Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we take a deep dive into the current attitudes of likely Labour and Conservative voters and ask what implications these attitudes have for the next election.
This week, our research also covered:
- Our latest Westminster polling
- Scottish voters views of Nicola Sturgeon’s evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry
- How many Texans would support seceding from the United States?
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 (4 February):
Labour 45% (–)
Conservative 24% (+2)
Reform UK 12% (–)
Liberal Democrat 9% (-2)
Green 4% (-2)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 2% (+1)
Changes +/- 28 January
Combined Net Approval Ratings (4 February):
Keir Starmer: +7% (-2)
Rishi Sunak: -18% (–)
Changes +/- 28 January
With the next election drawing ever closer, time is fast running out for Rishi Sunak and his Government to effect a dramatic recovery.
This week’s latest nationwide Westminster Voting Intention poll finds the Conservatives 21% behind Labour (45% vs 24%), marking the third consecutive weekly poll in which Labour’s advantage over the Conservatives has been more than 20 points.
Regional polls are no better for the Government. Labour’s margins over the Conservatives in Wales and the Red Wall are 28% (a new record in our polling) and 20% respectively. In Scotland, where Labour and the SNP are wrestling for the lead, the Conservatives are in a distant third place.
Nor are the Government’s problems limited to Labour. Record numbers of 2019 Conservative voters in both the Red Wall (20%) and nationally (19%) now say they would vote for Reform UK in a General Election.
The Conservatives currently retain the support of only 48% of those who voted for them at the last election—just two points more than the lowest percentage recorded since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister (46%, a figure recorded on the day that he became Prime Minister).
Such a polling deficit would be difficult enough for the Prime Minister to overcome with a united party behind him.
But instead, his Conservative opponents—led by Liz Truss—chose this week to found a new group (Popular Conservatives), with speakers at its launch berating their own leadership for failing to champion Conservative values and take on “Left-wing extremists.”
The contrast between Sunak’s position and that of Keir Starmer—who spent part of last week addressing a packed room of business leaders who’d paid £1,000 per head for the privilege of mixing with Starmer and his shadow cabinet—is stark.
As one (anonymous) attendee at Starmer’s event told Politico, “We don’t have faith in the current crop of characters in Government, but we trust this lot.”
With Labour more trusted than the Conservatives by double-digit margins on the key electoral issues of the NHS (22%), the economy (12%) and immigration (10%), most of the public appears to have come to the same conclusion.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Appearance at Covid-19 Inquiry
Last week, the UK Covid-19 Inquiry decamped from its usual location in Westbourne Terrace in Paddington to Edinburgh. On Wednesday, the star appearance came from former Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
During her evidence, Sturgeon strongly refuted the suggestion that the Scottish Government had politicised the pandemic to advance the cause of Scottish independence.
Her protestations were dismissed by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack during his own evidence to the Inquiry, with Jack saying he “didn’t believe it for a minute.”
Neither do many Scottish voters.
In a poll conducted last weekend, a plurality (45%) of Scottish voters agree that the Scottish Government politicised the pandemic in order to further the cause of Scottish independence, while 29% disagree.
A majority of 2019 Conservative (78%) and a plurality of 2019 Labour (48%) voters agree with the statement, while 44% of SNP voters at the last General Election disagree.
Even so, a majority of Scottish voters nevertheless believe that the Scottish Government handled the pandemic better than the overall UK government. In fact, Sturgeon still receives a positive approval rating of +15% for her pandemic performance. At this moment, the pandemic remains the strongest area of approval for the Scottish Government.
If the Scottish Government did politicise the pandemic in order to further the cause of Scottish independence, admittedly they were successful.
Would Texas Vote to Secede?
In 2022, amid continuing fallout from Republican efforts to dispute the results of the 2020 Presidential Election, the state GOP platform affirmed that “Texas retains the right to secede from the United States” and further called on “the Texas Legislature…to pass a referendum consistent thereto.”
Now, as the dispute between Texan authorities and the Biden Administration over policies along the southern border rumbles on, the widespread perception that Texas is facing a migrant crisis is helping fuel support for Texan independence.
As it stands, if Texas were to hold a referendum on whether it should be a State within the US or be an independent country, 67% of likely voters would vote to remain within the United States.
But support for independence is not negligible. Almost a quarter (23%) of Texans would vote in favour of Texan independence in such a referendum.
In response to a differently structured question, support for secession is even higher. 33% of Texans, including a majority (55%) of Trump 2020 voters, would support Texas seceding from the United States and becoming an independent republic, against 39% who would outright oppose such a move.
And Texans are confident that their state—the second largest state in the United States both by the size of its population and economy—would make a success of independence. 44% agree and 30% disagree that Texas could succeed as an independent country if it left the United States.
