Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we examine whether cautious managerialism is the right approach to win over voters.
This week, our research also covered:
- Our latest Westminster polling
- Labour’s continued resurgence in Scotland
- The most important issue facing the UK today
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 Voting Intention (6 August):
Labour 45% (+2)
Conservative 27% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 10% (-1)
Reform UK 8% (+1)
Green 6% (+1)
Scottish National Party 3% (-1)
Other 1% (-2)
Changes +/- 30 July
Combined Net Approval Ratings (6 August):
Keir Starmer: +6% (-1)
Rishi Sunak: -16% (-2)
Changes +/- 30 July
A cursory look at the polls does nothing to dispel the notion that the Prime Minister will probably be job-hunting this time next year, or whenever the dust settles after the next election.
Nationally, Labour now leads by 18%, having never led by less than 12% in any poll since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister last November.
In the Red Wall, Labour this week leads by 21%. Only 50% of 2019 Conservative voters in these seats say they would vote for the party if an election were held tomorrow.
And in the Blue Wall seats of Southern England, Labour’s current lead of 4% comes three and a half years after the party was beaten into third place in these seats, 29% behind the Conservatives.
Some commentators—especially Conservative ones—think that current polling is not reflective of where things actually stand, holding onto the undecided voters (15% in our most recent national poll) who are not included in the final voting intention poll result. However, just 20% of these voters say they could see themselves voting Conservative in the future, not a substantial number…
Indeed, Rishi Sunak’s own approval rating nationally remains underwater at -16%, the joint-lowest approval rating he has scored nationally since late February. He also continues to trail Keir Starmer as the person British voters think would be the better Prime Minister by five points (33% to Starmer on 38%).
Latest Scotland Tracker
Scottish Independence Referendum Voting Intention (5-6 August)
No, against Independence: 48% (-1)
Yes, for Independence: 45% (–)
Don’t Know: 7% (+1)
Changes +/- 1-2 July
Scottish Westminster Voting Intention (5–6 August)
Scottish National Party 37% (+2)
Labour 34% (+2)
Conservative 17% (-4)
Liberal Democrat 7% (–)
Green 2% (–)
Reform 2% (–)
Other 1% (–)
Changes +/- 1-2 July
Our latest monthly Scottish political tracker poll confirms what has been evident for some time: Labour’s resurgence north of the border is real.
Not only has Labour regained a narrow lead in our Holyrood regional list voting intention poll, but the party also now trails the Scottish National Party by just 3% (within the margin of error) in our Scottish Westminster voting intention poll.
The 34% Labour scores in our latest poll is a 15-point improvement on the vote share the party won at the last General Election in 2019, while both the SNP and the Conservatives shares of 37% and 17%, respectively, are down eight points from December 2019.
Keir Starmer’s approval rating among Scots’ voters has increased three points from last month, rising into net positive territory at +2%, while his lead over Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as the person Scottish voters think would be the better Prime Minister has increased to eleven points (39% to 28%).
In better news for the SNP, the steady narrowing of their lead over Labour in both our Westminster and Holyrood constituency voting intention polling appears to have been arrested, with the party maintaining a 3% lead in the latter and increasing its advantage by one point to 4% in the former.
After a difficult first few months in office, First Minister Humza Yousaf also appears to have stabilised his approval ratings, which now stand at -11%. He also retains leads over both Anas Sarwar (33% to 28%) and Douglas Ross (38% to 29%) when voters are asked who the better First Minister for Scotland would be.
Nevertheless, Labour’s resurgence fundamentally alters the political calculus in the run-up to the next UK General Election.
In 2017, Labour won fewer votes and seats than the Conservatives in Scotland for the first time since 1955, a result they repeated in 2019. Now, with 23% of 2019 Conservative voters and 17% of 2019 SNP voters saying they would vote for Labour if a General Election were held tomorrow, the party appears poised to make major gains in Scotland, an absolute necessity if it is to win a majority at Westminster.
The forthcoming by-election in Rutherglen & Hamilton West, triggered by the successful recall petition launched against the sitting MP Margaret Ferrier, offers Labour a golden opportunity to prove that, after a decade in the wilderness, it is once again a political force north of the border.
Chart of the Week
Last week, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked British voters to name, in their own words, the single most important issue in the United Kingdom today.
A plurality of 30% currently say the cost-of-living is the most important issue facing the country, with a further 15% selecting the economy. Immigration and the environment were both named by 6% of respondents, while climate change was named by 3%.
The latest results closely match those from last month, when the cost of living (40%) and the economy (13%) were again the two most commonly raised issues by voters.
The continued centrality of cost-of-living and economic concerns to voters is bad news for the Government, with 64% of voters nationally and 68% in the vital ‘Red Wall’ seats now saying the Government is not taking the right measures to address the cost-of-living crisis.
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
Britain’s Main Political Parties Gamble on Stability
What do British voters want?
