Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, with exactly three weeks to go until election day, we analyse the state of the polls in the General Election campaign as polling day nears.

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Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention (12-13 June):

Labour 42% (-3)
Conservative 18% (-1)
Reform UK 17% (–)
Liberal Democrat 13% (+3)
Green 5% (–)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 1% (–)

Changes +/- 7-10 June

In our previous Magnified email, just a week into the General Election, we argued that the polls would not narrow.

Two weeks later and, indeed, the Conservative Party themselves appear to have conceded defeat. As they record their lowest ever percentage in our Voting Intention polling (18%, one point less than their worst under Liz Truss), their argument has now shifted to preventing Labour from having a massive majority, a “blank cheque.”

This new appeal to voters can be seen in their latest round of social media ads, in the front page of The Daily Mail, and in comments by the most senior members of the Conservative Party, including Rishi Sunak himself and Grant Shapps, who used the Americanism “supermajority,” a meaningless term in Britain’s parliamentary system.

Evidently, the Conservative plan to first squeeze the Reform vote and then take the fight to Labour has not only failed to take off. It has backfired, with Reform now threatening to push the Conservatives into third place and squeeze the Conservative vote.

In the main, the central problem for the Conservative Party is that they have lost their credibility with the British public.

When Rishi Sunak took to the podium at the Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire to unveil his party’s 80-page manifesto on Tuesday, he was asking voters to trust his party to manage policy in areas which the public overwhelmingly feels the Conservatives have failed to deliver.

Take taxation.

The Conservatives now promise to lower taxes. But after 14 years in office, during which time the tax burden has risen to its highest level since the Second World War, the Conservative Party has—as we noted on multiple occasions during the lifetime of the last Parliament—shredded its traditional reputation as the party of lower taxes.

Last November, a plurality of Britons most associated the Conservative party with raising taxes (35%) rather than lowering them (24%). More recently, in polling conducted just days after the General Election was called, more voters said they associated Labour (32%) rather than the Conservatives (27%) with advocating for lower taxes.

Immigration is another example.

After the Conservatives pledged to reduce net legal migration into Britain into the tens of thousands in their 2010, 2015, and 2017 manifestos, net migration into Britain now stands at 685,000 annually, up from 184,000 in 2019. Another 40,000 migrants have entered the UK illegally in the 12 months to April, and small boats are still crossing the English Channel daily.

The latest Conservative manifesto contains a grand sounding commitment to introduce a “binding, legal cap on immigration” which will be subject to an annual vote in Parliament, alongside a more general commitment to stop illegal immigration.

Contrasting this pledge with the Conservatives’ record in Government, is it any wonder that voters are now more likely to associate the Conservative party with increasing immigration into Britain than lowering it?

It is not just the Conservatives’ policy promises that have fallen flat under the weight of the party’s lack of credibility. Their slogan has too.

It may surprise some readers, but the Conservative Party’s slogan for this election (‘Clear Plan. Bold Action. Secure Future’) actually polls better than Labour’s (Change.) in blind-tested polling.

But the Conservatives’ slogan is simply not credible.

When British voters are asked which slogan they associate with the Conservative Party, a majority of 60% are more likely to associate the party with an alternative, deeply unflattering slogan ‘Unclear plan. Inaction. Uncertain future.’

The same applies to Rishi Sunak’s repeated insistence over the last several months, “The plan is working.”

As it turns out, repeating “We have a plan” ad nauseam is not the same thing as having a plan. As far as the public is concerned, Sunak does not appear to have a plan to make the United Kingdom a better place, much less a plan that is working.

Because of the Conservatives’ poor record in Government, especially in the last two years, there is nothing positive that they have said or promised to voters—no matter how nice their slogans and policies sounded or polled in isolation—that has cut through to the public and been believed. Instead, the Conservatives have been met with nonstop derision.

Meanwhile, every gaffe or mistake or off-sounding comment has been amplified.

Sunak’s decision to skip the international part of the D-Day commemorations was not only an extraordinary lapse in judgement, and a source of genuine upset for D-Day veterans and their families, it was a fatal political error in a campaign that the Conservatives have tried (unsuccessfully) to build around security and defence issues.

