Archive for the 'Leader approval ratings' Category


Analysing the best PM polling – is it as good for Theresa as it appears?

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Graphic: The most recent YouGov polling on who would make the best PM

It has become a regular occurrence.  At least once a month, YouGov release an opinion poll.  Each recent month, the Conservatives have recorded a very comfortable lead over Labour.  And each month, Theresa May has recorded an enormous lead over Jeremy Corbyn in the public’s assessment of who would be the best Prime Minister.  This has widely been taken to mean that the Conservatives’ position is even stronger than the headline polling suggests, given the quasi-presidential nature of the modern British politics. Is that true?

First things first, this is not generally thought to be the most reliable measure of a party leader’s standing.  The Prime Minister has the institutional advantage of actually being in the job, making it easy for the public to imagine them in the role.  For example, Gordon Brown still led by this measure in early 2008, well after the botched election that never was that was widely thought to have punctured his credibility.  But it’s worth looking at because it in part reflects the institutional advantages that any government has over the opposition.

When Theresa May took over as Prime Minister, the initial split on this measure when YouGov first polled in July 2016 was May 52% Corbyn 19% Don’t Know 30%.  In the most recent YouGov poll earlier this month, this had moved to May 47% Corbyn 14% Don’t know 39%.

It is perhaps not surprising that Theresa May has lost some of her early support – it is usual for the gloss to come off honeymoons slowly – but Jeremy Corbyn, far from profiting, has seen his own position deteriorate.  So both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have lost supporters to “Don’t Know” at an equal rate over this period.

There has been much chortling among Conservative supporters about Jeremy Corbyn being outpolled by “Don’t Know” but this is not in fact unusual for a party leader.  In five years of YouGov’s polling, Ed Miliband never beat “Don’t Know” once (though he came within one percentage point twice).  David Cameron also spent most of the last Parliament lagging behind “Don’t Know”, after 2011 only clearly overtaking it in the last two months of polling.

Nor is Jeremy Corbyn’s 14% unprecedentedly low.  YouGov have been polling on this question since 2003 and Iain Duncan Smith twice recorded 14% on this measure, regularly lagging behind Charles Kennedy in third place.  This, however, is not perhaps a comforting example for Mr Corbyn’s supporters.

Two main things stand out about the party leaders’ respective standings on this measure.  First, Theresa May is polling at historically high levels.  It is rare for either party’s leader to poll in the 40s with YouGov, never mind the 50s.  The Conservatives can indeed be quite pleased about this.

Secondly and in my view more importantly, the “Don’t Know” levels are surprisingly high. They are not unprecedentedly high and indeed throughout the last Parliament they quite regularly topped 40%.  However, if conventional political wisdom is to be believed, Jeremy Corbyn is out of his depth, a joke and far too extreme for the British public.  Yet nearly 40% find themselves unable to give a preference for Theresa May, presumably finding this a difficult choice.  Considering this is a relative judgement not an absolute judgement, this suggests either that conventional wisdom is writing Jeremy Corbyn off too quickly or that Theresa May has so far failed to particularly impress large chunks of the public even when measured against a very undemanding target.  Since Jeremy Corbyn is only persuading 14% of the public of his relative merits, I lean towards the latter explanation.

YouGov’s approach is not the only measure of leadership popularity.  Ipsos MORI in particular have polled on satisfaction ratings for many years.  And on this measure also Theresa May’s figures, while good, are not that amazing for a newly-installed Prime Minister.  David Cameron, for example, had higher satisfaction ratings in his first few months in office (only coming to an end at the time of the university tuition fees saga).  Given the exceptionally weak opposition that she faces, she might have hoped to have been doing better still during her political honeymoon.

As the public are getting to know her, her net satisfaction ratings – as is to be expected – are starting to decline.  Those who previously gave her the benefit of the doubt while they were making their minds up have now decided to give her the thumbs down.  This decline will probably continue.

As always, you can look at the polls and see what you want to see.  But as I hope I have demonstrated, there is at least the possibility that Theresa May’s poll ratings flatter to deceive.  She’s safe enough while she’s faced with a useless opponent.  If she finds herself up against someone more competent, she might find herself struggling far more quickly than most pundits currently could imagine.

Alastair Meeks


New entrant Ed Balls moves immediately to 3rd place in latest YouGov favourability ratings

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Both Theresa May & Corbyn see drops

Here they are – the latest YouGov favourability ratings, the polling where the site has chosen who/what should be included.

The first time we did this was in August and since then all the UK politicians have seen net drops. Ed Balls, included after his Strictly successes, was not part of the August list.

