Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we set forth why yesterday’s budget announcement was not the clever ploy Jeremy Hunt might think it was.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Our latest Westminster polling
  • Do Americans think Biden and Trump should run for re-election?

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 (3 March):

Labour 43% (–)
Conservative 23% (–)
Reform UK 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrat 10% (–)
Green 6% (-2)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 2% (–)

Changes +/- 25 February

Combined Net Approval Ratings (3 March):

Keir Starmer: +2% (–)
Rishi Sunak: -22% (+4)

Changes +/- 25 February

As Jeremy Hunt prepared to deliver his Spring Budget on Wednesday—more on that in Long Exposure below—he might have wondered not only if it would be the last Spring Budget that he would deliver, but also whether he would still be in the Commons to hear the next one.

The day before his speech, Ed Davey himself visited Hunt’s constituency, underscoring the fact that the Liberal Democrats see Hunt’s seat as a golden pick-up opportunity. Indeed, most voters in our recent Godalming & Ash inFocus see Davey’s party as the Conservatives’ likeliest challenger.

The Conservatives sinking poll ratings in the Blue Wall put Hunt and many of his fellow Blue Wall Conservative MPs in danger. On Tuesday, our latest Blue Wall Poll (which includes Godalming & Ash’s predecessor, South West Surrey) found the Conservatives have sunk to their lowest share of the vote (28%) since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, down from 50% in 2019.

However, with the Liberal Democrats also down in the polls, it is Labour who stands the most to gain from the Conservatives’ difficulties. Keir Starmer’s party now holds a 9% lead in the Blue Wall as a whole, tying their largest lead with Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister.

For the sixth week in a row, Labour’s national lead is 20% or more, with only 48% of 2019 Conservative voters now saying they intend to vote for the party again. This stretch of polling has also included the lowest ever Conservative vote shares under Rishi Sunak in national and Red Wall polls. The Conservatives stand just a hair above their worst ever vote share under Liz Truss.

Things are no better for the Prime Minister himself than they are for his party. 

In February, the Prime Minister’s net approval rating fell to new or joint-record lows nationally (-26%), in the Red Wall (-25%), and in Scotland (-34%). Additionally, he trails Keir Starmer in their personal head-to-head in all five of our regular trackers.

Which is not to say all is rosy for Starmer either.

George Galloway’s victory in the Rochdale by-election brought into sharp focus the potential divisions that may exist in the Labour Party, beyond just the conflict in Gaza.

The kerfuffle over the Gaza ceasefire vote in the Commons has also corresponded with a sharp fall in Starmer’s own approval ratings, which have hit a record low in the Blue Wall (-4%), an eighteen-month low in the Red Wall (-3%), and a nine-month low in Great Britain as a whole (+2%).

2024 US Presidential Election

On Tuesday night, the 2024 US Presidential Primary Elections effectively came to an end. 

Joe Biden and Donald Trump, despite hiccups in American Samoa and Vermont, claimed sweeping victories across most States and territories holding nominating contests on the night.

With both men now just a few hundred delegates short of claiming their respective party’s nominations, and with Nikki Haley suspending her campaign on Wednesday, the delegate maths will soon confirm what was always likely: the 2024 election will be a repeat of the 2020 contest. 

Yet, few Americans are relishing that choice.

56% of Americans—including 30% of his own 2020 voters, and majorities in every age group—think Joe Biden should not run for re-election. Just under one-third (32%) believe he should run.

The figures for Donald Trump are only slightly better: 50% of Americans think he should not run in 2024, against 40% who think he should.

Disquiet over the leading candidates continues to fuel the dreams of third-party aspirants like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (who is still struggling to get on the ballot in all fifty states) and the independent ‘No Labels’ group, which has struggled to recruit a high-profile challenger to take on the major parties.

But barring an unlikely third-party breakthrough, it will either be the septuagenarian Trump or the octogenarian Biden who will take office for an incredible second-term next January. 

It is, as Politico mused on Wednesday morning, “the November rematch few Americans want—except the ones who keep voting for it.”

Our latest 2024 US Presidential Voting Intention poll will be released this Friday (8 March) at 5pm GMT/12pm EST.

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

Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis

Budget Offers Voters No Reasons to Vote For the Conservatives

If the aim of Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget was to force Labour into rethinking what they will say will fund their spending promises: Mission accomplished.

