Archive for the 'Leader approval ratings' Category


How in just three months Starmer has changed the political weather

Monday, June 29th, 2020

I am a great fan of the Opinium weekly poll for the Observer. The firm gets its full datasets out at the same time as when the poll is published on a Saturday evening and it has a series of questions in every survey that are always asked with the result that we can compare changes over time.

Opinium also has a range of cross-heads that can really add to our understanding. One group is on CON and LAB leavers and Remainers and another has a seat split with one of those included being seats gained by CON at GE2019. Like all subsets the samples are small but you can get quite a quite reliable picture looking over three to four weeks of polling for a particular cross-tab.

Another feature that I really like is that there are leader approval ratings in every survey which makes it unique in British polling. There is also the weekly “best PM” question the results of which form the basis of the chart above. Historically the problem with the latter question is that incumbents have got a very clear advantage. It is difficult for those sampled to compare the person in Number 10 with the person who only aspires to the the job.

So although Starmer has been hammering Johnson on leadership approval five or six weeks it was only this last weekend that the LAB leader topped the best PM ratings. For an opposition leader to do that is very rare – to have moved to that position in such a short time suggests that he’s really made an impact. The chart above speaks for itself and Johnson’s only comfort is tha the next election is a long tin off.

Opinium was the most accurate pollster at GE2019 getting each of the main party shares spot on.

Mike Smithson


Starmer is the most popular leader of the opposition since Blair – so why isn’t LAB ahead?

Friday, June 19th, 2020

From Keiran Pedley – now of Ipsos-MORI

It is fair to say that Keir Starmer has made a positive start to life as Labour leader. Our latest figures from the Ipsos MORI political monitor show that 51% of the British public are satisfied with the job Starmer is doing, 20% are dissatisfied and 29% don’t know. 

Starmer’s net satisfaction score of +31 has never been beaten by a leader of the opposition in the 40+ years we have been tracking public attitudes to them. Blair achieved a score of +31 in December 94 and +30 in March 95. Cameron achieved a score of +23 in April 09, with a similar proportion satisfied to Starmer but higher levels of dissatisfaction. Nobody else comes close.

Yet when we look at our latest voting intention figures, Labour still trail the Tories by 5 points. The gap has closed from a lead of 22 before Starmer took over but the question remains: if Starmer is so popular, then why are Labour still behind?

First, we should acknowledge that the party leader is only part of the story when it comes to voter preferences – the party brand matters too. Our polling shows that Labour went into the last election seen as more ‘divided’ and ‘extreme’ than the Tories and less ‘fit to govern’. Some 48% were unfavourable towards the party, with just 32% favourable. Whilst the proportion of the public that is unfavourable has fallen 9 points since then, the proportion that are favourable has barely moved (31%). It will take time to repair Labour’s reputation with the voters, even if the public do tell us they expect Starmer to change the party for the better (46%) not the worse (9%).

Another part of the explanation can be found in public attitudes to Johnson and his government. 48% are satisfied with the job Johnson is doing as Prime Minister and 49% are dissatisfied. Johnson’s net score of -1 is nowhere near as bad as Major achieved when Blair recorded his best satisfaction rating (-56) or Brown achieved when Cameron had his (-28). Similarly, net satisfaction with Johnson’s government stands at -11, which compares favourably to the ratings achieved by Major’s government (-78) and Brown’s government (-47) at the same time. 

In short, whilst Starmer is achieving sky high satisfaction ratings, the current government and Prime Minister are nowhere near as unpopular as those faced by Blair and Cameron. In fact, the public still view Johnson as the more capable Prime Minister over Starmer, by the slender margin of 43% to 38%. So Starmer has not sealed the deal with the electorate yet. 

Clearly there is still work to do for team Starmer if they are going to get their man into Number 10. Labour needs to discredit the current government and Prime Minister more in the eyes of voters and make progress with demographic groups that have been hostile to the party in the recent past. 

This second point is important and worth reiterating. Labour’s problems with certain voters have not disappeared with Jeremy Corbyn. Our latest figures show the Conservatives holding a 27-point lead over Labour with those aged 65 and over. The party’s problems with leave voters, in Scotland generally and in the south-east of England are also well documented. 

However, the scale of Labour’s task should not detract from how good Starmer’s personal ratings are 2 months in.  Not even Blair had a score of +31 after 2 months. Though by the time he reached +31 in December 1994, Labour were 39 points ahead in the polls, right now they are still behind.

Therefore, Starmer’s challenge is to consolidate his good start and then try to turn public goodwill towards him personally into Labour votes. Whilst 42% of Conservative voters and 52% of Lib Dems think Starmer is doing a good job – they are not yet saying they will vote Labour.  Meanwhile, although 48% of those aged 65+ are satisfied with the job he is doing, 6 in 10 say they will vote Conservative.  

Nevertheless, the direction of travel is positive for Labour. The numbers show they have replaced the least popular leader of the opposition in 40+ years with one of the most – at least for now. The Conservative poll lead has shrunk since the election and the government faces serious challenges ahead navigating the COVID fallout and Brexit. If Starmer can sustain the positive first impression he has made with the public and that rubs off on his party, we should expect Labour poll leads to follow, especially if satisfaction with the government falls. 

This does not mean Labour wins the next election but earning the right to be heard again after such a big defeat in December will be a start.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran Pedley is Director of Politics at Ipsos MORI and tweets about polling and public opinion at @keiranpedley


Scoping the damage of the Cummings road trip and Johnson’s decision to ignore it

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Johnson leader ratings

We all know that on Friday May 22nd the Guardian and the Mirror first broke the story of the trip to Durham by Cummings and his family just before the Easter Weekend. Over the following few days it was just about the biggest thing dominating the UK media and everybody it seemed had an opinion.

