Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we examine “Bidenomics,” President Biden’s grand vision for the US economy and ask if Americans are ready to support a new era of Big(ger) Government?
This week, our research also covered:
- Our latest Westminster polling
- British voters’ understanding of Labour’s Europe policy
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Westminster Voting Intention (9 July):
Labour 48% (+2)
Conservative 27% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 11% (–)
Reform UK 5% (–)
Green 4% (-1)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 1% (-1)
Changes +/- 2 July
Combined Net Approval Ratings (9 July):
Keir Starmer: +9% (+2)
Rishi Sunak: -16% (–)
Changes +/- 2 July
Summer recess cannot come soon enough for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives. Barely a year out from the next General Election, the polls continue to paint a relentlessly dire picture for the Government.
In Great Britain as a whole, Labour this week holds a 21-point lead, the widest lead the party has held since 19 March.
In the Red Wall, Labour’s lead now stands at 25%, down two points from our previous poll but still more than enough of a margin to capture all 40 seats in the Red Wall if such a result were repeated at a General Election. And in the Blue Wall, our most recent poll shows Labour maintaining its seven-point lead in this traditionally Conservative set of seats, tying the largest lead for Labour there since 26 March (remember: Labour came third in the Blue Wall in 2019).
Rishi Sunak’s net approval ratings have hit several month lows in the Blue Wall (-8%, his lowest rating since 8 February), the Red Wall (-22%, his lowest figure in those seats since 5 February), and nationally, with his current nationwide rating of -16% in both our most recent polls the lowest he has recorded since 26 February.
By contrast, Keir Starmer’s approval rating stands at +9% in Great Britain and +5% in both the Blue Wall and the Red Wall.
In their head-to-head contest, Sunak now trails Keir Starmer as the person voters think would be the better Prime Minister by ten points nationally (42% to 32%) the joint-largest lead Starmer has held over Sunak since Sunak became Prime Minister in October. Starmer also now leads Sunak in the Blue Wall (36% to 34%), the first time Starmer has led Sunak in these seats since we started our Blue Wall tracker last October. In addition, Starmer leads by nine points (39% to 30%) in the Red Wall, another largest lead since 7 February.
As a growing number of Conservative MPs announce they will not be contesting the next election, the dire state of the polls might well have some of their colleagues wondering if the summer holidays would be a good time to start updating their CVs as well.
Chart of the Week
Today, Britain’s relationship with the European Union is no longer the crucial electoral issue that it was in the 2019 General Election. With voter anxiety about the economy, the NHS, and immigration at the fore, only 12% of voters name ‘Britain Leaving the EU’ as one of the three most important issues that would determine how they would vote in a General Election.
The Labour Party certainly welcomes this receding importance of Europe as an electoral issue, as the party seeks to rebuild electoral support among leave-supporting voters in its historic ‘Red Wall’ heartlands and also hold onto Labour’s remain-supporting base from the last election.
In order to cobble together this broad electoral coalition of both Remain and Leave supporting voters, Labour has a policy on Europe, Make Brexit Work, that the public finds rather ambiguous. On the one hand, Labour has definitively ruled out re-joining the single market or the customs union. On the other hand, Keir Starmer has called for a closer trading relationship between the UK and the EU and for more access to the EU market for British farmers.
This mixed messaging has left many voters unsure of the party’s official position on Europe. When asked in mid-June, only 16% of Britons correctly identified staying out of the EU as the current policy of the Labour Party towards the European Union. A plurality of 41% believe it is the party’s policy to re-join the EU, while 43% state either that they are unsure or that Labour has no clear policy on this issue.
Moreover, while 32% believe Labour’s current objective is to seek a closer relationship with the EU, 31% believe that the party is in favour of either the status quo or a more distant relationship. A further 39% say either that they themselves don’t know what Labour’s objective is or that Labour’s policy itself is unclear.
The next election will not be fought on Brexit. But an incoming Labour Government will soon be confronted with decisions that may force an end to the party’s current strategic ambiguity on Europe.
