Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! Each week, Magnified delivers insights and analysis straight to your inbox, allowing you to stay up to date on what the public thinks about the most important issues of the day. Keep reading for the latest updates on our weekly trackers, as well as our national and international polls. Today, we also take an in-depth look at the factors that contributed to Gavin Newsom’s victory in California’s recent Gubernatorial Recall Election and the strategic insights both parties can draw from it.
This week, our research also covered:
- Britons’ support for banning social media use for u18s
- The UK’s news media landscape
- Americans’ opinion on Government spending
Westminster Voting Intention
Conservative 40% (–)
Labour 36% (-1)
Liberal Democrat 9% (-1)
Green 6% (+2)
Scottish National Party 4% (–)
Reform UK 4% (+1)
Other 1% (–)
Changes +/- 4 Oct
All Net Approval Ratings
Rishi Sunak: +17% (–)
Boris Johnson: -6% (–)
Keir Starmer: -11% (–)
Changes +/- 4 Oct
Our latest Voting Intention poll gives the Conservatives a four-point lead over Labour, with 40% (no change) of voters saying they would vote for the Conservative Party if an election were to be held tomorrow. The Government’s net competency rating stands at -12% (+3) this week, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s net approval rating remains at -6% (no change).
Last week, we compared Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer with respect to who Britons think would be the better Prime Minister for the UK—finding Johnson consistently leading over Starmer since we began asking this question in June 2020, currently with 42% to 31%. Today, we take a more detailed look at why Britons take this view by comparing how the public evaluates Johnson and Starmer with regards to a number of key leadership characteristics.
As we highlighted last week, the coronavirus pandemic has played a large part in informing the plurality view that Johnson, rather than Starmer, is the better Prime Minister for the UK at this moment. Yet the pandemic is far from being the only factor impacting Britons’ views—the economy, for instance, is another one. Apart from healthcare, it is the issue that would most determine how respondents would vote, were a General Election to take place tomorrow. That a plurality of 43%—including a fifth (20%) of 2019 Labour voters—think Boris Johnson is better at building a strong economy than Keir Starmer (29%) thus likely further contributes to Johnson’s lead over Starmer for best Prime Minister. What may additionally help Johnson in this regard is that the Conservative Party in general is the party a plurality (35%) trusts most to manage the economy.
Even so, the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic might yet provide an opportunity for Labour. Currently, the public is neatly split on whether the current Government is taking the right measures to address the economic repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, with 40% thinking it is and an equal 40% thinking it is not. Articulating a clear, realistic plan for how a Labour Government would deal with the present situation differently could help increase perceptions of the party’s governmental competence and thus contribute to positioning it—and its leader—as a credible alternative to the Conservative Party under Johnson.
Another interesting characteristic to look at is truthfulness. Here, 46% of Britons say they don’t know which party leader does better with regards to telling the truth. Beyond those who are unsure, however, 30% think Keir Starmer best embodies the quality of telling the truth, compared to 24% who say Boris Johnson. Indeed, 53% of Britons—including 29% of 2019 Conservative voters—disagree with the assertion that Boris Johnsons embodies the character trait of being honest.
If a plurality nevertheless thinks Johnson would be the better Prime Minister, does this mean Britons do not care much about how honest their Prime Minister is? The more probable answer is that, in the grand scheme of things, voters value outcomes more than mere words. On the characteristic of ‘knows how to get things done,’ for instance, Johnson leads over Starmer by a considerable 14 points. If the Prime Minister delivers, the sound and fury involved may be comparatively less important—at least to some.
Chart of the Week
What kind of factors will influence how Americans will vote in the 2024 Presidential Election? The Election itself may still be a few years away, but voters already have a good idea of which policy areas will be most significant to them. Here, we compare the topics which Americans of different political persuasions consider to be ‘extremely important’ in determining how they will vote. In doing so, we observe a number of differences—but also some similarities—between 2020 Donald Trump voters and 2020 Joe Biden voters.
Overall, 2020 Donald Trump voters appear to attach more importance to economic and financial issues. Whereas 49% of Trump voters regard a candidate’s tax policies as ‘extremely important,’ for instance, a lower proportion of 34% of Biden voters say the same. Similarly, 41% of Trump voters but a lower 25% of Biden voters consider a candidate’s business policies as ‘extremely important.’
