Written By Philip van Scheltinga

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Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we take an in-depth look at the British public’s worsening views of the police and of the UK Government’s performance in holding the police accountable.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Cabinet Ministers’ approval ratings
  • Britons travelling abroad
  • American public opinion on how Joe Biden has managed relations with Russia

If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention
(14 Feb):

Labour 38% (-4)
Conservative 33% (+1)
Liberal Democrat 11% (+2)
Green 6% (–)
Reform UK 5% (+1)
Scottish National Party 4% (–)
Other 3% (–)

Changes +/- 7 Feb

All Net Approval Ratings
(14 Feb):

Rishi Sunak: +10% (+2)
Keir Starmer: -5% (-4)
Boris Johnson: -23% (+3)

Changes +/- 7 Feb

Our latest voting intention poll finds the Labour Party leading by 5%, a five-point decrease to their lead over the Conservative Party since last week’s poll. Overall, 38% (-4) say they would vote for Labour if there were to be a General Election in the United Kingdom tomorrow, while 33% (+1) would vote Conservative. The Government’s net competency rating stands at -29% (+3) in this week’s poll, and the Prime Minister’s net approval rating has increased to -23% (+3).

Rishi Sunak’s net approval rating has improved slightly this week, after we had recorded his lowest-ever net rating (+8%) last week. In our latest poll, 40% approve and 30% disapprove of the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s performance in that role, placing his net approval rating at +10%. While this figure remains the second-lowest rating Sunak has received, it is a notably more positive appraisal than elicited by other leading figures of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, for example, receives a net approval rating of -7%, with 20% approving and 27% disapproving of her performance. Truss has had a particularly busy month playing a major role in Western efforts to deter a Russian invasion of Ukraine, recently meeting in Moscow with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. But as of yet, the British public’s views of Liz Truss do not appear to have changed meaningfully as a result of her response to the crisis. In fact, since Truss assumed the position of Foreign Secretary in September 2021, her net approval rating has oscillated only slightly, never reaching above -3% or below -9%.

By comparison, Home Secretary Priti Patel’s net approval rating has varied somewhat more and is significantly less favourable. With 21% approving and 45% disapproving of her performance, Patel’s net approval rating sits at -24% this week—up from -28% last week. Since we began asking Britons about the Home Secretary’s performance in July 2021, her approval rating has never exceeded -20%. Public approval of Priti Patel hit a low in early December 2021 when her net rating stood at -31%, shortly after 27 people died attempting to cross the Channel in a small boat. Notably, dissatisfaction with the Home Secretary is not only strong among 2019 Labour voters (who give Patel a -44% net approval rating), but it is also palpable among Conservative voters, 32% of whom approve and 34% of whom disapprove of her performance.

Lastly, Health Secretary Sajid Javid joins Rishi Sunak in having a positive net approval rating, though only just barely: 32% approve and 31% disapprove of Javid’s overall job performance as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. The British public’s evaluations of the Health Secretary have hovered around the neutral mark since we began tracking the matter shortly after Javid took the reins from Matt Hancock last June. His net approval rating peaked at +5% on 3 January amidst the Omicron variant surge, during which time he said further restrictions would be an ‘absolute last resort.’

It must be noted that for each of these Ministers, substantial proportions of Britons say they neither approve nor disapprove of their performance. This response is given by 36% with respect to Liz Truss, 29% with respect to Sajid Javid, 27% with respect to Priti Patel, and 23% with respect to Rishi Sunak. Accordingly, much of the public lacks a particular opinion on the performance of these key figures, no doubt influenced by the shorter length of time the Minister has spent in the position and lower amount of regular exposure in the public’s eye for each respective role.

Chart of the Week

Last week, the UK Government lifted all testing requirements for vaccinated travellers, opening the door to restriction-free international travel for most Britons for the first time in almost a year and a half. The end to travel restrictions for the vaccinated comes at a time when most of the public is now supportive of permitting international travel, after many months of opposition to it.

In our latest poll, 60% of respondents say UK residents should be allowed to go on holiday abroad at this moment, the highest proportion to give this response we have recorded since we began tracking this question in July 2021. This figure has increased by 34 points since the Omicron variant surge in December 2021, but it is also noticeably higher than before the variant emerged, when majorities or pluralities said residents should not be allowed to go on holiday on all but two occasions since July.

