Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! This week, we assess the state of the polls in the United Kingdom in the wake of the Conservative and Labour Party conferences.

This week, our research also covered:

  • The potential impact of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy on the 2024 US Presidential Election.
  • Growing opposition to the 20mph speed limit in Wales.

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 (15 October):

Labour 43% (–)
Conservative 29% (+2)
Liberal Democrat 14% (+1)
Reform UK 7% (-1)
Green 4% (-2)
Scottish National Party 1% (–)
Other 2% (–)

Changes +/- 8 October

Combined Net Approval Ratings (15 October):

Keir Starmer: +6% (-4)
Rishi Sunak: -13% (+3)

Changes +/- 8 October

Going into their respective party conferences this month, Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer faced different challenges.

For Sunak, in his first conference as Conservative Party leader, the main challenge was to lay out a compelling and persuasive policy agenda that could serve as a roadmap for re-election. A secondary challenge was to improve his own image to an electorate that was broadly inclined to think little of him.

Labour’s conference, meanwhile, was about presenting the Labour shadow cabinet as a Government-in-waiting, while reassuring sceptical voters that Labour has changed since 2019 and can now be trusted to be responsible custodians of the public finances. 

With conference season over and MPs back in Westminster, did any of the speeches, policy announcements, or glitter bombs do anything to shift the overall polling picture?

In short, no.

Despite claiming to be focused on making “Long-term decisions for a brighter future,” Rishi Sunak’s policy announcements failed to directly address the key concerns of voters such as the cost-of-living crisis, NHS waiting lists, or immigration.

Consequently, for reasons explored in our last edition of Magnified, the Conservatives have failed to see any poll ‘bounce’ from their conference. Although our polling finds the public largely support the party’s proposals on smoking, net zero, and HS2, in isolation, Labour’s current margin over the Conservatives of 14% is the same as it was on the day the Conservative conference opened.

Sunak’s own personal approval rating has fallen three points since the last poll before the conference (from -10% to -13%), while Keir Starmer’s advantage over him as the person most Britons believe would be the better Prime Minister has now grown to 11 points (43% vs 32%), having stood at 9% (41% vs 32%) two weeks ago. 

And despite recent attempts to pitch himself as the ‘change’ candidate, Sunak trails Starmer by a margin of 17 points when voters are asked which of the two men “represents change” (44% vs 27%).

Protecting a double-digit poll lead, Labour played it safe. 

The kind of pricey spending commitments one might expect an Opposition anticipating an imminent election to make were largely absent, with shadow cabinet ministers instead preaching fiscal restraint and disciplined management of departmental budgets. This attitude was typified by Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves promising, “A Labour government will not waiver from iron-clad fiscal rules.”

For Keir Starmer, his speech presented the biggest set-piece address he has thus far delivered as Labour leader. 

Our polling has consistently shown that voters have little sense of what Starmer personally believes in or what a vote for Labour at the next election would be a vote for.

In what may well have been his last conference speech before the next General Election, here was a chance for the Labour leader to flesh out what a Labour Government under his leadership would actually do.

As it turned out, however, Starmer’s speech was thin on policy and heavy on attacks on the Conservatives for presiding over “thirteen years of decline.”

With Labour anxious to provide the Conservatives as little substance to attack as possible (what Starmer has called “bomb-proofing” Labour’s policy pledges), the Labour leader was unlikely to be tempted to announce any headline grabbing policies.

After all, Labour has no need to pull policy rabbits from anywhere. The party retains a commanding lead in voting intention polling and remains more trusted than the Conservatives on all three of the key issues British voters consistently say will determine their vote at the next election: the economy, the NHS, and immigration.

Starmer also emerged from his conference with a healthy personal approval rating of +6%, in addition to growing his personal advantage over Sunak in head-to-head polling.

Regardless of what happens in today’s by-elections in Tamworth and Mid-Bedfordshire, the outlook for the Government remains dire. 

As we cautioned in the aftermath of the Uxbridge result, by-elections have a dynamic all of their own. In the rush by commentators to construct grand narratives from the evidence of such localised contests, the broader context is often lost. 

That context is an NHS that remains at breaking point, a small boat crisis that shows no sign of stopping, and inflation that remains stubbornly high at 6.7%.

