Tees Valley Mayoral Election Voting Intention (17-19 April 2024)

April 20, 2024
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | Keir Starmer | Local Elections | Rishi Sunak | UK Elections | Voting Intention

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In 2017, Ben Houchen won an upset victory for the Conservatives in the Tees Valley Mayoral Election, becoming the first directly elected Mayor of the Tees Valley Combined Authority.  

Houchen’s shock win presaged the Conservatives’ triumphal march through other traditionally Labour supporting areas of the North of England in 2019. Following his successful reelection in 2021, in which he took an extraordinary 72.8% of the vote, Houchen was elevated to the House of Lords in Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list, taking the title of Lord Houchen of High Leven

Now, however, with less than two weeks to go in the campaign, our Tees Valley Mayoral Voting Intention poll suggests that Ben Houchen and Labour’s Chris McEwan are tied on 47% each.

Altogether, the results of our latest poll are as follows:

Chris McEwan (Labour) 47%
Ben Houchen (Conservative) 47%
Simon Thorley (Liberal Democrat) 6%

When those who say they do not know how they would vote in a Mayoral Election are included, McEwan and Houchen are still tied.

After weighting by likelihood to vote, 26% of the sample says they do not know how they would vote, including 9% of those who voted for Houchen in 2021, 8% of those who voted for his Labour opponent, Jessie Joe Jacobs, and 41% of those who did not vote in 2021.

Altogether, Houchen retains the support of 74% of those who voted for him in 2021. 15% of his 2021 supporters would now vote for McEwan, while another 2% would vote for Simon Thorley of the Liberal Democrats.

McEwan, meanwhile, retains the support of 84% of those who voted for Jacobs in 2021, with 6% of Jacobs’ voters at that election now saying they would vote for Simon Thorley, while 2% would vote for Ben Houchen.

Among those who did not vote in 2021, McEwan takes 36% of the vote, more than double Houchen’s 17% among this constituency of voters.

53% of those who say they will vote for McEwan say they did not vote in 2021. By comparison, only a quarter (26%) of those who say they will vote for Houchen did not vote in 2021. 

For context, turnout in the 2021 Tees Valley Mayoral Election was just 34%.

It is worth noting that voters have a low level of familiarity with most of the candidates running for Mayor of Tees Valley.

Even Houchen, the most high profile name on the list and who has been Mayor since 2017, is only ‘very’ (19%) or ‘fairly’ (20%) familiar to a mere 39% of his electorate, while a plurality of voters in Tees Valley (47%) say they are ‘not at all’ familiar with him.

Majorities of respondents also say they are ‘not at all’ familiar with both Chris McEwan (62%) and Simon Thorley (71%).

It is further worth noting that voters’ levels of awareness of the coming election are relatively low.

Just 49% of respondents say that they were ‘significantly’ (22%) or ‘fairly’ (27%) aware of the Tees Valley Mayoral Election prior to taking our survey. 37% of respondents, meanwhile, say they were ‘not at all’ familiar with the election before responding to our survey.

As a final point, only 32% of respondents surveyed say they are ‘certain to vote.’ 

Among only these voters (i.e., applying an even more aggressive turnout weighting than usual), Houchen leads with 41% to McEwan’s 36%, with 4% saying they will vote for Thorley and 18% undecided.

As such, our polling indicates that the result of this election will not only be close, but will also hinge on how well each candidate performs at getting their voters to turn out.

When asked which issues would most determine how they would vote if they were to vote in the Tees Valley Mayoral Election, respondents most commonly cite healthcare (48%), the economy (43%), and policing/crime (37%).

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has a net approval rating of +12%. 25% approve and 13% disapprove of his overall job performance since becoming Tees Valley Mayor. 

However, a significant majority (63%) of respondents in Tees Valley say they either don’t know (34%) or neither approve nor disapprove (29%) of Houchen’s performance as Mayor.

