at least, is that the decreased voting intention result we find for the Conservatives this week does not coincide with a corresponding increase for Labour.

Instead, recent events seem to have had the effect of dampening Conservative voters’ enthusiasm to vote for the Conservative Party, thus resulting in a lower voting intention result after weighting by likelihood to vote. For the first time since we began tracking British voting intention following the 2019 General Election, our results show those who say they would vote Labour in a General Election (71%) are slightly more likely than those who say they would vote Conservative (69%) to say they are ‘certain to vote.’ By comparison, just last week, 63% of likely Labour voters and 78% of likely Conservative voters said they were ‘certain to vote.’

Chart of the Week

The coronavirus pandemic has undeniably introduced changes to our societies that will long outlive the current crisis. Working from home is one such example. Even as the vast majority of American adults have received a coronavirus vaccine and most restrictions have been lifted, over two-thirds of employed Americans report they are still working from home, with 50% doing so full time and 18% part time. This Chart of the Week examines how working from home compares to working in an office on a variety of metrics, according to workers in the US who have experienced both.

The main advantages of working from home appear to be benefits to the employees themselves. To this point, large pluralities of respondents say it is easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance (49%), avoid stress (49%), and stay in good physical health while they work (45%) when doing so remotely. However, these positive elements of working from home may also serve to benefit the company as well. 56% of respondents report that working from home has been more productive than working in an office or similar location for them, and 46% say it is easier to focus on their own work and avoid distractions when working remotely, rather than in an office setting.

Still, Americans do indicate that there are many areas where the office is a superior work environment. When it comes to coordinating projects (55%) and maintaining good relationships with colleagues (50%), respondents are especially prone to finding the office a more suitable location. Pluralities also indicate that knowing what they should be doing and how to do it (40%), giving feedback or criticism (41%), feeling recognised for the work they have done (43%), and recruiting, interviewing, and hiring someone new (48%) are all easier when working in person.

Considering the distinct advantages inherent to both working from home and from the office—and the varied perceptions of these advantages depending on the employee—it is clear that approaches that allow for both options are needed even after the pandemic fully recedes. Such approaches will vary according to each business and their needs, but flexibility and adaptability will be key in striking the right balance.

Read more about our data on the future of working from home within the British context in our opinion piece published in The Times—or, contact us if you’re interested in conducting bespoke polling on working from home and what it may mean for your company, your industry, or your geographic area.

Our Global Data

Great Britain: There is a clear age element in how the British public views Scottish independence. 27% to 32% of respondents across age groups believe Scotland should be an independent country except those aged 65 and above, just 16% of whom express the same sentiment. Instead, two-thirds (65%) of all Britons aged 65 and above say Scotland should not be an independent country, with 58% of this demographic saying they would oppose an independence referendum being held in the next year (compared to 14% of 25-to-34-year-olds opposing, for instance).

France, Germany, and Italy: Italian car-owners are notably more likely than German and French car-owners to indicate that they expect their next vehicle to be at least partially powered by electricity. While a third of car-owners in Germany (33%) and France (34%) think their next car will be a hybrid or electric-powered vehicle, a majority (56%) in Italy thinks this will be the case for them.

United States: Americans tend to be more likely than Britons to indicate that they feel safe doing many of the activities of daily life that became restricted during the pandemic. While 77% of American respondents say they feel safe visiting a friend’s house, 65% of British respondents say the same. Similarly, when it comes to shopping for clothes and such items, 78% of Americans—compared to 66% of Britons—say they would feel safe doing so. However, the two populations feel equally uneasy where international travel is concerned, with 57% in both countries saying they would feel unsafe traveling to another country.

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

A Political Profile of Keir Starmer: Blairite or Something New?

Keir Starmer’s first in-person conference speech as Leader of the Labour Party back in September defiantly signalled a departure from the hard-left politics of the Corbyn era and was deliberately more reminiscent of Labour’s centre-left past. In his speech, Starmer firmly defended New Labour’s record in Government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to raucous applause from the conference floor. By hailing Labour’s achievements during Blair’s time in office, Starmer made clear his intention to associate the present Party to its winning past. But is this appeal to the past really the best choice for the ailing Party?

Starmer’s conference speech came at a time when he and the Labour Party are struggling to resonate with the British public. Starmer’s net approval rating has yet to recover from its drop into negative territory in May 2021. Beyond a brief stint in November 2020, Labour has consistently trailed behind the Conservatives in our weekly voting intention polls. Week after week, Boris Johnson has also been chosen over Keir Starmer as being the better Prime Minister for the UK at this moment. Even during this week’s lowest voting intention result for the Conservatives, Johnson still enjoys a ten-point lead over Starmer in this regard, demonstrating the limited extent to which the Labour Leader is seen as a viable alternative.

Exemplifying the difficult position the Party now finds itself in, a plurality (42%) of Britons disagree that they could see themselves voting Labour under Keir Starmer’s leadership, and only 31% agree Starmer looks like someone who will one day be Prime Minister. A new approach is evidently needed if the Party Leader is to have any chance at securing a Labour Government at the next General Election.

One of the biggest problems facing Starmer is Britons’ continuing unfamiliarity with him: more than a third (35%) say they are ‘not at all aware’ of what Starmer stands for. Even among those who say they are at least somewhat aware of his leanings, there is no consensus on what such leanings are, particularly among Labour voters: 28% classify Starmer as centre-left, 27% as centrist, 13% as left, and 12% as centre-right.

