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 how the Conservatives’ ‘Levelling Up’ agenda has failed to make an impression among voters in the historically Labour voting ‘Red Wall’ constituencies that they flipped in 2019.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Keir Starmer being ‘boring’ 
  • The choice between recession and inflation
  • The new Conservative pro-free market bloc
  • Conservatives’ tough on immigration reputation

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
(15 June):

Labour 42% (+3)
Conservative 34% (+2)
Liberal Democrat 12% (-3)
Green 4% (-2)
Scottish National Party 3% (-2)
Reform UK 3% (+1)
Other 1% (-2)

Changes +/- 12 June

All Net Approval Ratings
(15 June):

Keir Starmer: -5% (-2)
Rishi Sunak: -7% (+4)
Boris Johnson: -19% (+3)

Changes +/- 12 June

Our voting intention poll finds Labour leading the Conservatives by 8%, a marginal increase of 1% from Monday’s lead and the same lead as last week Wednesday.

One story that has made waves in the media this week concerns Keir Starmer and him being boring. Apparently, according to The Times, members of Keir Starmer’s cabinet have criticised the Labour leader for “boring voters to death.”

Our polling confirms that this public sentiment is considerable. 45% of members of the public, including 66% of those who voted Conservative and 35% of those who voted Labour in 2019, agree with the statement, “Keir Starmer is boring.” Of those who agree, just 21% think this trait is a good trait for a potential future Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, Machiavelli, who famously wrote that it is safer for a leader to be feared than loved if one could not be both, never dwelled on the question of what it means for a leader to be boring. From the British public, however, we do have a clear answer: 54% say they would prefer a Prime Minister who is entertaining. 21%, by contrast, would prefer a Prime Minister who is boring.

Yet, looking more closely, we also find that 39%, a lower figure, agree that a politician must be entertaining in order to appeal to voters like them, while a sizeable 32% disagree. In other words, being entertaining is not necessarily a prerequisite for electoral success, even if being lively and entertaining would certainly be helpful.

And indeed, Labour with ‘boring’ Keir Starmer has been leading in our polling for more than half a year—since 8 December. Starmer’s inoffensive nature, which we have noted before, can be a curse, but it can also a blessing when contrasted with someone who is outright derided as Boris Johnson has been in the past few months.

With consistently negative approval ratings, Starmer’s performance has hardly been impressive, but as Machiavelli might have written if he had ever pondered this unusual question: better to be boring than to be hated.

Data Tables

Chart of the Week

During times of high inflation, central banks and the Government can choose to pursue policies that reduce the supply of money in the economy, such as raising interest rates or reducing Government expenditure, in order to combat inflation. Such policies, however, risk incurring a recession.

Our polling finds the public roughly evenly split between whether the Government should prioritise avoiding more inflation (43%) or avoiding a recession (40%).

Past vote, perhaps surprisingly, is not an indicator of where one stands on this issue. Those who voted Conservative in 2019 are evenly divided, with 42% for avoiding inflation and 44% for avoiding a recession, while those who voted Labour in 2019 are similarly divided, with 43% for avoiding inflation and 41% for avoiding a recession.

However, younger respondents are significantly more likely than older respondents to prefer the Government prioritise avoiding more inflation. 49% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 52% of 25-to-34-year-olds have this preference. Meanwhile, 52% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 49% of those 65 and older say they would prefer the Government prioritise avoiding a recession.

This discrepancy could be due to the typical financial situation of those who belong to each age group. Those who are young tend to be asset-poor wage-earners and are thus highly vulnerable to inflation while those who are older tend to own assets and may receive a pension that is guaranteed to increase in line with rising inflation.

Another possible reason is memory. Those below the age of 34 were, at most, 20 years old when the last recession began. They therefore may not have experienced or may simply not remember the effect that an economic recession can have on the average person.

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

‘Levelling Up’ is an Empty Promise in the Red Wall

This week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies began publicly releasing the results of our ‘Red Wall’ tracker. This targeted polling comprises the 40 historically Labour voting constituencies that the Conservatives flipped in 2019 (plus Hartlepool, which was flipped in a 2021 parliamentary by election).

Our latest Red Wall polling finds Labour leading the Conservatives by 10%. For context, Labour averaged 9% behind the Conservatives in these seats in 2019. One projection based on our polling has Labour winning back 37 of these 40 seats.

What has happened here?

First and foremost, many in 2019 voted for the Conservatives in order to ‘get Brexit done.’ The merits of Brexit itself or how it was getting done or what would happen after it was done were less relevant to voters than simply getting the whole thing over with after three years of deadlock. That core appeal was the key to the Conservatives’ stunning election success.

