Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, in light of the local elections earlier this month, we examine the broader polling picture which finds Labour to be on course for a parliamentary majority, not a hung parliament.
This week, our research also covered:
- Reaction to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price’s resignation
- Do British voters think the pandemic is over?
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Westminster Voting Intention (14 May):
Labour 42% (+1)
Conservative 28% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 11% (-5)
Reform UK 8% (+3)
Green 5% (+1)
Scottish National Party 4% (+1)
Other 2% (+1)
Changes +/- 7 May
Combined Net Approval Ratings (14 May):
Keir Starmer: +2% (-8)
Rishi Sunak: -5% (+2)
Jeremy Hunt: -7% (+2)
Changes +/- 7 May
Two weeks ago, in our last issue of Magnified, we predicted “a difficult night for the Conservatives” ahead of local elections across England. And indeed, the Conservatives went on to lose over 1,000 council seats, the worst case scenario that insiders within the Conservative Party had relayed to the media beforehand in an attempt at expectations management. Meanwhile, the Labour Party took control of a majority of councils across the United Kingdom for the first time in two decades.
Nevertheless, the abundantly clear conclusion that should have been drawn from such a devastating defeat has been missed in the aftermath. Instead, due to a well-publicised modelled extrapolation of the local elections results into a General Election scenario, much of the Westminster bubble engaged last week with the possibility of a hung parliament, which would likely see Labour entering in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats in order to form a Government.
Drawing from this extrapolation on Tuesday last week, Beth Rigby on Sky News insisted to Keir Starmer, “No one agrees with you that you are on course for an outright majority.”
… except for, well, every General Election poll by every pollster in the last several months?
Since late last year, no matter how you looked at the latest Westminster polling, regardless of pollster or subset of constituencies polled, the polling picture has said that the Labour Party would handily win a Parliamentary majority if a General Election was held tomorrow.
Despite a slight narrowing in their lead from an average of 22% in the first three months of 2023 to an average of 15% since the beginning of April, Labour has still led the Conservatives by a double-digit margin in every national poll since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister. That margin, now 14% in our poll this week, would be more than enough to win a majority.
Pick your preferred cluster of politically salient constituencies.
The traditionally Labour-voting “Red Wall” seats that the Conservatives won in 2019, home of Workington Man? Labour leads there by 23% and is poised to take back nearly all, if not all, the seats it lost here in the last election.
The affluent, Remain-leaning “Blue Wall” seats in the South of England that have voted Conservative for years? Labour leads there by 4%, having finished third in this area in 2019.
In Wales, which Labour won in the last election by the narrowest margin in a century, Labour is leading by 20%. Scotland, meanwhile, could potentially elect more MPs from Labour than the SNP for the first time since 2010.
Extrapolations or analyses of the local elections based on historical trends stretching back decades do not factor in how much voter behaviour has changed in recent years, with voters now less and less attached to political parties than they were before.
We live in a different time. In 2023, voting for a particular party in any election is no longer the embedded statement of political or class identity that it was throughout the 20th century. For this reason, it is silly to take as given that, for example, Liberal Democrat or Green voters in a local election define themselves as Liberal Democrat or Green voters in general and are therefore Liberal Democrat or Green voters in a national election. Instead, voters are rather fluid.
A local election is a different thing than a general election. Most voters understand this difference and vote accordingly.
To speak of the possibility of a hung Parliament and a “coalition of chaos” (a line which in 2015 referred to a potential Labour-SNP coalition, a completely different scenario) in light of last week’s local election is to glaze entirely over the equally, if not more, likely possibility of widespread anti-Conservative tactical voting, which could see the Conservative Party with even fewer MPs than current General Election polling would suggest. After all, more than 60% of non-Conservative voters in the Blue Wall, for instance, say they could see themselves voting tactically.
Other analyses which examine local elections results in the constituencies that Labour needs to win in order to win a majority at the next election confirm this picture. Labour won in the local elections in places it needs to win to have a majority. Conservative losses to the Liberal Democrats and Greens in other areas would only widen, rather than narrow, Labour’s seat margin over the Conservatives after the General Election next year.
But look beyond the headline voting intention polling or local election results, and it should be abundantly clear why we are heading for a crushing defeat for the Conservative Party and, correspondingly, a Labour Party majority.
Apart from a brief bounce following his appointment as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has held a negative approval rating since his final Spring Budget as Chancellor in March 2022 when the cost-of-living crisis took hold. Likewise, Jeremy Hunt’s approval rating has flatlined at around -8%.
The bigger issue for the Conservatives, however, concerns policy, not personalities. On the three major issues that voters consistently say will most determine their vote at the next General Election—the economy, the NHS, and immigration—the Government’s approval ratings are dire.