Considering this public confusion about his ideology, Starmer is seeking to hark back to the Tony Blair years to signal on which side of Labour’s cavernous divide he stands. Such a comparison may seem wise. After all, Blair remains the only Labour Leader to have won a General Election in nearly half a century. Much of the public is convinced that the comparison is apt, with a plurality (28%) of Britons who are at least somewhat aware of what Starmer stands for considering him to be most similar to Tony Blair, among recent Labour leaders.

However, it is a mistake for Starmer to allow and encourage comparisons between himself and Blair. Though Tony Blair did bring Labour to victory, his political legacy as it stands today is clouded by subsequent events that took place under his leadership—not least of which include his handling of the 2008 financial crisis, his trade and EU policies, and his involvement of the UK in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. The bitter taste left by Blair’s involvement in the so-called War on Terror is no doubt particularly prevalent after the recent disastrous withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which a plurality (32%) of respondents said reflects most poorly on Tony Blair, among past and present British Prime Ministers.

As a result of his tarnished legacy, Blair’s current net favourability rating stands at -26%, with 47% of respondents (including 36% of 2019 Labour voters) having an unfavourable view of him. Compared to this figure, Keir Starmer’s net favourability rating of -11% almost seems positive.

Moreover, even though public opinion of Keir Starmer is currently less negative than public opinion of Tony Blair, this reality does not necessarily make the comparison a flattering one. Starmer lacks Blair’s charisma and his clarity of vision, which produced the New Labour project that centred on his leadership. His modernisation rhetoric encapsulated this sense of newness, and his electoral success was in no small part due to his ability to persuade voters he could offer something different.

Starmer, on the other hand, lacks a similarly mobilising vision. Invoking Blair and his policies is a surface level signal regarding where Starmer stands within the Labour Party’s internal politics. It is not and cannot be a replacement for coherent and cognisant policy to rival the Government in its appeal to voters. The lesson Starmer must learn from Blair is that, if he wants to emulate New Labour’s electoral success, he first needs to carve out a distinct vision for his Party.

In so doing, Starmer faces both internal and external problems. Internally, there is the pro-Corbyn faction, unwilling to bend to his leadership. Externally—and perhaps more problematically—the Conservatives are occupying Labour’s traditional territory with their current propensity for higher public spending, as we discussed in last week’s issue of Magnified. Furthermore, Starmer must also overcome his own recent past as a major proponent of a second EU referendum, a path that was firmly rejected in the last General Election.

Ultimately, Starmer needs to convince voters, in the same way that New Labour once did, that 1) the Conservatives have failed to deliver on the issues that matter most and 2) Labour can offer a distinct and better alternative. If Starmer succeeds in these two endeavours, comparisons to Tony Blair will become more apt but all the more undesirable.

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

Biden Says U.S. Economy is Recovering Faster Than Expected
Bloomberg | 5 November 2021

Our take: With 39% of Americans saying unemployment and wages are among the three issues most likely to determine how they will vote in the 2024 Presidential Election, faster economic recovery is much needed positive news for the Biden Administration and Democrats more generally. But many Americans remain unconvinced that Biden is delivering in this realm: 44% disapprove of the Administration’s performance regarding both addressing unemployment and the economy more broadly. More troubling still for the Democrats, 49% of Americans believe that between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Trump is the one who can best get the economy going again, compared to 38% who say Biden. A change in public perception on the current Administration’s economic competence is needed if the Democrats are to maintain their hold on Congress next year and beyond.

ECB Appoints 30 Members for the Digital Euro Market Advisory Group
Finance Magnates | 27 October 2021

Our take: As the European Central Bank proceeds with its Central Bank Digital Currency project, our research in 12 EU nations finds that majorities or pluralities of respondents in Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, and Spain say they have heard ‘a little bit’ about cryptocurrencies. Knowledge of specific cryptocurrencies is limited, with Bitcoin being by far the best-known digital currency in all countries polled. When it comes to the EU’s plans to centrally control cryptocurrencies, however, the European public is opposed to the idea: firm pluralities of respondents in each country, except Poland, Portugal, and Spain, say they would prefer their own national Government, rather than the EU, to have control over the regulation of cryptocurrencies. Read more about our findings from the largest European poll conducted on the topic of cryptocurrency regulation to date here.

R&WS in the Media

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

Why sleaze alone doesn’t explain the narrowing polls
The Times | 9 November 2021

John Curtice: The polls clearly show that the sleaze scandal is hitting the Tory Government’s popularity
iNews | 9 November 2021

What happens next with standards committee? It’s anyone’s guess
The Times | 9 November 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 (8 November 2021)
8 November 2021 (5 min read)

Joe Biden Administration Approval Ratings (31 October 2021)
4 November 2021 (3 min read)

Our Research on Social Media

Top 5 Tweets This Week

  1. New Lowest Westminster Voting Intention for Conservatives post 2019 GE. Full Results (8 Nov): (see full tweet)
  2. At this moment, which of the following individuals do you think would be the better Prime Minister for the United Kingdom? (8 Nov): (see full tweet)
  3. If the candidates for the November 2024 Presidential Election are as follows, for whom will Americans vote? (31 Oct): (see full tweet)
  4. Which issues would most determine how 2019 Conservative voters would vote in a General Election, if there were to be one tomorrow? (5 Nov): (see full tweet)
  5. Is the British public optimistic or pessimistic about the general direction in which the UK is heading? (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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