After almost nine months in power, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak oversees a Government beset by problems with seemingly no relief in sight. As prices soar, the NHS staffing crisis grows, and the number of illegal channel crossings increases, voters see many challenges that demand immediate Government action.
Above all, a plurality (40%) say the cost-of-living is the most important issue facing the UK today, while another 13% cite the economy as the most important issue.
With the next General Election fast approaching, voters are looking to political leaders for solutions. Yet, neither Rishi Sunak nor Keir Starmer has managed to carve out a strong policy profile on any of these major issues, despite the clear urgency of the challenges at hand.
When asked to name the policy they most associate with Sunak, a plurality (26%) of voters answer either ‘Nothing’ or say they ‘Don’t know.’ 15% cite immigration, the only policy area that is named by more than 10% of voters, while 6% name tackling the cost of living.
Voters appear only marginally more familiar now with what Sunak and his party stands for under his leadership than was the case at the start of the year. 60% of Britons say they are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ familiar with what Sunak and the Conservative Party under his leadership stands for, up only two points from 58% in January.
Although our polling finds Labour Leader Keir Starmer to be more popular amongst voters than Sunak, he too suffers from the same lack of a clear policy identity with voters.
Despite a large number of media appearances by the leader in recent months touting Labour policy on issues from housing and energy, to the NHS and crime, 38% of voters answer either ‘Nothing’ (20%) or say they ‘Don’t know’ (18%) when asked what policy they most associate with Starmer.
7% most associate Starmer with improving the NHS, while 5% name economic reform as the policy they most associate with the Labour leader.
In fact, just 46% of Britons say they are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ familiar with what Starmer and the Labour Party under his leadership stands for, while over a quarter (26%) say they are ‘not at all’ familiar with what the party stands for.
Among Likely Labour voters at the next election, only 18% say they are ‘very’ familiar with what the party under Starmer’s leadership stands for, while 11% say they are ‘not at all’ familiar.
This lack of a distinct policy profile has not hindered (and might have helped support) Labour’s consistent double-digit poll lead over the Conservatives. Nor has it prevented Starmer from taking a healthy lead over Sunak as the person Britons think would be a better Prime Minister, with his current advantage of 9% just one point less than his largest recorded lead over Sunak since the latter became Prime Minister.
However, at a time of multiple policy crises and a public crying out for leadership, that more voters say they identify no policy rather than any specific policy with either of the two main party leaders paints a depressing picture, one in which a Government has run out of ideas and an Opposition therefore does not need to do much to win.