A candidate’s immigration policies are another issue which appears significantly more salient to 2020 Trump than to 2020 Biden voters. Whereas 55% of the former group say immigration policies will be ‘extremely import’ in deciding how they will vote in the 2024 Presidential Election, 33% of the latter group say the same.
Areas which matter more to 2020 Biden voters, on the other hand, notably include environmental and education policies. 49% and 44% of Biden voters consider a candidate’s policies in these respective areas to be ‘extremely important’ in deciding how they will vote, compared to a respective 31% and 32% of 2020 Trump voters.
Similar proportions of 2020 Trump voters (42%) and 2020 Biden voters (48%) regard a candidate’s healthcare policies as ‘extremely important.’ Trump and Biden voters also appear to attach equal importance to a candidate’s stance on other issues such as welfare or labour policies, as 38% and 35% of Trump voters and 36% and 37% of Biden voters consider them to be ‘extremely important.’ The similarity of these figures can be deceiving however, as agreement over the general importance of a policy area in no way also implies agreement over the content of a candidate’s policies on the topic.
Our Global Data
Great Britain: 54% of Britons would support banning social media for those under 18 years of age, compared to only 14% who would oppose. 18-to-24-year-olds are the most sceptical on such a rule, though even among this age group only 24% would actively oppose a social media ban for under-18s.
Great Britain: While 51% think Britons are generally exposed to a variety of different perspectives regarding the news—and 36% think Britons are not—46% nevertheless agree that there is a lack of diversity of views among most news channels in the UK, something with which only 17% disagree.
United States: Among American men, 44% find it easier to focus on their work and avoid distractions when working from home and 38% find it easier to do so when working in an office. Among American women, we observe inverse views: 48% find it easier to focus on their work and avoid distractions when working from an office, compared to 36% who find it easier to do so when working from home.
United States: When presented with a list of various potential Democratic nominees for 2024, 69% of 2020 Joe Biden voters select Biden as someone they could see themselves voting for in the 2024 Presidential Election if he were to be the Democratic Party’s nominee. While this proportion is certainly significant, it nevertheless falls far short of the 92% of 2020 Donald Trump voters who, when presented with a list of various potential Republican nominees, select Trump as someone they could see themselves voting for, were he to be the Republican nominee.
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
California Recall Election: Why the GOP’s Attempt to Oust Governor Gavin Newsom Disastrously Failed and the Implications for Democrat and Republican Electoral Strategies Going Forward
With Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one, California is a deep blue state. In 2020, Joe Biden carried the state with 63.5% of the vote and a 29-point margin over Donald Trump. This reality did not stop the Republican Party from launching an effort to challenge the state’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in the form of a recall vote, however.
Such an election was always going to be a long shot for the Republicans. Yet, there were certain factors that made a successful Republican recall seem at least possible. Firstly, the structure of the recall ballot itself could have helped. With the first question asking voters whether they wanted to recall Newsom and the second question asking who should replace him, should a majority vote in favour of his recall, a ‘divide and conquer’ tactic had good chances of succeeding. Irrespective of whom they would have voted for as part of the second question, had enough Democrats voted ‘yes’ on the first one, the Republicans might have stood a chance at ousting Newsom. Secondly, as an off-year election, there was a possibility that generally lower awareness might have resulted in only motivated voters—i.e., most notably those in favour of Newsom’s recall—turning out and participating in the ballot.
The GOP, however, failed to capitalise on the unique opportunities the Recall Election provided. The Democrats, on the other hand, ran a cohesive and tightly organised campaign, and Newsom ultimately retained his seat with an overwhelming 61.93% voting against and 38.07% voting in favour of his recall.
One critical mistake the Republican side made was to run on the wrong issue. Yes, Newsom’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the factors that led to a surge in signatures in support of the recall petition. Among Californians who indicated they would vote to recall Newsom, 66% cited his handling of the coronavirus pandemic as one of the three main reasons for their voting intention. Overall, however, Newsom’s response to the pandemic was one of the few policy areas in which the Governor enjoyed considerable public support. Around two weeks before the election, 53% of Californians overall approved of the Governor’s performance with regards to the coronavirus pandemic, and even 23% of Californians who said they would vote to recall Newsom shared this positive view of the Governor’s handling of the pandemic. By making the pro-recall campaign about the pandemic—rather than other aspects such as high homelessness rates or high taxes, both of which featured in the recall petition and on which Newsom’s net approval is significantly lower—the GOP shot itself in the foot.