The last time more voters approved than disapproved of the Government’s economic performance was in December 2021. Since March last year, half of Britons or more have said, week after week, that their financial situation had worsened over the previous three months. At this moment, only 17% of Britons now say their financial situation has improved in the last three months, the highest this figure has been since May 2021.
The Health Service continues to be bedevilled by massive issues, from on-going strike action by NHS staff to lengthening waiting lists for treatment. A majority of the public has disapproved of the Government’s handling of the NHS in every single poll since 25 September. In our latest poll, just a third of 2019 Conservative voters say they approve of the Government’s handling of the health service.
Despite the Prime Minister’s pledge in January to “Stop the Boats,” immigration continues to be a running sore for the Government. Nationally, net approval of the Conservatives performance on immigration has fallen to -27%, with net approval ratings on the issue in the Red Wall and Blue Wall registering at -32% and -20%, respectively. With divisions between the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, on immigration policy leaking into public view this week, the issue will continue to fester.
Above all, after thirteen years of Conservative Government, far more voters feel pessimistic (45%) than optimistic (27%) about the direction in which the United Kingdom is heading.
In short, a considerable majority of the public has become fed up with the Conservatives and their poor performance in Government. While Labour has not necessarily done much to persuade voters to vote for them, rather than against the Conservatives, Keir Starmer has still done the critical work of making Labour palatable and, at the same time, something different. Under the current two-party system, that should be more than enough to hand Labour a majority in Parliament.
Latest Wales Tracker
Adam Price Approval Rating (14-15 May)
Disapprove: 31% (+7)
Approve: 16% (-8)
Net: -15% (-15)
Changes +/- 15-17 April
The resignation of Adam Price as leader of Plaid Cymru this week represents the biggest shake-up in the leadership of a major Welsh political party since Andrew RT Davies became the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in 2021.
Price stood down after four and a half years as leader following the publication of a report which found a culture of bullying, harassment, and misogyny in the Welsh nationalist party. Price attended his final First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, prior to which our latest monthly Welsh political tracker had found Price’s net approval rating had fallen 15 points to -15% with Welsh voters as a whole.
Plaid Cymru also suffered a slight drop in net favourability, falling from +1% last month to -2% in our latest poll. Still, they remain the second most popular party in Wales after Labour (+8%).
Despite these developments, the resignation of the leader of the third-largest party in Wales has done little to shake-up the overall political picture in the principality. In our headline result, Labour retains its 20-point lead over the Conservatives in our Westminster voting intention poll (43% to 23%).
At the same time, Labour’s lead in our Senedd constituency voting intention drops five points to 15% (38% to 23%). First Minister Mark Drakeford sees a slight bump in his approval rating to +4% (+2) while the Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, receives a four-point boost to now stand at -12%.
As for Plaid Cymru, Llyr Gruffydd has taken over as the acting leader of the party in advance of a full leadership election in the coming weeks.
Chart of the Week
On 5 May, the World Health Organisation announced that Covid-19 “no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”
It seems the British public, too, are ready to finally declare the Coronavirus pandemic over.
When asked if the pandemic is over, 49% of voters this week said yes, the first time since we started asking this question in June that more people have answered yes than no. Majorities of those aged between 25 and 34 (57%), 35 and 44 (58%), and 45 and 54 (54%) all believe the pandemic is over.
Yet, even following the WHO’s announcement, 36% of Britons still say the pandemic is not over. Perhaps unsurprisingly, older voters are more wary, with a narrow plurality (43%) of these voters responding the pandemic is not over, against 40% who say it is.
More surprisingly, 39% of 18-to-24-year-olds also say the pandemic is not over yet, against 42% of this age cohort who say it is.
Overall, 78% of Britons say their lives have either ‘entirely’ (37%) or ‘mostly’ (41%) returned to how they were pre-pandemic, with more than 4-in-5 of those aged 25-34 (84%) and 35-44 (81%) saying their lives have ‘entirely’ or ‘mostly’ returned to normal. However, 6% say their lives have returned ‘not at all’ to normal, suggesting that regardless of whether we deem the pandemic ‘over’ or not, there are still a number of people whose lives remain unrecognisable in comparison to before the pandemic.
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.
R&WS in the Media
Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.
Why is Biden so afraid to debate rival Democrats?
Washington Times | 17 May 2023
Humza nightmare as pollster Sir John Curtice warns SNP will lose ‘an awful lot of seats’
Daily Express | 14 May 2023
Britain’s Labour Party doesn’t want to talk about a hung parliament. It might have to
Politico | 12 May 2023
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