Do they want a dynamic Prime Minister who exudes vision, creativity, and ideas? Someone who promises much-needed change and bounces with the energetic zeal to deliver it?
Or do they want a boring Prime Minister who calls for calmness and sensibility? Someone who says he is a safe pair of hands? Someone whose promise is change, yes, but merely a change from instability to stability?
At this moment, both the current Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are gambling on the belief that voters want the latter. They believe that British voters will ultimately vote for the party and Prime Ministerial candidate that will keep the ship steady.
Indeed, the public recognizes this overarching pitch that both parties are making. Clear pluralities of voters see both Labour (48%) and the Conservatives (46%) as primarily trying to say to voters that they are offering better management capabilities rather than more creativity and vision.
Rather than reassuring voters, however, the two main parties now exhibit an overabundance of caution and reticence, too afraid to seem too risky to voters and too burned by recent experience (Corbyn for Labour; Johnson and Truss for the Conservatives) to be willing to change course, to genuinely propose action.
At the beginning of this year, Rishi Sunak outlined five key pledges that he hoped he could say he had delivered on in a year’s time—hoped being the key word because none of the pledges outlined how he intended to achieve them.
At that time, the five pledges looked like sure bets. Economic models predicted that inflation would more than halve by the end of the year and that the economy would grow slightly. With such headwinds, it was also not unreasonable to expect that the national debt could be lowered too.
All Rishi Sunak had to do was ‘resist borrowing’ and ‘support the Bank of England’ (a.k.a. do nothing himself), and he would be able to claim credit for such improvements, calm and steady.
On Channel crossings, RIshi Sunak said, merely, that he would ‘pass legislation’ to stop the boats, leaving him some wiggle room in case the resulting legislation did not, in fact, stop the boats.
And, with the pandemic behind us, NHS waiting lists looked set to fall, again without any genuine action on the part of the Government.
Half a year later, the result of this chicanery, as Fraser Nelson has described it, is that voters see Rishi Sunak as having accomplished rather little as Prime Minister.
56% of voters believe Rishi Sunak has accomplished ‘nothing at all’ or only ‘a slight amount’ in his time as Prime Minister. Just 10% believe he has accomplished ‘a significant amount.’ Meanwhile, overwhelming majorities believe Sunak has made ‘no progress at all’ or only ‘a little’ progress in achieving each of his five priorities.
At the end of the day, 26% of voters either do not know what Rishi Sunak stands for or say that he stands for ‘nothing.’ Immigration (15%) is the only policy which more than 10% of voters can identify Sunak with.
The Opposition is hardly any better, however.
The shelving of Labour’s signature pledge to invest £28bn a year to fund a green transition of the UK economy is instructive in this regard.
Having announced the policy at Labour’s 2021 Conference, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves revealed in June that the plan had been scaled back, with the aim now being to scale up the plan gradually to reach the £28bn a year target by 2027. As Reeves said at the time, “No plan can be built that is not a rock of economic and fiscal responsibility…I will never play fast and loose with the public finances.”
But the watering-down of this signature Labour policy, on top of other U-turns on issues from nationalisation and universal credit to tuition fees and tax rates for high earners, has created a void where Labour’s policy proposals should be.
Last month, only 13% of Britons said they were ‘very familiar’ with what Starmer and his party stand for under his leadership, while double that number (26%) are ‘not at all’ familiar.
And more recently, a plurality (38%) of the public answered nothing (20%) or don’t know (18%) when asked to name what policy they most associate with Starmer personally.
Given all polling evidence, with the Conservative exhausted after thirteen years in office, Starmer’s promise of stability and more competent management will probably be enough to win Labour a majority at the next election. As we wrote a few weeks ago: Opposition parties do not win elections. Governments lose them.
In truth, however, voters are split on this question. 42% say they would be most likely to vote for the party with better managers, while 46% say they would be most likely to vote for the party with better ideas.
As such, nearly half of the electorate (46%) are not seeing their overarching desire for ideas represented by one of the two main parties, a gaping hole.
This lack of representation is reflected in the broader mindset of the country. 52% of likely voters agree with the following statement: I wish there was someone else I could vote for.
And even more (71%) agree with this one: I want to vote for real change, but no one is truly offering it.
Betting on stability might seem safe, on the surface. But the more you look at it, it does seem rather risky, doesn’t it?
R&WS in the Media
Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.
Brits don’t believe Rishi Sunak is serious about fighting climate change
The New Statesman | 7 August 2023
Red Wall voters want legal right to pay in cash
Daily Telegraph | 23 July 2023
Florida Voters Don’t Think Ron DeSantis Stands a Chance of Beating Trump
Newsweek | 5 August 2023
Rishi Sunak under new pressure to woo drivers as poll shows Labour is now more popular with car owners
Daily Mail | 1 August 2023
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!