Sunak and Starmer Monthly Polling Report Card (May 2023)

June 1, 2023
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | Conservative Party | GB Politics | Keir Starmer | Labour Party | Rishi Sunak | UK Elections | Voting Intention

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Having started the month with a disastrous performance in English local elections, May ends with the Conservatives in only a marginally better position than they were at the end of April

True, the party has improved its position in all three of our trackers: narrowing Labours leads in two, and gaining a first lead in the Blue Wall since we began our tracker there in October. However, Labour’s lead nationally is still formidable, while the Government’s approval ratings on the three key election issues of the economy, the NHS, and immigration stands in the doldrums. Additionally, Rishi Sunak’s personal approval rating has declined in May, reversing the positive trend growth in his approval during March and April. 

Nationally, Labour’s lead in our final May poll was 15%, two points less than in the last poll of April, but still putting the party on track for an outright majority. A week earlier, Labour’s lead had been cut to 12%, the joint-narrowest lead Labour had held over the Conservatives nationwide since Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister in October. 

The Conservatives have also narrowed Labour’s lead in the traditionally Labour-supporting Red Wall, albeit by only one point, with Labour ending the month still with a more than healthy 17% lead.

Meanwhile, the Conservatives have managed to eke out a narrow, one point lead in the ‘Blue Wall’ constituencies in southern England, the first time the party has held a lead over Labour in these seats since we started our Blue Wall tracker in October.

Nevertheless, that 1% lead for the Conservatives today must be placed in the context of the change that represents from the 2019 General Election, when the Conservatives won these seats with 50% of the vote, a full 29-points ahead of Labour, who came in third.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating is down in two of our tracker polls, with a dramatic nine point drop nationally seeing him end May holding his lowest approval rating (-14%) since the 26 February. His Blue Wall rating falls four points from last month, but remains in net positive territory (+3%). In the Red Wall, his personal approval rating improves two points to now stand at -7%, his joint-highest rating in these seats since November 2022

Sunak has meanwhile lost ground to Keir Starmer both nationally and in the Red Wall on the question of which of them would be the better Prime Minister, although he improves his standing in the Blue Wall. Starmer now leads Sunak nationally by 8%—his largest head-to-head lead since 12 March—while also holding an eight point advantage (41% vs 33%) in the Red Wall for his largest lead in those seats in almost three months. More encouragingly for the Prime Minister, Sunak’s 10% advantage in the Blue Wall represents his largest lead there since 14 November.

The Government’s current net competency rating of -22% is up one point from late April (-23%). As it stands, 46% of voters in Great Britain see the Government as incompetent, down one point from last month, while an unchanged number of 24% see the Government Rishi Sunak leads as competent. The Government’s net competency rating is up by one point in the Red Wall to -25% but falls three points in the Blue Wall to -17%.

On policy delivery, the Government continues to struggle on the three key issues of the economy, the NHS, and immigration. In GB as a whole, in the critical Red Wall seats, and in the Blue Wall heartlands, the Government’s net approval rating for its handling of all three of these issues remains firmly in the negative double digits.

For Keir Starmer, May has been, on the whole, a good month. While his own personal approval ratings are down in all three polls, he has extended his lead over Sunak as preferred Prime Minister both nationally and in the Red Wall. Meanwhile his party retains its lead on most of the major policy issues and maintains a healthy lead in national voting intention.  

Labour holds leads in two of our three of voting intention polls, including double digit advantages over the Conservatives both nationally (15%) and in the Red Wall (17%). Despite the party losing the lead it has held since October in the Blue Wall, a one-point deficit in the traditionally Conservative Blue Wall would still represent an extraordinary electoral result for Labour, if it were repeated in the next General Election.

Of some concern to Starmer will be the steady erosion in his personal approval rating across our three trackers. 

After consolidating his personal approval ratings in April, Starmer’s personal ratings went into reverse in May, with his national net approval dropping two points in the month to +8%. Starmer’s Red Wall rating (+1%, -3) is the lowest it has been since 4 September 2022, while in the Blue Wall (+2%, -5) his rating is now the second-lowest it has been since we started our tracker in October.

The NHS remains Labour’s most trusted issue, with voters in each of the Blue Wall (30%), the Red Wall (35%), and the country at large (35%) all selecting the NHS/Healthcare as the issue they most trust Labour to deliver on.

On major policy, Labour holds leads over the Conservatives both nationally and in the Red Wall as the party most trusted on the economy, the NHS, and immigration. Labour’s leads in these two trackers range from as high as 23-points in our Red Wall poll on the NHS (four points less than in late April) to a relatively slim four-point advantage over the Conservatives nationally as the party most trusted to handle immigration (29% to 25%.) 

In the Blue Wall, Labour retains its 15-point lead over the Conservatives on the NHS (35% to 20%) and regains its lead on immigration (26% to 24%) but loses its advantage on the economy. On that issue, the Conservatives have reversed a Labour lead of two points from last month to now hold an eight-point advantage (32% to 24%).

Taken together, May has been a month during which the minor poll shifts that have occurred have failed to change the overall bleak picture for the Conservative Party.The Conservatives, despite taking small bites out of Labour’s margin, continue to trail Keir Starmer’s party by double-digits in voting intention nationally, and by wide margins on the key issues of the economy and the NHS. Despite his own approval ratings trending in a negative direction in all three trackers, Keir Starmer leads Rishi Sunak by 8% nationally in their personal head-to-head. With spring turning to summer, and buoyed by good results in the local elections, Labour and Keir Starmer remain in poll position as both parties start to move into General Election mode.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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