Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! After a hiatus for August holidays, Magnified is back. In this week’s issue, we respond to Boris Johnson’s comments in Ukraine yesterday urging Britons to endure the cost-of-living crisis to support Ukraine.

This week, our research also covered:

  • How urgently the Government is seen to be taking various issues
  • Drug policy in the United Kingdom

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
(24-25 August):

Labour 42% (-1)
Conservative 33% (+2)
Liberal Democrat 12% (-1)
Green 5% (–)
Scottish National Party 4% (-1)
Reform UK 2% (-1)
Other 2% (–)

Changes +/- 21 August

All Net Approval Ratings
(24-25 August):

Keir Starmer: -5% (-4)
Boris Johnson: -18% (–)

Changes +/- 21 August

After narrowing during the initial weeks of the Conservative Party’s leadership contest when more public attention and enthusiasm had been directed towards the Conservatives, Labour’s lead over the Conservative Party has now widened to around 9%-12% this week.

With the vast majority of Conservative Party members having already voted, the contest has clearly dragged on for too long—the natural consequence of a mail-in only voting system. If, instead, the election had been held in person with a specific day or handful of days for members to cast their votes at a polling station, the length of the contest might not have seemed as interminable. 

In such an alternative scenario, the knowledge that most voters would have been yet to vote could have lent some anticipation about the result of this election. Coverage about various campaign events and hustings would have seemed more important, given their potential ability to sway voters. Those who have endorsed a candidate in the first weeks of this contest—Conservative MP’s, newspapers, political commentators, etc.—might have waited a bit longer to make their decision.

Although Conservative Party members can technically change their votes online up until the very deadline to submit one’s ballot, the contest already seems a foregone conclusion. It is not necessarily the length of this contest that is problematic, as some commentators have suggested, but its dynamics, which has created this interregnum where the new Prime Minister has effectively been chosen but all of us have to wait.

Data Tables

Chart of the Week

As the Conservative Party leadership’s contest drones on, the Government does not appear to the public to be addressing the country’s problems with a strong sense of urgency, a vacuum into which the Labour Party has entered.

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

“We’re paying higher bills. Ukraine is paying in blood.”

So spoke Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday as he visited Ukraine in order to pledge another £54 million in support on behalf of the British taxpayer.

The implication of his statement, that the cost-of-living crisis and the rising cost of energy bills in particular is a direct consequence of the war in Ukraine, could not be clearer.

Its implied threat to the British public, also, could not be less subtle: any demand for cheaper energy, any desire for a more comfortable life, any discontent at the present situation could only mean a lack of sympathy for those in Ukraine and an unwillingness to make a moral and just sacrifice for their cause. 

Dealing with dictators and murderous regimes, the credo goes, is the price for our prosperity, and our newly rediscovered unwillingness to condone Vladimir Putin’s behaviour must therefore come at a steep price.

Except, of course, the British public cannot accept this explanation as true. 

In early February, a few weeks prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, 62% of the British public agreed that the UK should only negotiate trading agreements with countries that meet certain human rights standards, with no exceptions even for countries that may bring a clear benefit to the UK. Just 8% disagreed.

Before the invasion of Ukraine, Britons already wanted their country to adopt a moralistic trading stance. The public already wanted, and perhaps indeed thought they had, an economy whose prosperity did not rely on their reluctant condoning of—or even the goodwill of—the world’s dictators.

In the eyes of the public therefore, the United Kingdom should not have to pay exorbitantly higher energy bills in order to stand up to Russia. The public sees the UK’s and its allies’ economic integration with and indeed apparent dependence on the supply of Russian gas as nothing less than a deliberate choice by the Government and by market actors.

For this reason, our latest polling finds that while, yes, 75% of members of the British public say the war in Ukraine is ‘significantly’ (45%) or ‘fairly’ (30%) to blame for the current high cost of energy in the United Kingdom, similarly large proportions also find the UK Government (67%) and private energy companies (81%) as much to blame.

In 2018, the UK Government decided not to invest in gas storage facilities, despite public urging. As a result, the country has had one of the lowest levels of gas storage in Europe. Even as the United Kingdom serves as an entry point for American and Qatari gas coming into Europe, little of that liquified natural gas is being stored here.

In 2010, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg, who would soon become Deputy Prime Minister, dismissed the prospect of building nuclear energy, because new plants would not be ready until 2021 or 2022 at the earliest. Britain now has only five remaining nuclear plants in operation after Hinckley Point B closed earlier this month.

The above examples are just two instances of a number of complacent but no less deliberate decisions that put the United Kingdom in the present predicament.

Even now, 66% of British voters say no, the UK Government is not taking the right measures to address the rising cost of energy. Just 19% say yes, the Government is taking the right steps. 56% of the public think the Government is taking the rising cost of energy ‘not at all’ (32%) or only ‘somewhat’ (24%) seriously, compared to 70% who think a Labour Government would be taking the rising cost of energy ‘extremely’ (40%) or ‘fairly’ (30%) seriously (see Chart of the Week).

Seen in this light, Boris Johnson’s statement in Ukraine, like his own resignation speech in July, represents a failure to accept responsibility. His false equivalence only exposes the continuing failures of his government and demonstrates the urgency for his successor to take a new direction.

Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News

‘Three strikes and you’re out’: Middle-class drug users to be banned from nightclubs and bars
The Telegraph | 18 July 2022

OUR TAKE: Last month, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced a proposed policy that would bring harsher punishments to recreational users of harmful drugs. However, according to polling we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies have conducted on behalf of the APPG on Drug Policy, a narrow plurality of the public (44%) sees an individual’s use of harmful drugs as something that should be viewed as a health issue to be addressed by professionals, rather than as a criminal activity that should be addressed by the police (40%)—suggesting that this policy might not be strongly popular with the public.

R&WS in the Media

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

Zombie government: Urgent action on energy crisis is being delayed due to leadership election, industry warns
iNews | 24 August 2022

Gone on too long
Politico London Playbook | 23 August 2022

Drug reform campaigners in new push to reclassify magic mushrooms to treat mental illness
iNews | 20 August 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 % to say ‘Social media’ among 2019 Labour voters that we’ve recorded. Where do Britons primarily source news from? (24 August): (see full tweet)
  2. Starmer leads Truss by 1%. At this moment, which of the following individuals do voters think would be the better PM for the United Kingdom? (21 August): (see full tweet)
  3. Which party do Red Wall voters trust the most on…? (23 August): (see full tweet)
  4. Which of the following do 2019 Conservative Red Wall voters think would be the better PM for the UK? (23 August): (see full tweet)
  5. If a General Election were to take place within six months, what do Britons think would be the most likely outcome? (22 August): (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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