Although a majority of the public supports individuals having the right to travel, that does not necessarily mean that a majority themselves are interested in doing so: slight pluralities continue to say they would feel unsafe travelling to another country (45%) or taking a flight (47%). At the same time, however, 41% now indicate that they would feel safe travelling to another country and 42% would feel safe taking a flight—both among the highest figures we have recorded in these respects since we began tracking feelings of safety in October 2020.

In line with the proportion of Britons who would feel safe partaking in international travel, our research finds 40% intend to travel abroad for holiday this year, including a majority (52%) of 18-to-24-year-olds. By far the most common destination for those intending to travel is Europe (78%), while 15% plan to visit North America, 12% plan to visit Asia, and 10% plan to visit Africa.

The increasing numbers of Britons planning to travel internationally, or at least expressing that they would feel safe doing so, represents one more sign that a true sense of normalcy is returning for much of the public.

Our Global Data

United States: Over half (53%) of Americans believe the US Government is not taking the right measures to address the current high rate of inflation, with 33% of 2020 Joe Biden voters and 76% of 2020 Donald Trump voters sharing this view. Alternatively, 24% believe the Government is taking the right measures, a figure which has increased from 19% on 8-9 January.

Great Britain: Three-quarters (74%) of Britons say they have taken a coronavirus test in the past month, with 28% taking a test two or more times a week, 16% once a week, and 14% two or more times a month. Regular testing appears to be most common among 35-to-44-year-olds, 39% of whom say they have been tested two or more times a week in the past month. By contrast, 26% of respondents overall had not taken a coronavirus test in the past month, increasing to 40% among those aged 55 to 64 and 35% among those aged 65 and above.

Great Britain: While most Britons have read or heard either a significant (27%) or fair (32%) amount about the Winter Olympics, the public does not appear particularly interested in the Games, where Great Britain has yet to win a medal. A plurality (46%) says the Winter Olympics do not matter at all to them. Interest in the Winter Olympics decreases with age, with 53% of those aged 65 and above indicating they do not matter at all to them, compared to 33% of 18-to-24-year-olds.

Great Britain: As Members of Parliament are set to receive a 2.7% pay rise in April 2022, in line with average public sector salary increases, the British public does not seem impressed by the prospect: 64% say they oppose and just 16% support MPs receiving a 2.7% pay rise. Respondents who voted Labour in 2019 (69%) are notably more against the idea than those who voted Conservative (59%).

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

Who is Accountable for Policing in the UK?

After just under five years in the role, Dame Cressida Dick has resigned as Metropolitan Police Commissioner, ending a career that has been marked by controversies. Under her leadership, the Metropolitan Police has taken several hits to its reputation, perhaps the greatest being when it was revealed that a police officer with a record of indecent exposure had used his position to kidnap and murder Sarah Everard in 2021.

More recently, Scotland Yard came under scrutiny for initially declining to investigate breaches of pandemic regulations by Downing Street staff, then subsequently launching an investigation and asking Sue Gray to make only ‘minimal reference’ to the parties in her report while they completed the investigation. The ensuing limited nature of Gray’s report led some, including SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford, to suggest a cover-up was taking place.

But the final blow, it appears, was a damning watchdog report which found evidence of misogyny, homophobia, racism, and bullying within the Met’s ranks. Following this report’s release, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced he was ‘not satisfied’ with Cressida Dick’s plan to address the force’s culture, to which Dick responded that it was ‘clear that the Mayor no longer has sufficient confidence in my leadership’ and promptly resigned.

In addition to Sadiq Khan, the British public by and large also appeared to have had increasingly minimal confidence in the country’s most senior police officer: in a poll last week (prior to her resignation), 22% said they approved and 36% said they disapproved of Dame Cressida Dick’s overall job performance since she became Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 2017. At -14%, her net approval rating had decreased by 13 points since our July 2021 poll.

While the Metropolitan Police may hope to begin a new chapter with its next Commissioner, Dick’s departure alone will not restore public trust in the police. As it currently stands, just 34% of Britons are confident in the police’s ability to protect them from crime, while 35% are unconfident and 27% are neither. Further, on a scale from 0 (no trust) to 3 (complete trust), Britons place their trust in the police at an average of 1.63. Such figures are hardly ringing endorsements.