In the summer TMay was still enjoying her honeymoon and had a net +12%. That’s now down to +5% with 46% favourable to 41% unfavourable. Boris has seen a decline from -5% in August to -13% now (38-51). Meanwhile, just on his heels, comes Strictly star Ed Balls with 32-47%. So he’s in negative territory but nothing like as bad as Mr. Corbyn who has 26-51 representing a net move since last time of minus 10.

Tony Blair might be thinking of some sort of UK come-back but his ratings, 14-74 are awful and he is only just ahead of Putin and Trump.

Donald Trump gets the best numbers from GE2015 UKIP voters who split 45% to 49%. They also have the most favourable view of Mr. Putin.

Mike Smithson


Latest leader approval polling once again highlights Corbyn’s failure to make any breakthrough with his own age group

Monday, November 21st, 2016


Who should we include in the next PB/YouGov Favourability ratings?

Friday, November 18th, 2016


In August PB was able to have its own YouGov favourability ratings. I am pleased to say that we are now in a position to go forward with a similar survey.

Last time we had:-

Barack Obama
Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump
Vladimir Putin
Angela Merkel
Conservative Party
Labour Party
Liberal Democrats
Theresa May
Boris Johnson
David Davis
Phillip Hammond
Jeremy Corbyn
Tim Farron
David Cameron
MPs generally
Your MP

Clearly some of these are no longer relevant although I would like to continue with quite a few of them so we can make comparisons.

Just looking at the list who should be taken out and who should be included.

Your suggestions would be most helpful.

Mike Smithson


Analysis: Corbyn has the worst end first year satisfaction ratings of any LAB leader in opposition

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Brown, who was of course PM, had the largest negative numbers

This last week has marked the first anniversary of Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party and I thought it worth checking the standing of other LAB leaders at this stage.

As can been seen from the chart Gordon Brown was doing worse but of those who were in opposition Corbyn’s numbers are the worst.

Interestingly the LAB leader with the best ratings was, of course, Tony Blair and he was the only one to win working Commons majorities.

Mike Smithson


Mrs. May’s new PM ratings honeymoon is bigger than Thatcher’s, Cameron’s or Brown’s, but smaller than Major or Blair

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Putting the current ratings numbers into a historical context

With a lot of the non-LAB leadership politics discussion being on May’s polling honeymoon I thought I’d look back at the old MORI ratings to see how other new PM’s were doing at this stage in their occupancy of Number 10.

To its great credit Ipsos MORI keeps excellent historical records and has a whole section devoted to old polling data. So compiling the above has been easy.

Interestingly Mrs. Thatcher was only scoring a net 2% positive satisfaction rating in August 1979 which is the first rating recorded after her success in the election three months earlier. Even in June 1982 when she was basking in her Falklands triumph she only had a net positive of 23%.

At the end of her era John Major recorded the second best new PM ratings on record – a net 46%. This dropped rapidly in the years ahead as he sought to keep the party together over Europe and fight off the accomplished Tony Blair. The new Labour leader’s opening ratings in June 1997 top just about everything a net 59%.

Brown was a net plus 20% two months in after taking over from Blair in June 2007. Cameron, as can be seen scored a net +23% a couple of months after becoming PM.

All saw declines as the years went by and no doubt May will experience the same.

Mike Smithson


Introducing the PB/YouGov Favourability Ratings – a new development by the site

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

First survey has Corbyn ahead of Trump, Putin AND Cameron

As many will know I am a great fan of leader ratings which I believe are a better pointer to political outcomes than voting intention numbers. There are several different formats. Ipsos-MORI ask about “satisfaction”, Opinium goes for straight approval number while the standard YouGov question is asking the sample whether those named are doing well or badly.

The format I like best and the one which the standard in the US is favourability which I have been encouraging UK pollsters to adopt over the past few years. ComRes does them intermittently and occasionally Survation and Opinium have asked questions in this form but that’s about it. My view is that we need standardised favourability questions asked at regular intervals so we can make comparisons.

So I am delighted to announce that under an arrangement between PB and YouGov we will be able to have these on a regular basis and we will cover organisations like political parties as well. The net numbers from the first set are in the chart above.

One of the comparisons that is very striking is to look at responses based on EURef vote as in the table below. REMAIN and LEAVE voters have such a totally different view of the world.

The full data set from the poll should be published on the YouGov site later today.

Mike Smithson


Theresa May – the first national polling since she became PM

Saturday, July 16th, 2016


The first polling looks promising for TM