Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls. In this week’s issue of Magnified, we look at what British voters want from the Budget, ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s announcement next week.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Our latest Westminster & Red Wall polling
  • The mood of Scottish voters following Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation
  • Attitudes towards Tiktok in Britain and America

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 (5 March):

Labour 50% (-1)
Conservative 24% (–)
Liberal Democrat 9% (–)
Reform UK 7% (–)
Green 5% (–)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 1% (–)

Changes +/- 26 February

Combined Net Approval Ratings (5 March):

Keir Starmer: +9% (-4)
Rishi Sunak: -9% (+8)
Jeremy Hunt: -10% (+6)

Changes +/- 26 February

This week’s Westminster voting intention poll finds Labour leading the Conservatives by 26%, down one point from their lead of 27 points recorded in our previous two polls. This latest poll result marks nine consecutive voting intention polls since the start of the year in which Labour has led by 20 percentage points or more.

The Government might take some encouragement from our latest poll in the ‘Red Wall’—published on Tuesday—which sees Labour’s lead down six points from two weeks ago, but the gap between the parties is still a hefty 22-points, the same as it was a month ago.

Notably, following Rishi Sunak’s diplomatic coup in agreeing a new trade deal on Northern Ireland with the EU, the Prime Minister’s approval rating has risen by eight points nationally to -9%, his second highest approval rating so far this year.

Labour leader Keir Starmer’s approval rating is down four points to +9% nationally, while Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt—ahead of his budget announcement next week—sees his approval rating up six points to -10%.

Scottish Politics Moves Into the Post-Sturgeon Era

Scottish Independence Referendum Voting Intention (5 March)

Yes 51% (+6)
No 42% (-7)
Don’t know 8% (+3)

Changes +/- 26-27 November

Scottish Westminster Voting Intention (5 March)

SNP 39% (-6)
Labour 29% (+10)
Conservative 22% (-3)
Lib Dem 6% (-4)
Green 2% (+1)
Reform 2% (+2)
Other 1% (+1)

Changes +/- 2019 GE

In the first of our now monthly Scottish tracker polls, a majority of Scottish voters (51%) say they would now vote ‘no’ to independence if an independence referendum were held tomorrow. The ‘no’ vote is up six-points since our previous poll of Scotland in late November, while the ‘yes’ vote is down seven. When undecided voters are excluded, ‘no’ leads by ten points, 55% to 45%.

58% of Scottish voters’ say they support Nicola Sturgeon’s recent decision to resign as Scottish National Party leader and First Minister. However, a sizeable minority of SNP voters say they oppose this decision (25%) and say they are now less likely to vote for the SNP in a Holyrood (20%) or Westminster (19%) election.

Even so, the Scottish National Party still comfortably leads in our UK General Election voting intention polling. 39% of Scottish voters say they would vote for the SNP if such a vote was held tomorrow, with the party ten points ahead of Labour, on 29%. Labour is down two points since our last poll in November but is still ten-points ahead of where it was in the 2019 General Election, when it won only 19% of the vote in Scotland.

There is some encouraging news for the Conservatives, too. Having dropped to just 16% in our November poll, the party has gained six points to now stand on 22%, three points behind the 25% vote share the party achieved in Scotland in December 2019. 

While Sturgeon declared in November that the next UK General Election would be treated by the Scottish National Party as a de facto referendum on independence, only 21% of respondents cite Scottish Independence/The Union as one of the three issues that would most determine their vote if a General Election were held tomorrow. 

The SNP, dominant in Scottish politics for a decade, has suffered several setbacks in recent months, from the ruling of the Supreme Court that an independence referendum held without the UK Government’s consent would be unconstitutional and  internal splits over Sturgeon’s strategy of treating the next General Election as a de facto referendum to the controversy regarding whether trans prisoners could be admitted into female-only prisons and the resignation of Sturgeon herself. 

It will be the job of the next SNP leader—whoever that may be—to put fresh heart into the party, in the face of threats from a Scottish Labour Party which is now more confident than it has had reason to be in years.

For the full results from our poll see our write-up published yesterday here

Chart of the Week

Since launching worldwide in 2018, the Chinese-owned social media site TikTok has become a global phenomenon. In 2022, TikTok was the most downloaded mobile phone app in the world, with 672 million users adding the app to their personal devices, easily beating Instagram (with 548 million downloads) into second place.

As TikTok has grown in popularity in western countries—with 113 million users in the United States alone—so have the concerns of public officials. 

Lawmakers in both the United States and the United Kingdom have expressed deep reservations about how the company handles its users’ data. After a Conservative MP recently warned that British users’ data was shared with the Chinese Government, a company spokesman denied the charge, telling the BBC, “We do not provide UK user data to the Chinese government, nor would we if asked.” 

In the US, the Republican Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, recently said that anyone who had downloaded TikTok “has given the [Communist Party of China] a backdoor to all their personal information” and called the app “a spy balloon into their phone,” a reference to the recent appearance of mysterious Chinese balloons over the United States.