2024 US Presidential Election Polling

2024 Presidential Election Swing State Voting Intention (7-9 Oct):

Donald Trump | Joe Biden

Arizona 44% | 39%
Florida 44% | 39%
Georgia 43% | 40%
Michigan 41% | 41%
North Carolina 43% | 38%
Pennsylvania 42% | 43%

2024 Presidential Election Swing State Voting Intention (7-9 Oct):

Donald Trump | Joe Biden | Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Arizona 42% | 37% | 8%
Florida 44% | 37% | 8%
Georgia 41% | 38% | 8%
Michigan 40% | 38% | 7%
North Carolina 41% | 38% | 9%
Pennsylvania 39% | 39% | 9%

Earlier this month, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. declared his candidacy as an independent in the 2024 US Presidential Election, thus abandoning his attempt to challenge President Biden for the Democratic Party’s nomination. 

In the hours immediately following his announcement, a Super Pac aligned with Kennedy raised $11million for his campaign, a sign that Kennedy may play a significant role in next year’s election.

Although third-party candidates have played spoiler roles in both the 2000 (Ralph Nader) and 2016 (Jill Stein and Gary Johnson) elections, no non-major party candidate has achieved significant popular support in a US Presidential Election since Ross Perot took more than 8% of the vote in his second Presidential campaign in 1996.

However, with the next US Presidential Election now just a little over a year away, our new swing state tracker poll—launched last week in partnership with The Telegraph—suggests Kennedy could have a significant role.

Without Kennedy as a candidate, Donald Trump leads Joe Biden in four of the six states polled—Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina—while Biden leads in Pennsylvania. The two are tied in Michigan (41% each).

However, when Kennedy is prompted as a named candidate, he attracts between 7% and 9% in each of the six states polled, enough to give Trump a small advantage in Michigan (40% vs 38%) and forcing a tie between Trump and Biden in Pennsylvania (39% vs 39%).

Intriguingly, our polling currently suggests an independent Kennedy candidacy may do more to damage Joe Biden than Donald Trump. About twice as many Biden 2020 voters as Trump 2020 voters say they would vote for RFK Jr. in Georgia (10% vs 5%), North Carolina (11% vs 5%), Pennsylvania (10% vs 6%), and Florida (11% vs 4%).

However, there is an important caveat.

Our polling was concluded before RFK Jr.’s official declaration that he would run as an independent candidate. Further polling will see how Kennedy’s support changes as he moves from pitching himself primarily to Democratic Primary voters towards pitching himself to all general election voters.

To stay up to date on our US polling, sign up for email updates here.

Chart of the Week

Last month, Wales became the first nation in the United Kingdom to introduce a default 20mph speed limit on restricted roads in residential or built-up areas “where cars mix with pedestrians and cyclists.”

While the Labour-led Welsh Government has touted the environmental and health benefits of the reduced speed limit, the Conservative opposition in the Senedd and even Prime Minister Rishi Sunak have been harshly critical. 

Conservative members of Cardiff Council recently failed to reverse the introduction of the new speed limit in the Welsh capital, and more than 450,000 people have signed a public petition calling on the Welsh Government to “rescind and remove the disastrous 20mph law.”

Almost a month after the policy was implemented across Wales, our latest polling finds that Welsh voters have swung decisively against the new 20 mph speed limit, with a majority of voters now saying they oppose it.

In polling conducted last week for WalesOnline, 59% of Welsh voters, including 51% of those who voted Labour in the 2021 Senedd Election, say they now oppose the introduction of the 20mph speed limit, up from 34% who said they opposed the new speed limit in mid-September.

Support for the new, reduced speed limit has correspondingly fallen from 46% to 29%. Opposition to the new speed limit has also helped drive down approval ratings for First Minister Mark Drakeford in our latest Welsh monthly political tracker, published yesterday.

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.

Starmer warned Tories could sneak ‘shot in the arm’ by-election win in red wall battle
The Independent | 14 October 2023

A vote for Labour is a vote for?
ITV News | 9 October 2023

Fuel Ban Fury: Red Wall households want Keir Starmer to ditch plan to bring forward ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2030
The Sun | 6 October 2023

Support for SNP and Labour down in Scotland, poll finds
The National | 6 October 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!

Numbers of the Week

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