If the aim, however, was to provide voters with compelling reasons to vote for the Conservative Party at the next election, then Wednesday’s statement was a total failure.

True, there were some announcements that could be described as in line with classically conservative political objectives: a 2% cut to national insurance, a freeze on alcohol and fuel duty, an increase in the child benefit threshold to £60,000, and an increase in the threshold at which businesses must pay VAT to £90,000 from £85,000.

Nevertheless, the tax burden in the United Kingdom remains on track to reach levels not seen since the late 1940s. Millions of Britons are still on course to be drawn into higher tax bands due to threshold freezes and will therefore soon have to pay higher taxes.

What sort of legacy is that for a Conservative Government?

Rather than set out their own ideas and pursue them forcefully, as one might have expected of a party with an 80-seat majority, the Conservatives have instead stolen a Labour idea for the second time in this Parliament, this time taking Labour’s proposal to abolish non-domiciled tax status.

However this decision may affect Labour’s manifesto spending plans (and, therefore, possibly voters’ impressions of Labour—a third order effect), it is not the clever ploy that Jeremy Hunt might think it is. 

So engrossed in whatever 3D chess he is playing, the Chancellor has missed the direct effect his decision will have on voters’ perceptions of him and the Government he represents. As far as voters are concerned, if a Conservative Government is going to eventually implement Labour’s ideas anyways, why not have the actual, real thing, a Labour Government?

Simply stated, stealing your opponent’s idea in order to try to say to voters that your opponent has no plan actually tells voters that you have no plan.

What do the Conservatives actually stand for? Here’s what voters think.

Labour could come up with a new idea for funding their promises tomorrow, and then what?

Steal that one, too?

Worse still, the obvious retort becomes, “Well, if you were going to do my idea anyways, why did you not do it sooner, when I first suggested it? We could have done this ages ago.”

Meanwhile, the overall state of the economy is poor. Inflation is still running at more than 4%, and the United Kingdom is officially in recession.

The Government and the Prime Minister claim again and again, “Our plan is working.” But neither Rishi Sunak nor Jeremy Hunt have stated what, besides saying no to borrowing, actually is in their supposedly working plan. What, if anything, did they do to reduce inflation? Or to grow the economy?

Since they never spelled it out, is it any surprise that the great majority of voters do not feel like there is a plan at work?

As it stands, 62% of voters say the Government is currently not taking the right measures to address the cost of living crisis, a number that yesterday’s speech will do little to change.

Overall, approval of the Government’s handling of the economy reached a four-month low of -27% in the past two weeks.

To be sure, public faith in the Labour Party’s economic competency is by no means overwhelming.

In both the Red Wall and the Blue Wall, the economy is the issue (along with immigration) on which voters are most likely to say they do not at all trust Labour to manage, with upwards of a third of voters in both trackers consistently saying they have no trust in the party’s economic management. 

And that’s despite holding a commanding lead over the Conservatives as the party most trusted to manage the economy, a metric they have led on since the summer of 2022 (before Truss)

Further, our polling suggests the public have little sense of what will change if Labour were to win the next election, beyond a general hope that things will get ‘better.’

Labour is winning by default. In an ostensibly two-party system, in which public trust in one of the two parties has wholly collapsed, the other party wins. That’s it.

Those within the Conservative Party may feel frustrated at the continued substantial size of Labour’s polling lead, despite the paucity of the plans set forth by Labour.

Tell a Conservative politician or activist that no one knows what their party stands for, and they might bitterly respond, “But does anyone know what Labour stands for?”

Yet after fourteen years of Government, including five years in which they had the once-in-a-generation opportunity of an 80-seat majority, those on the Conservative side do not have the luxury of making this point.

You cannot, in the main, do nothing in Government while the country slides into recession and deteriorates, and then point to the other side and say, accusatorily, “They will do nothing, too.” How does that work?

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

More poll woe for Tories as they slump to their lowest level of support among ‘Blue Wall’ voters with Rishi Sunak as PM
The Daily Mail | 5 March 2024

Six graphs that show Reform UK could be kingmakers at the election
The Telegraph | 28 February 2024

Social Security Reform Splits Young Americans and Boomers
Newsweek | 27 February 2024

Is immigration costing the Conservatives votes?
UK in a Changing Europe | 26 February 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!

Numbers of the Week

Have a question or want to know more about our research? Get in touch! Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

Share this issue of Magnified:

Our Most Recent Research