The question is how has this hurt the Tories and Johnson. The above tables show the voting intention and leader ratings from the relevant period.

On voting intention things were moving a bit away from the previous heights that the Tories had achieved during April so the trend was downwards anyway. It looks as though the party has dropped about four points since the Cummings indiscretion was revealed.

The big impact, though has been on Johnson’s leader ratings which have moved very sharply. YouGov’s latest well/badly ratings have Johnson down 20% on early May. Opinium is down 14% while with Survation the slippage is in single figures.

A big question is whether the voting intention position is the best indicator or the leader numbers. What I find remarkable is how little the leader rating change is reflected in the voting figures.

Mike Smithson


It appears Sir Keir Starmer has made a great first impression

Sunday, June 14th, 2020

One of the things I like about the Ipsos MORI ratings is that they go back so far so you can make decent comparisons, their leader ratings have been an outstandingly accurate barometer on who will win the next general election, they have been a better barometer than voting intention polls.

I thought it would be interesting to see how Sir Keir Starmer’s ratings two months into the job looked, and he’s the best performing Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition two months into the job, that’s some achievement.

There maybe an explanation for this because of the global pandemic and a need for unity, but you could argue that Iain Duncan Smith’s first two months as leader might back that up. His first two were subsumed by the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan but his ratings are closer to Michael Foot & Jeremy Corbyn than they were to Starmer’s rating, so a need for unity doesn’t mean there’s an automaticity in a boost for the Leader of the Opposition.

YouGov have also noted something interesting as well, for the last decade bar a brief period shortly after the 2017 general election, the incumbent Tory Prime Minister has always led on this ‘Best PM’ polling, so for Starmer to make progress is also something to take note off.

Political authority and capital is lot like virginity, once it’s gone, it is bloody difficult to get back. Boris Johnson expending his political capital on Dominic Cummings with a loyalty he’s not previously shown to his wives is one of the great mysteries of life.

None of this means Labour are going to win the next election as things can change, as someone who subscribes to the belief that the oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them, the government’s handling of Covid-19 seems determined to prove that maxim. Perhaps Sir Keir may get unlucky and the Tories ditch Boris Johnson well before the next election.



Johnson’s Tories still ahead with Opinium but he’s a net 30% behind in the approval ratings

Saturday, June 13th, 2020


The first phone poll since March has CON 5% ahead but Starmer with a net 32% lead on leader satisfaction

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Starmer’s numbers are the best for an opposition leader since Blair

Today we heard something of a pulling rarity – a phone survey from Ipsos Mori – the first since March well before starmer became Labour leader. The firm is the only one still doing national phone political surveys which cost a huge amount more than online polling.

One of the things I love about them is that it has been going for so long and maintains records going back to before Mrs Thatcher became Prime Minister. The firm has a wonderful consistency in the questions it asks so we can examine historical trends – hence the chart above with data on opposition meaders going back 41 years.

Although Starmer has been doing well in just about all the leader ratings that have been published which has yet to be reflected in the voting intention polls. In the UK it is the voting numbers that have the biggest impact.

Mike Smithson


More dreadful leader numbers for Boris: Starmer moves to a net plus 34 in latest YouGov Well/Badly ratings

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Another set of leader ratings has Johnson trailing a long way behind Starmer. The LAB leader has a net score (badly % deducted from Well %) of plus 27%. In the same poll with the same calculation Johnson is minus 7%. So that means a 34% net lead for Starmer.

This is in line with other leader recent leader rating polling which asked different questions. The YouGov one here was its traditional “is X doing well/badly?”

At the moment the Tories still have a lead, albeit much reduced, on voting intention. Unless the leadership numbers move then it should not be too long before we get the odd poll with the Tories behind – something that Tory MPs have not experienced for a very long time.

Mike Smithson


GE2019 Tory remainers – the key voting group who are giving Starmer positive ratings

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

We are just over 3 years and 10 months from May 2nd 2024 which is the final date that the next general election can be held. That’s the time that the new Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has got in order to put himself into position where LAB can take enough seats to make the party electorally competitive.

LAB’s seat total from GE2019 was 202 – the lowest total that the party has achieved since 1935. To get a majority Labour needs to get 322 seats which is a massive gap to make up particularly as the SNP is increasing its strength in Scotland and the chances of Labour recovery there look very slim indeed. Back at GE2010 LAB took 41 of the 59 Scottish seats. Now they have just one.

So where are the votes that could help drive the Labour recovery that Starmer is very much hoping for going to come from. One group that looks quite promising are those Conservatives who voted with their party last December but who also opted for Remain in the referendum. They represent between a fifth and a quarter of the overall Tory vote.

Currently when asked the polling voting question Tory remainers are still staying largely with their party but there is some suggestion in the leader ratings that indicates that many are feeling quite positive about Starmer.

Generally those polled respond to leader questions in partisan terms thus Labour voters generally give very low ratings to Johnson. The interesting thing that is happening at the moment is that GE2019 CON Remainers are nothing like as negative about Starmer as you might expect. In fact in the recent deltapoll for the Mail on Sunday 40% of this segment gave a positive number to the Labour leader with 35% negative one.

There were even better numbers for the LAB leader in the latest Opinium where 49% of CON Remainers approved of Starmer with just 14% disapproving. At some stage the former DPP must be hoping that this can be converted into votes.

Mike Smithson