Another shortcoming of the Republican campaign was that it allowed Newsom’s recall to appear as a partisan competition—a framing which the Democrats made sure to reinforce with their slick label “Republican Recall.” Once perceptions of the vote shifted from being purely about Newsom himself and his performance as Governor to being about Newsom vs a Republican candidate, victory was all but certain for the Democrats. Strategic efforts to associate Republican frontrunner Larry Elder with Donald Trump further helped Newsom’s cause: Campaigning with Newsom on the eve of the Recall Election, for instance, President Joe Biden stated that Elder was “the closest thing to a Trump clone” he had ever seen.
For the GOP, presenting polarising, overtly pro-Trump candidates as the face of the Republican Party in states or districts where moderate and even left-leaning voters are needed is also a losing strategy. In California, it turned out to be disastrous—a bruising lesson that Republicans would do well to bear in mind when nominating candidates for next year’s Midterm Elections.
On the Democratic side, the party’s unified position throughout the campaign was one of its main strengths. By getting high-profile national figures such as President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former President Barack Obama involved, the Party successfully rallied support around the incumbent Governor.
Moreover, the absence of other strong Democratic candidates—whom voters might have seen as real alternatives to Newsom—further played a key role in this strategy. Two weeks ahead of the Election, a stunning 77% of 2020 Joe Biden voters in California were not at all familiar with Kevin Paffrath, the Democrats’ strongest contender to replace Newsom. This low level of familiarity with even the most promising alternative candidate offers testament to the Democratic Party’s success in making a ‘no’ vote on whether Newsom should be recalled as Governor the only credible voting option for Democrats in California.
In so doing, the Party avoided a potential fragmentation in Democratic support. Had there been more prominent candidates, some Democratic voters may have been tempted to vote in favour of Newsom’s recall, in hope of their preferred alternative Democratic candidate replacing him or as a protest vote that could lead to a different Democratic nominee in next year’s Gubernatorial Election. Such tactics would have increased both the likelihood of Newsom being recalled and that of a Republican candidate taking his place. Intra-party unity and cohesion among Democrats were thus key elements that contributed to Newsom’s victory.
Finally, Newsom benefitted from remarkably high turnout for an off-year election, with 58.28% of registered voters participating. In part, this high turnout may be due to an originally temporary pandemic-inspired law that has since become permanent. Under this law, every registered voter in California automatically received a mail-in ballot—which not only raised awareness of the election but also made voting extraordinarily easy. In a state as dominated by Democrats as California, the confluence of these factors worked in Newsom’s favour.
To be sure, the unique nature of this Recall Election and California’s highly Democratic political orientation mean that the outcome is hardly representative of potential changes in voting trends (or the lack thereof) elsewhere across the country. But this recent event can nevertheless provide insights into the strategic positioning of both parties at this moment.
In Virginia, for example, where a Gubernatorial Election is set to be held on 2 November, the Democrats are attempting to replicate part of the strategy that proved successful in California by sending in high-profile figures such as Barack Obama to support Democratic nominee and former Governor Terry McAuliffe’s campaign. Attacking Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin for his pro-Trump tendencies is another recurring theme, with McAuliffe going so far as to label his Republican opponent ‘Trumpkin.’
As in California, the pandemic plays a part as an issue—though to a lesser extent. Both sides are split on the issue of vaccine mandates, for instance, which McAuliffe supports and Youngkin opposes. While the topic has featured centrally in several Gubernatorial debates between both candidates, the GOP appears to have learnt some lessons from California. Opposition to vaccination requirements may be part of Youngkin’s platform, but it is far from its exclusive focus. Instead, Youngkin’s campaign has focused on other important issues from tax to education policies—which may be one of the reasons why the GOP candidate is expected to fare better in Virginia.
