West Midlands Mayoral Election Voting Intention (18-21 April 2021)

April 22, 2021
R&WS Research Team
Boris Johnson | Elections | Keir Starmer | Local Elections | Rishi Sunak | Voting Intention

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Redfield & Wilton Strategies’ West Midlands Mayoral Election voting intention poll finds incumbent Conservative candidate Andy Street leading over Labour and Co-Operative candidate Liam Byrne by 9%. Altogether, our voting intention results are as follows:

Andy Street (Conservative) 46%

Liam Byrne (Labour and Co-Operative) 37%

Jenny Wilkinson (Liberal Democrats) 6%

Steve Caudwell (Green) 5%

Pete Durnell (Reform UK) 4%

Other 3%

Respondents’ likelihood to vote for Andy Street increases with age, with 59% of 55-to-64-year-olds and 60% of those aged 65 and over saying they will vote for the Conservative candidate. Meanwhile, a plurality (45%) of 18-to-24-year-olds and a majority (56%) of 25-to-34-year-olds say they will choose Liam Byrne as their first preference.

Our polling finds that 83% of West Midlands residents who voted Conservative in the 2019 General Election plan to vote for Andy Street, while 9% say they will vote for Liam Byrne. On the other hand, 68% of 2019 Labour voters say they will choose Liam Byrne, and 13% say they will choose Andy Street as their first preference.

When including those who say they do not know how they will vote, Andy Street leads by 8%. Overall, a significant fifth (20%) of respondents say they do not know how they will vote in the West Midlands Mayoral Election.

When asked which candidate they will vote for as their second preference, 18% said Liam Byrne and 14% said Andy Street. Respondents are slightly more likely to vote for smaller parties as their second preference, with 11% planning to vote for Liberal Democrat candidate Jenny Wilkinson and 9% planning to vote for Green Party candidate Steve Caudwell. In total, 22% say they will not choose a second preference.

Just over a third (39%) of West Midlands residents say they are ‘certain’ to vote in the Mayoral Election. Respondents aged 65 and over are the most likely to say they are ‘certain’ to vote, at 48%, whereas a quarter (24%) of 18-to-24-year-olds say the same.

The relatively low certainty to vote may be related to respondents’ lack of familiarity with the candidates running for Mayor of the West Midlands: just 46% of respondents say they have heard of incumbent Mayor Andy Street, while 34% have heard of his main challenger Liam Byrne. Under a fifth of respondents say they have heard of other candidates Steve Caudwell (17%), Jenny Wilkinson (16%), and Pete Durnell (12%), and a substantial 28% say they have not heard of any of the candidates.

Interestingly, only 53% of respondents who intend to vote for Liam Byrne say they have heard of Liam Byrne, suggesting that many people may vote according to Party rather than individual candidate preference. A greater proportion of likely Andy Street voters (72%) say they have heard of Andy Street, who naturally has more public exposure as the incumbent Mayor.

Despite the widespread unfamiliarity with the individuals running for Mayor, the large majority (82%) of respondents say they are aware that there will be a West Midlands Mayoral Election on 6 May 2021, demonstrating that most residents know about the election, but not its candidates.

Reaffirming respondents’ lack of awareness about the candidates, when asked who they think is most likely to win the mayorship a considerable 30% of respondents said they don’t know. A third (33%) expect Andy Street to win, and a fifth (21%) expect Liam Byrne to win, whereas just 7% think Jenny Wilkinson is most likely to win.

West Midlands residents identify Healthcare (50%), Policing/Crime (42%), and the Environment (37%) as the main policy issues likely to determine how they vote. For those who intend to choose Andy Street as their first preference, Policing/Crime (51%) is the most selected issue, while it is Healthcare (59%) that appears most important to likely Liam Byrne voters.

A plurality of respondents say that in the West Midlands, they trust the Labour Party the most to reduce poverty (38%), support public transport networks (36%), protect the environment (28%), build the best housing (36%), and support the NHS (38%). A slight plurality of respondents trust the Conservative Party the most to strengthen the economy (34%) and manage the public finances (34%), though a further 33% trust the Labour Party most to manage the public finances. On the issue of crime—which many respondents identify as one of the main policy issues likely to determine how they vote—a slight plurality trust the Labour Party (35%) over the Conservative Party (33%) to tackle crime.