Having won these voters based on a scenario, however, retaining these same voters based on policies was always going to be a formidable challenge.

Yet, the Conservative Party did have a pitch beyond Brexit in their 2019 platform. Once Brexit was ‘done,’ Boris Johnson promised that his party would ‘level up’ the regions of the United Kingdom. This slogan was clearly meant to appeal to those in left behind areas that voted for Brexit, like the constituencies in the ‘Red Wall.’ 

What this slogan is supposed to mean in practice, however, has been unclear, and it is this failure of the Government’s levelling up agenda to register with voters that has now put the Conservative Party ten points behind Labour in the very seats they need to win again to keep their majority.

60% of voters in the Red Wall seats polled say they do not think the Government has made a clear effort to ‘level up’ the area in which they live. This figure includes 46%, a plurality, of those who voted Conservative in 2019.

When confronted with a list of possible improvements one could see in one’s local area, ranging from various infrastructure projects to increases in police officers and new incentives for businesses to invest in the area, 57% of voters in the Red Wall say they have seen no such improvements in the past few months. Responses to this question do not vary by past vote (55% both from 2019 Conservative and 2019 Labour voters).

In fact, Conservatives have so wholly failed on levelling up the Red Wall that 50% of Red Wall voters, including a third of 2019 Conservative voters, say they do not at all trust the Conservatives to deliver on levelling up the area in which they live. On no other policy issue does the Red Wall public so distrust the Conservatives’ ability to deliver.

When pitted against other parties, 35% of the Red Wall public say they most trust Labour to level up the area in which they live (note, results for this question are not weighted by likelihood to vote and include undecided respondents). Just 21% say they would trust the Conservatives with respect to its signature policy.

At the end of the day, the critical failing of ‘levelling up’ is that it is too vague. Levelling up could mean anything, and it therefore has come to mean nothing. An empty promise.

Two weeks ago, when we last asked the question, more than half of the Red Wall public, 56%, said they understood ‘nothing at all’ (27%) or only ‘a small amount’ (29%) of what Boris Johnson or other members of the Government have meant when using the phrase ‘levelling up.’

Concrete proposals, such as building a specific piece of infrastructure like a road, a railway, a bridge, an internet network or creating incentives for businesses to invest, allow the public to hold the Government to account. At the end of a Parliamentary term, voters can ask, “Did they do what they said they were going to do?”

The abstractness of ‘levelling up’ was advantageous in 2019 in allowing the Conservatives to focus the election specifically on the Brexit impasse and the Conservatives’ “oven-ready” solution to that impasse. But now this abstractness has become a liability.

With the next general election two years away, will the Conservatives keep repeating this empty promise or will they switch to something more concrete?

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

Conservative MPs prepared to formally launch a tax-cutting lobbying group
The Guardian | 9 June 2022

OUR TAKE: As he did with the European Research Group, Steve Baker is reportedly organising his fellow Conservative MPs into a new voting bloc, one centred on Thatcherite principles. The task of this group will be formidable. At this moment, just 26% of the public identify the stance ‘believes in the free market’ with the Conservatives. 21% associate the stance with Labour.

Britain vows more Rwanda deportation flights after setback
ABC News | 15 June 2022

OUR TAKE: The Government’s thwarted attempt to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda has had a clear impression on the public. Between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party, 46% of those polled yesterday associate the stance ‘tough on immigration’ with the Conservatives. The percentage of respondents who associate the stance with the Labour Party stands at a mere 10%.

R&WS in the Media

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

Want to start a family? You’ll need more than £1m just to get by
The Telegraph | 11 June 2022

London Playbook: Return of the pyjama judges — Inside Tory WhatsApp groups — Brussels sues
Politico | 15 June 2022

Alarm bells for Tories as poll shows 10-POINT lead for Labour in ‘Red Wall’ seats – a week before crucial by-elections
MailOnline | 15 June 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. Highest % for the Lib Dems that we’ve recorded.Westminster Voting Intention (12 June): (see full tweet)
  2. Labour lead by 10% in the Red Wall.Red Wall Voting Intention (12-13 June): (see full tweet)
  3. Labour is more trusted than the Conservatives in ALL areas on which we poll. (10 June): (see full tweet)
  4. At this moment, which of the following individuals do you think would be the better PM for the United Kingdom? (12 June): (see full tweet)
  5. NEW! We are excited to release our Red Wall Tracker, the first of our targeted trackers in preparation for the next general election. (14 June): (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

Share this issue of Magnified:

Our Most Recent Research