Britons’ mixed levels of confidence in the police to protect them come at a time when concern about crime is growing. 52% say they now feel more concerned about a crime being committed against them in the UK compared to five years ago, up from 46% last July. The public is evidently becoming increasingly worried about their safety, and will thus increasingly look for an entity to hold accountable.

However, disapproval extends well beyond the Metropolitan Police. The public’s dissatisfaction with the Government’s performance in this realm is apparent, leaving it with a net approval rating of -20% on crime/policing. When the Sarah Everard case returned to the headlines following the sentencing of Wayne Couzens on 30 September 2021, the Government’s net approval rating on crime/policing dropped 11 points from the previous week, exemplifying the extent to which the public implicates the Government on policing matters.

Meanwhile, the Minister responsible for law enforcement in England and Wales (Priti Patel) elicits a -24% net approval rating herself. On the topic of addressing crime specifically, 50% believe Patel has done a bad job, while just 15% believe she has done a good job in this regard.

With his intervention last week—the most he could have undertaken in his position as Mayor—Sadiq Khan has therefore not only highlighted the increasing distrust in the Metropolitan Police, but has also brought attention to the UK Government’s management of policing and the extent to which the Metropolitan Police is held accountable by the UK Government.

Indeed, our polling last April revealed that almost half (47%) of Londoners believed the Prime Minister and Westminster had the most power and responsibility when it comes to policing in London, compared to 36% who thought the London Mayor and Assembly had the most power. Likewise, 47% in an April 2021 poll of West Midlands residents said it was the Prime Minister and Westminster who had the most power and responsibility over policing in their region, while 33% instead said it was the West Midlands Mayor and Combined Authority.

Britons are inclined to view the UK Government as the institution with the most oversight over policing, and thus the institution most deserving of blame for policing shortcomings. With the Prime Minister and his staff currently under investigation by the Metropolitan Police, this attention on the responsibility of the UK Government to hold the police accountable could not have come at a more awkward time.

The current situation may have many Londoners wishing that Sadiq Khan had greater capacity to implement changes—in fact, a plurality (46%) in our April poll did express their opinion that the London Mayor and Assembly should have the most power and responsibility over policing. But even with the powers he does have, Sadiq Khan has given a decisive push to the public’s demand for improvements in policing. The pressure is now on Westminster. 

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

£40bn profits for BP and Shell fuel calls for windfall tax on energy firms
The Guardian | 5 February 2022

Our take: As energy companies continue to record major profits amidst skyrocketing energy prices, the Labour Party has called upon the Government to implement a windfall tax on gas and oil companies to address the cost of living crisis. Such a policy would receive widespread support among the public, with 58% overall—including 65% of Labour voters and 62% of Conservative voters—expressing support for a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies. Just 11% of the public would instead be opposed.

Ukraine crisis: Human cost of Russia attack would be immense – Biden
BBC News | 16 February 2022

Our take: Speaking about the situation in Ukraine, President Joe Biden has said a Russian invasion is ‘still very much a possibility’ and the human cost would be ‘immense,’ though he has reiterated that he would not be sending US troops to the country. As Biden and other Western leaders continue to pursue efforts to deter a Russian invasion, our polling finds the American public is not satisfied with his Administration’s performance vis-a-vis Russia. Last week, the Biden Administration received a net approval rating of -14% on its relations with Russia, having decreased by six points since our 8-9 January poll.

R&WS in the Media

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

Australia is last place Britons want to visit despite tourism campaign
Sydney Morning Herald | 15 February 2022

Inflation Spikes Mean Bad News For Democrats in Midterms
Newsweek | 11 February 2022

Rishi Sunak REFUSES to back Bank of England’s plea for workers to shun big pay rises despite soaring inflation… as it emerges number of public sector staff earning more than £150k has soared 13 PER CENT in a year
DailyMail | 11 February 2022

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!

Our Research on Social Media

Top 5 Tweets This Week

  1. Life is moving ever closer back to normal in Britain. (15 Feb): (see full tweet)
  2. Would the British public support or oppose the Government temporarily removing the Value-Added Tax (VAT) on energy bills? (12 Feb): (see full tweet)
  3. On what items and services have Britons purposefully reduced their spending in the past month in response to rising costs? (11 Feb): (see full tweet)
  4. How confident is the British public in the ability of the police to protect them from crime? (11 Feb): (see full tweet)
  5. Do Americans think Joe Biden has handled the following policy areas better or worse than Donald Trump? (12 Feb): (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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