Andy Street has been the Mayor of the West Midlands since 2017, when he defeated his Labour opponent in the second round by a margin of less than 1%. Our latest polling finds 42% of respondents approve of Andy Street’s overall job performance since becoming Mayor and 11% disapprove, resulting in a net approval rating of +31%. A further 34% of respondents neither approve nor disapprove of Andy Street’s performance as Mayor.

In particular, a plurality of respondents say they are satisfied with Andy Street’s policies in the areas of policing (43%), supporting the West Midlands’ economy (42%), transport (41%), and coronavirus (38%). Meanwhile, with regards to housing (38%), the environment (36%), and speaking out on national issues (37%), a plurality says they are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. Dissatisfaction with Andy Street’s policies in these areas is minimal, ranging from 10% to 16%.

A considerable 30% of respondents say they ‘know nothing’ about what Andy Street stands for, whereas a plurality (42%) say they ‘know some policies.’ Among respondents who say they know at least some of Andy Street’s policies, half (51%) say they have a favourable view of Andy Street, including 63% of those who voted Conservative and 46% of those who voted Labour in 2019. 34% say their view is neither favourable nor unfavourable, and just 12% say they have an unfavourable view of Andy Street.

By comparison, a slight plurality (42%) of respondents who are at least somewhat familiar with Labour and Co-Operative candidate Liam Byrne say they have neither a favourable nor unfavourable view of him, though 41% say their view is favourable. However, a significant 42% say they ‘know nothing’ about what Liam Byrne stands for—a result which is consistent with our earlier question which found that only 34% say they have heard of him.

Further, 61% of West Midlands residents say they were unaware that Liam Byrne was once Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Gordon Brown’s Government, including 54% of those who intend to vote for him as their first preference.

One infamous moment from Liam Byrne’s tenure as Chief Secretary to the Treasury is a note he left to his successor, which stated “I am afraid to tell you that there is no money left.” 40% of respondents say, yes, they remember hearing about a note left by Byrne to his successor.

Whether this note might affect his standing with voters appears less clear. When provided with this history, 38% of respondents believe the note was written as a joke, while 32% believe it was written earnestly. 42% nevertheless do believe it should be taken seriously, while 26% say it should not. A considerable 31% do not know whether the note was a joke or in earnest, or whether or not it should be taken seriously.

On a national level, meanwhile, respondents from the West Midlands give Labour Leader Keir Starmer a net approval rating of +11%, which is 9 points higher than this week’s Great Britain-wide net approval rating for Keir Starmer. In the West Midlands, 33% approve, 22% disapprove, and a plurality of 37% neither approve nor disapprove of Keir Starmer’s performance since he became Leader of the Labour Party.

By contrast, half (51%) of respondents approve of Boris Johnson’s performance since becoming Prime Minister and 25% disapprove, putting his net approval rating at +26%—compared to +15% across all of Great Britain. Therefore, approval of both Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer is higher in the West Midlands than it is nationally.

Our West Midlands poll also sees a slightly greater proportion of respondents saying they approve of Boris Johnson’s performance (51%) than those who approve of Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak’s performance (48%). Nevertheless, Rishi Sunak’s net approval rating in the West Midlands is higher than Boris Johnson’s at +31%, with 17% disapproving.

The UK Government’s net competency rating stands at +9% in the West Midlands, again higher than this week’s Great Britain-wide rating of +2%. Overall, 36% say the current government is competent, 27% say incompetent, and 25% say neither competent nor incompetent.

By comparison, the West Midland’s Combined Authority competency rating stands slightly higher at +11%. 30% find their local government to be competent, against 19% who find it incompetent. 24% say ‘neither,’ while a considerable 26% say they do not know.

With the Mayoral Election now just weeks away, Andy Street appears poised—but far from guaranteed—to win a second term as Mayor of the West Midlands, as his first term has gained him a relatively high approval rating and a favourable view in the eyes of half of the public. However, it also seems that turnout may be fairly low, with much of the population still unfamiliar with the candidates, including Andy Street’s main opponent Liam Byrne. With respect to national leaders, a considerable proportion of the West Midlands approves of Keir Starmer and even more approve of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak. If the final election results match the results of this poll, one outcome of the 2019 General Election may be reaffirmed: that the West Midlands is no longer be the ‘Labour heartland’ that it was once considered. 

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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