Last weekend, Boris Johnson returned from the hospital to Chequers, where he recorded a widely viewed speech thanking the NHS doctors and nurses who looked after him. Since then, the Prime Minister has been recovering out of the view of the public, and Dominic Raab has remained in charge of the Government. In the meantime, it often seems to observers that the Government is unwilling to make any major decisions without their Prime Minister back in charge.
On our poll conducted on Wednesday, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies asked respondents whether they thought it would be sensible or not sensible for the Prime Minister to be making decisions so soon after returning from the hospital. A majority of respondents said it would be sensible.
It is not difficult to understand why. The Prime Minister has an incredibly high approval rating of 62% for his overall job performance since getting the top job, and that rating only slightly drops when respondents were asked to think about his handling of the coronavirus crisis specifically.
We see surprisingly similar numbers when respondents are asked whether they thought the UK Government has handled the coronavirus crisis well. 60% said yes. This level of support suggests that the public is eager to fall back on institutions of support during times of crisis and hardship.
Asked whether his handling of the coronavirus crisis has given them a more positive or more negative view of Boris, nearly half of respondents said they now had a more positive view of him, with the rest mostly saying their opinion had not changed at all.
Most fascinating is the high degree of support from those who voted for the opposition parties in December. 51% of Labour voters approve of the Prime Minister’s overall job performance, and 41% say they now have a more positive view of him since the coronavirus crisis took hold.
At a time when a Prime Minister enjoys such overwhelming popularity and support, it is natural for the public to expect him to be back on the job as soon as he can. Whether he is physically capable of doing so, however, is not exactly a question for the public.
In the future, the public seems open to having regular medical check-ups on the Prime Minister, the results of which are made public. The United States has adopted this practice, although the reports have been politicized due to the higher ages of both the President and his candidates in opposition.
Boris Johnson’s time in the Intensive Care Unit made the public aware of questions of succession during times of emergency. Looking to other members of the Cabinet beyond the Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has impressed members of the public most. An astonishing 59% of respondents to our poll approved of his job performance so far.
When asked which member of the Government had most impressed them in the past month, nearly a third of respondents selected Sunak, while 12% and 13% selected Dominic Raab and Matt Hancock respectively. These numbers rise to 38%, 15% and 16% when looking specifically at those who voted Conservative in December 2019.
For now, the public is fully backing their Prime Minister and await his return to the reins of Government.
This poll is part of Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ ongoing research into public opinion on the coronavirus outbreak and government’s reaction to the crisis. Further results from our polling in the UK, USA, Italy, France, Spain and Germany is featured here.
This research was also published in The Daily Mail.