Long Exposure In-Depth Analysis
The Issues — Thinking in Binary
Rarely is the way out of a given problem a simple binary: only this way or that way. Yet, due to the competitive nature of our electoral systems, politics often does force voters to think in binary, to make a manichean choice between one or another.
When voters are therefore asked in polling to select between two starkly contrasting statements on various issues, the differences can be quite illuminating. They can tell you where a group of voters have broadly converged in a certain direction, in contrast to another group, and where there is still tension within one voter group.
Labour voters, for example, overwhelmingly believe Brexit has not yet proven to be a success (82%), hold an unfavourable view of Donald Trump (80%), and think the NHS needs more money (80%), rather than needing to spend its money more wisely (20%).
They are rather split, however, on the questions of whether they are still attached to their views on Brexit (56%) or have moved on from the debate (44%).
They are even more split on the question of whether they prefer stability and order over freedom (52%) or freedom over stability and order (48%), and they are divided evenly down the middle on whether they want better public services (50%) or lower taxes (50%).
For their part, more than four-in-five Conservative voters believe that the Covid-19 vaccines broadly worked (86%) and generally supported the Covid-19 lockdowns (81%). About three quarters (73%) believe that too many people are getting Government support.
But Conservative voters are notably divided over whether innovation comes from the private sector (54%) or requires government support (46%), whether the UK should use First Past the Post (53%) or Proportional Representation (47%), and whether they have a favourable (52%) or unfavourable (48%) view of Donald Trump.
While an interesting intellectual exercise, the attitudes expressed in these responses have real implications for how the parties manage relations with their voters, particularly with a view to the coming General Election.
For Labour, the announcement that they intend to drop their signature £28bn ‘Green Transformation Fund’ is likely to cause disquiet with a voter base that overwhelmingly thinks the threat of climate change to the UK is not being taken seriously enough and might interpret such a move as a watering down of Labour’s climate commitments (commentary to that effect is already coming from the Labour left).
Similarly, Labour’s focus on cutting NHS waste, rather than promising greater investment in the service, clashes with Labour voters’ near unanimous belief that the NHS needs more money.
For their part, the Conservative Party’s (as we’ve argued, ill-judged) embrace of ‘pro-car’ policies ignores the fact that almost half their voters would prefer the Government to introduce policies that are more pro-public transport rather than pro-car.
Their proclaimed, Thatcherian regulatory approach to the economy stands in contrast to the fact that as many as 69% of likely Conservative voters believe the economy needs more, not less, regulation.
The importance of each party’s policy offerings is further underscored by another finding: only 6% of Conservative voters and 7% of Labour voters chose their respective party leader when asked what best fits their motivations for voting Conservative or Labour.
All of which lead us to the main point: what will be the issues of contention at the next election?
Comparing the responses of Labour and Conservative voters, support for covid lockdown measures, and support for Ukraine are two areas where both groups of voters are quite similar. There is a broad consensus.
Views are slightly wider apart on issues such as economic regulation, taxes, and the source of Covid-19, but are still within ten points of each other.
But on certain issues, the chasm between Labour and Conservatives voters is yawning.
Foremost among those issues is Brexit. While 61% of Conservative voters believe Brexit has already proven a success, just 18% of Labour voters feel the same, a difference of 43 points between the two cohorts.
At the same time, however, 42% of all voters say they have moved on from the Brexit debate. Less than 10% in our regular GB tracker cite Britain Leaving the EU as one of the three most important issues determining how they will vote.
Along these lines, likely Labour and Conservative voters notably differ on their favourablity of Donald Trump, another issue that seems unlikely to be a point of contention—unless the Conservatives do decide to run an Autumn election that clashes with the US Presidential Election.
Most substantively, 69% of likely Labour voters believe the cost-of-living crisis could have been avoided and 65% say the Government is not giving us enough support. By comparison, 64% of Conservative voters believe the cost of living crisis was inevitable, and 73% believe that too many people are getting Government support.
These 30-point gaps on stances relating to the cost-of-living are likely to be at the heart of the coming election, especially as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak trumpets halving inflation as his main achievement from 2023.
Overall, between high immigration, NHS waiting lists, and the cost-of-living, voters overwhelmingly select the cost-of-living as the issue that will determine how they will vote at the next election.
More than any other issue, therefore, watch how the two parties position themselves on the cost of living as the General Election comes closer.
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.
Reform support in Red Wall climbs to highest level ever
The Telegraph | 2 February 2024
Sunshine and rainbows: Biden says Democrats can beat Trump in Florida despite polls and recent history
Washington Examiner | 31 January 2024
What the latest polling tells us about politics in Wales right now
WalesOnline | 30 January 2024
Taylor Swift Could Sway 2024 Election: Poll
Fox Business | 29 January 2024
Britain’s richest 10% don’t think they’re wealthy – and that’s disastrous in the fight against inequality
The Guardian | 24 January 2024
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!