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
President Biden Bets on Big Government
On Wednesday morning, new figures released by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics showed inflation had dropped to 3% in June, its lowest level since March 2021. In the wake of the news, stock prices on Wall Street opened higher than expected while the White House trumpeted the news as a sign of the success of President Biden’s economic policies.
The cheering news on inflation comes amid signs of growing confidence from the White House that President Biden can make a compelling economic argument for his re-election in 2024.
Two weeks ago, the President gave a speech in Chicago in which he set-out his economic vision for America. Embracing the label of “Bidenomics” for this agenda, the President outlined his goal of building an economy that grows “from the middle out and the bottom up instead of just the top down,” fuelled by public investments in infrastructure, education, and clean energy.
On the face of it, American’s appear broadly supportive of this overall vision. In a poll conducted last week, 47% of Americans said they support the President’s aim to build an economy “from the bottom up and the middle out.”
In the President’s telling, this agenda is already producing results through the public investments delivered under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act.
And indeed, there are some encouraging trend lines for the administration. While a plurality (36%) of Americans say their financial position has worsened in the last year, this number is down from 46% last October. In the same period, the number of Americans who say their financial position has improved in the last year has risen from 18% to 25%.
Additionally, the number of Americans who would now say the overall state of the US Economy is bad is down from 55% in October to 43% today, with the number of those saying the state of the economy is good has risen accordingly from 21% to 36% now.
Nevertheless, despite the positive direction indicated by these latest figures, they provide an overall weak foundation for a compelling reelection campaign pitch. 69% of Americans say rising costs have ‘significantly’ or ‘fairly’ affected their lives in the past year, while 62% agreed in our poll last week that the Government and the Treasury have lost control over inflation (although responses to that question were collected before the inflation figures for June were released). Above all, public approval of the Administration’s handling of the economy currently stands at -13%.
Further evidence of tangible improvements will therefore be necessary before the President can credibly lean on his economic record as he makes his pitch to the voters.
A deeper challenge in selling the President’s economic vision will be overcoming Americans’ decades-long scepticism about large-scale Government interventions in the economy.
The President’s Chicago speech included several swipes at “trickle-down economics,” a derisive term for supply-side economics, which Biden claimed, “has failed America’s middle classes for decades now” by “slashing public investment on things that helped drive long-term growth and helped America lead the world in innovation.”
Biden’s faith in government investment to stimulate economic development and growth is essentially that of an old-school New Deal Democrat, hence his name-checking in Chicago of President Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act from the 1930s. It is a vision of benevolent Government which few Presidents (or even Presidential candidates) have been willing to forcefully articulate since President Reagan declared in his first inaugural address, “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”
Biden’s Democratic predecessors had shied away from such grand visions. In his 1996 State of the Union Address, President Clinton declared that “the era of big Government is over.” Along the same lines, President Obama said in 2013, “It is not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government.”
After all, attitudes towards Government spending remain mixed. A majority of Americans in June said they believe the Government is spending too much in general (52%). Additionally, majorities last week agreed that lower income taxes result in both more economic growth (59%) and more economic equality (57%) than more government spending does.
That said, when Americans are asked about Government spending in particular areas, their responses change. Pluralities believe the Government is not spending enough in areas like housing (43%), K-12 education (37%), and trade schools and apprenticeships (34%), in addition to large-ticket spending areas like social security (45%). In fact, the only area in which more Americans think the US Government is spending too much rather than too little is NASA (22% vs 15%).
If the Administration can frame its agenda as investing in targeted areas like education and apprenticeships, it may be able to sell its overall vision for a more hands-on economic policy framework.
President Biden is betting his chances of reelection on the belief that the era of big government is back and that the American public is ready for it. But Biden and his team will need to show effectiveness and, above all, results.
R&WS in the Media
Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.
How Supreme Court Justices Approval Ratings Have Changed Since Rulings
Newsweek | 11 July 2023
ITV News | 5 July 2023
Expansion of ‘ultra low emissions zone’ to all of Greater London is hotly contested
LeMonde | 5 July 2023
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