As a consequence of these mounting concerns, several countries have now banned Government employees from having TikTok on their phones. 50% of Britons support this move by the countries concerned, while 52% of the American public agrees that TikTok poses a risk to the national security of the United States.

But among users of TikTok themselves, it seems a sizable minority would be unwilling to part with the app, even if allegations of Chinese spying were proven correct. While 49% of American and 42% of British users would stop using TikTok if it turned out the Chinese Government gathers their data through the app, 32% of users in both countries would keep using it even if those allegations were proven true

As Senators in the United States mull an outright ban on TikTok, it seems the addictiveness of the app is such that some users would accept letting the Chinese Government access their data as a price worth paying to use Tiktok.

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

Budget 2023: The Government’s Last Best Chance To Win Back the Public?

In November, when Jeremy Hunt first made a budget statement to the Commons, the priority for the Chancellor was to restore the Government’s economic credibility with the financial markets and the country at-large. Liz Truss’s fifty-day administration had seen the number of those disapproving of the Government’s handling of the economy grow to 67%, resulting in a net approval rating of -54%, while the Government’s net competency rating fell to a barely credible -60%.

Overall, the Autumn Statement he delivered attracted mixed reviews—including, as it did, both hefty tax rises and real-term cuts in spending—but it went some way towards showing that, at the very least, the Government could address an apparent £50 billion hole in the public finances. Approval of the Government’s handling of the economy rose in the week after the budget, although to a still subterranean -23%.

But the Autumn budget merely stemmed the bleeding and did not reverse the Government’s flat-lining political fortunes. In the following months, the Conservatives have consistently polled 20-points or more behind Labour in our Westminster voting intention poll.

Next Wednesday’s Budget is thus a pivotal moment for the party.

In advance of Jeremy Hunt’s announcement, we asked British voters last week what they wanted from the Budget. In terms of priorities, the top three areas voters named that should be given ‘very high’ or ‘high’ priority are reducing inflation (78%), funding public services (65%), and ending strikes (61%). While the Chancellor has urged older Britons to stay in or re-enter the workforce, 43% say that should be a low priority in his budget.

We have previously written how, by early 2022, the Conservatives had decisively lost their reputation as the party of low taxation. Despite Liz Truss’ attempts otherwise, that impression is again the same. When asked a week ago who they most associated with lowering taxes, 26% of voters chose Labour leader Keir Starmer against only 23% who chose Rishi Sunak. 

While some may argue that the financial conditions may not allow it, even given a surprisingly large tax haul announced in January, nothing would do more to bring the Conservatives some electoral dividend from the budget than showing a willingness to cut taxes somewhere—anywhere—and get back to their historic position as the party in favour of trusting citizens to spend their own money wisely and for the overall good. 

In fact, it appears the public would rather the Chancellor focus on cutting taxes than on reducing the UK’s mounting debt burden, another perennial Conservative concern. When asked which of these two issues should be the higher priority for the Chancellor, 49% of voters say he should prioritise tax reductions, while 36% say reducing the national debt should be the bigger priority.

But as the list of priorities voters identified for Hunt above indicates, they expect him to also act on the now widespread industrial unrest affecting many public services. With the UK currently wracked by the worst series of strikes the country has experienced in decades, 49% of the public believes the Government has got the money to be able to pay public sector workers higher wages (30% believe the government does not).

Perhaps surprisingly, a narrow plurality (34%) would support the Government raising taxes to fund higher public sector wages, against 31% who would oppose such a move. An even narrower plurality (32% oppose to 31% support), however, say they would be against the Government funding higher public sector wages through increased borrowing.

All these are conundrums with which the Chancellor, and the Government more broadly, has to wrestle. Last week’s announcement of the Windsor Framework Agreement was a diplomatic coup for Sunak. But it concerned an issue (trade with Northern Ireland) of little relevance to most voters. 

In stark contrast, budget announcements—as was amply demonstrated by Kwasi Kwarteng last September—have the ability to make or break a government. For this government, it is crucial. The economy remains the single most important issue British voters say will determine how they vote at the next election, while the Conservatives have not been the most trusted party to manage the economy since March last year—in the aftermath of Rishi Sunak’s last Budget as Chancellor.

With an election due by the end of next year, the opportunities for the Government to introduce measures that will materially improve voters’ economic circumstances are rapidly diminishing. Next Wednesday could be a reset for Sunak’s administration, or it could hasten the end of his Government. 

R&WS in the Media

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

Poll: public confused on Starmer and Sunak’s five goals
The Spectator | 5 March 2023

Brits say reducing inflation must be the top priority for Hunt in next week’s Budget
Sunday Express | 4 March 2023

Americans Are Socializing Less—Is It Making Us Unhappy?
Newsweek | 3 March 2023

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