In the aftermath of that catastrophe, and the Prime Minister’s less than contrite apology, Sunak’s personal approval rating has dropped ten points to -27%, the lowest net approval rating he has ever held in our polling, either as Chancellor or as Prime Minister

His approval among 2019 Conservative voters stands at just +4%.

By contrast, Labour has run a ‘Do No Harm’ campaign which, while occasionally exposing Starmer to ridicule for dodging questions regarding his past support of Jeremy Corbyn and his future tax policies, as well as the attempt to stop Diane Abbott from standing, has caused no deep self-inflicted wounds to date.

Starmer has been able to use the campaign to introduce the country to the idea that he is a plausible candidate for Prime Minister, even managing to use the D-Day commemorations—and the Prime Minister’s absence from them—to play the statesman and meet world leaders like President Zelensky.

This week, the Labour leader has opened up a record lead over Sunak in their head-to-head polling.

In addition, Starmer has actually improved his net approval rating in each of the three polls we have published since the election was called, with his rating increasing from +9% in our first poll after the election date was announced to +12% this week.

The failure of the polls to turn, the disastrous campaign the Conservatives have run, and the return of Nigel Farage to threaten the party’s right-flank have all combined to create a growing impression that the game is now up for the Conservative Party. Hence, the shift in the Conservative’s campaign messaging over the past week.

But having already conceded the argument that they are not a credible Government in waiting, how can the Conservatives persuade the public that they are a credible Opposition in waiting?

The only positive argument that the Conservatives have put forward in favour of giving them a vote to make them a strong Opposition is a recursive one: the more seats an Opposition Party has, the stronger of an Opposition it is.

None of this argument lays out why the Conservative Party would be a good Opposition Party.

Instead, this argument merely assumes that voters want—or at least accept—that it will be the Conservative Party in opposition, something that can no longer be taken for granted when some projections, including ones presented in Conservative Party ads, have the Liberal Democrats with the second most seats in the House of Commons.

With Rishi Sunak still in charge, the Conservative Party cannot even present their candidate for future Opposition Leader to the public. In fact, one commentator has argued (albeit, three long months ago) that Rishi Sunak should not step down immediately to allow for proper self reflection before the party selects its next leader.

Against this absence of a clear Conservative candidate for Opposition Leader, more voters believe a Nigel Farage-led Reform UK would provide more effective opposition to a Labour Government than a Sunak-led Conservative Party.

Reform has even overtaken the Conservatives for second in the Red Wall (under its 2019 boundaries), in polling conducted for The Daily Mail.

It is now the case that most parties are campaigning as if Labour’s large Commons majority is inevitable.

Not only the Conservatives, but Reform UK, the Green Party, and the SNP are all seeking votes on the explicit basis that only they can provide robust opposition to a Labour Government with a large majority.

For these campaigns, time is fast running out to shift voters’ attention to the actual contest going on in this election.

This week, postal ballots have begun to be mailed out and, in light of the upward trend in postal voting in the last number of election cycles, it may be that as many as 20% of voters will have cast their ballot already by polling day. Given the looming distraction (for fans in England and Scotland especially) of the European Football Championships, it may also be the case that many voters will soon tune out of the election campaign.

With the Conservatives already conceding defeat in this election, can they refocus voters’ attention and win the fight for their survival as a party?

Data Tables

R&WS in the Media

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

Can Nigel Farage influence the direction of Scottish Tories?
The Herald | 11 June 2024

Poll Suggests Farage Is Top Pick to Succeed Sunak as Tory Leader
Bloomberg | 8 June 2024

Rishi Sunak accuses critics of ‘politicising’ D-Day after he is forced to apologise for snub
The Independent | 8 June 2024

Tories ahead of Reform by just two points in brutal poll for Rishi Sunak
The Mirror | 6 June 2024

Labour targets Aberdeen South seat of SNP’s Westminster leader
The Times | 5 June 2024

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Numbers of the Week

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