On his handling of major issues, Mayor Houchen holds positive net satisfaction ratings for his policies on most issues prompted, including policing/crime (+5%), education (+4%), the economy (+4%), and transport (+2%). He holds a negative rating on taxation (-6%) and housing (-2%).

At the same time, a majority of voters, more than 60% in each case, say they either don’t know or are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with Houchen’s policies.

In addition to their lack of awareness regarding the Mayor and his job performance, another possible reason why voters in Tees Valley appear largely ambivalent about Houchen’s policies might be that they believe the Mayor and the Tees Valley Combined Authority have less power and responsibility than the Prime Minister and Westminster on most policy issues prompted.

Even on transport, an issue for which the Mayor and the Combined Authority do have significant powers, only a small plurality of voters in Tees Valley believe the Mayor  and Combined Authority have more power and responsibility than the Prime Minister and Westminster (37% to 34%).

When it comes to securing funding from the central government for the area, 25% think Houchen has done a good job securing funding and support from Westminster for Tees Valley, against 17% who think he has done a bad job. 21% think he has done neither a good nor a bad job.

Houchen’s performance in our Mayoral Voting Intention poll is impressive given the Conservative Party’s struggles in our Westminster Voting Intention poll of Tees Valley, which shows the Conservatives trailing Labour in the region by 23%.

Altogether, the results of our poll are as follows:

Labour 49%
Conservative 26%
Reform UK 15%
Liberal Democrat 6%
Green 4%
Other 0%

When those who say they do not know how they would vote in a General Election are included, the Labour Party leads by 19%. After weighting by likelihood to vote, 13% of the sample say they do not know how they would vote, including 11% of those who voted Conservative in December 2019 and 7% of those who voted Labour. 

Just 51% of voters in Tees Valley who voted Conservative in 2019 say they would vote Conservative again. 19% of 2019 Conservative voters in the region now intend to vote for Labour, while 13% say they would vote for Reform UK. 

By comparison, 69% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 say they will vote for Ben Houchen in the upcoming Tees Valley Mayoral Election.

Similarly, whereas Houchen is holding onto 74% of those who voted for him in 2021, only 47% of such voters say they would vote for the Conservative Party in a General Election.

Altogether, just 58% of those who presently say they will vote for Houchen in the coming Tees Valley Mayoral Election say they would vote for the Conservative Party in the General Election. 15% would vote for Labour, and 13% would vote for Reform.

In what appears likely to be a close Mayoral Election, the lack of a candidate from Reform UK could make a difference.

44% of those who would presently vote for Reform UK in a General Election say they will vote for Ben Houchen. 6%, by comparison, say they will vote for Labour’s McEwan, while a further 5% say the Liberal Democrat’s Thorley.

Significantly, as many as 45% of Reform UK General Election likely voters are undecided as to how they will vote in the Mayoral Election (Note: small subsample size).

Prime Minister Sunak himself holds a net approval rating in Tees Valley of -28%, some 40 points worse than Ben Houchen’s.

48% saying they disapprove of his overall job performance since he became Prime Minister, against just 20% who approve.

On his handling of major issues, Sunak holds negative net approval ratings on every policy issue prompted, including on issues such as immigration (-47%), the NHS (-41%), housing (-37%), and the economy (-27%).

An overwhelming majority (62%) of respondents do not feel like the Government has been making a clear effort to ‘level up’ the area in which they live, a sentiment shared by majorities of those who voted Conservative in 2019 (59%) and for Ben Houchen for Mayor in 2021 (52%).

Overall, a plurality of 36% of voters in Tees Valley say Levelling Up has been a failure in the region, against just 12% who think it has been a success.

Among those who voted Conservative in 2019, 27% judge Levelling Up to have been a failure in the region, against just 22% who deem it a success.

Finally, Keir Starmer, the Leader of the Labour Party, holds a net approval rating in Tees Valley of -1%. 33% disapprove and 32% approve of Starmer’s overall job performance since he became Labour leader.

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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