Yet, in Virginia as elsewhere, the Republican Party is still grappling with the spectre of Trump. The key challenge for the GOP is to square the demands of a loyal pro-Trump base with the need to appeal to more moderate, affluent, and highly educated voters in the US’ suburbs. Youngkin is currently putting on a balancing act aimed at reconciling these two very different demographics. Inconclusive statements on whether he supports Trump-style claims of electoral fraud regarding the 2020 Presidential Election, for instance, are intended to be vague enough to not offend either group. Overall, the outcome of the gubernatorial race in Virginia may provide useful additional indications as to whether these strategies may also pay off in next year’s Midterm Elections.
Perspective: The R&WS Take on the News
House Approves Bill to Avert U.S. Default, Sending It to Biden
New York Times | 12 October 2021
Our take: The US Congress has voted to increase the United States’ public borrowing limit by $480bn (£352bn) until early December after weeks of partisan fighting. The decision comes less than two weeks before the date on which Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the US would have been unable to borrow money or pay off loans and would have gone into default (which has never happened in US history). While the bill provides (short-term) relief to investors and executives, the American public adopts an ambiguous stance on public spending overall. Our research finds that 49% of Americans—including 70% of 2020 Trump voters but also 37% of 2020 Biden voters—think Government spending is currently too high, compared to 21% overall who think the Government is spending the right amount and 10%—including similar proportions of 9% of 2020 Trump voters and 11% of 2020 Biden voters—who think the Government is spending too little.
Travel red list slashed to just seven countries
The Telegraph | 8 October 2021
Our take: The number of countries on the UK’s travel red list has been cut from 54 to 7, and the Government is relaxing testing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals arriving in the UK in a bid to reduce the financial burden such tests put on travellers and thus the tourism industry. Despite such changes, however, 84% of Britons say they do not intend to travel abroad for holiday in the next three months. Indeed, public opinion is split on whether international travel for leisure purposes should be allowed at all: 38% think UK residents should not be allowed to go on holiday abroad at this moment, compared to 44% who think UK residents should be allowed to do so. When it comes to whether the UK should welcome tourists from abroad, provided they follow all necessary rules during travel and upon arrival, public opinion is similarly split: 45% think the UK should welcome tourists from abroad under these conditions, whereas 38% think the UK should not do so.
Sarah Everard murder: Met launches standards review to ‘rebuild public trust’
BBC | 4 October 2021
Our take: The sentencing to a whole-life prison term of former Met Police officer Wayne Couzens, who kidnapped 33-year-olds Sarah Everard under the guise of an arrest before raping and murdering her in March 2021, has reignited debates on public confidence in the police. Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick herself stated the case had damaged the “precious bond of trust” between the public and the police, and our research finds that this is indeed the case, especially among women and young people. Prior to the Couzens’ conviction, average trust in the police among women stood at 1.7 out of 3. In the week following Couzens’ sentencing, however, it had dropped to 1.5 out of 3. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, the drop in trust is even more pronounced, having decreased from 1.9 to 1.4 out of 3.
R&WS in the Media
Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.
Why are the Tories still leading in the polls?
The New Statesman | 13 October 2021
Trump Will ‘Ultimately’ Run in 2024 but Not Against Biden, Former Adviser Predicts
Newsweek | 8 October 2021
Draft Tory party conference: No independence vote for 25 years, declares Alister Jack
The Times | 6 October 2021
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!
Most Read on Our Website This Week
Latest GB Voting Intention (11 October 2021)
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Joe Biden Administration Approval Ratings (5 October)
6 October 2021 (4 min read)
Conservative Voters More Likely to Cite Low Wages and Difficult Working Conditions, not Brexit, as Cause of Lorry Driver Shortage
30 September 2021 (5 min read)
Our Research on Social Media
Top 5 Tweets This Week
- Which party do Britons trust most in specific policy areas? (8 Oct): (see full tweet)
- At this moment, which of the following individuals do you think would be the better Prime Minister for the United Kingdom? (11 Oct): (see full tweet)
- Joe Biden Approval Rating (5 Oct): (see full tweet)
- Among Britons who don’t know how they would vote if a General Election were held tomorrow, for which parties could they see themselves voting? (7 Oct): (see full tweet)
- NEW: Foreign Secretary Liz Truss Approval Rating (11 Oct): (see full tweet)