Archive for the 'Leader approval ratings' Category


Peter’s Modest Proposal

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

I dug out the modest proposal title partially because I wanted to declare this article as being officially semi-satirical, but mostly because it’s advocating a form of cannibalism. Politics is a vicious business at the best of times but there’s always room for a little more ruthlessness. So, this is a thought-experiment in some organised political brutality.

The Peter Principle, as originally laid out by Dr Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, is the idea that people are always promoted one level beyond their ability. As long as they are competent in their jobs they get promoted, until the job they are promoted into requires skills they don’t have. A great salesperson may not have the skills to be a great sales team manager for example. If we put this into a political context, a great local councillor may not make a great MP and a great local MP may not make a great leader. 

The solutions to this are generally some version of not keeping a job just because you have it. After a sometimes fired altogether. It’s a solution that shares principles with the USA’s automatic primary system where everyone, up to an including sitting Presidents has to run again to win their party’s nomination for the next election (since 1900 no sitting President has ever lost, but both Truman and LBJ both pulled out of their respective races when trouble loomed) . You can also see it in the mandatory re-selections that were part of the Labour party before 1993, and would return if Momentum or Rebecca Long-Bailey have their way.

So, could you do the same for the leadership?

Mandatory re-selection at election time would probably be too disruptive, the lead in time for British elections is too short to allow something similar to the US Presidential Primaries that are going on at the moment. But could you put in say a maximum term of 3 years to the leadership, with a leadership contest taking place over the final months of that term and automatic re-selections after general elections. Short enough that it is unlikely to regularly clash with elections, long enough for a leader to show their credentials for the job.

It could confine factional infighting by providing a set outlet for it, Jeremy Corbyn’s premiership spent a lot of time being dogged by questions of when a challenge would come and what form it would take. If the only possible change is through revolution, then all dissent is funneled towards revolution. If it doesn’t have sufficient outlet there, then it leaks out through the seams. A mid-term election contest would provide a limiting and containing focus for dissent to be expressed. It would give the chance to remove an unsuitable leader and provide either a launching pad for a new leader, or a re-invigorating affirmation of support for a continuing leader.

Successful American primary candidates ride that momentum into their election campaign, both from the publicity but also the appearance of being ‘a winner’.

The logistics would undoubtedly be difficult, possibly insurmountable. But if the structures of the Labour party are being re-examined, and the warring factions seem unlikely to be declaring peace anytime soon maybe it should be considered.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal


Point of no return

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

When Emily Thornberry threw an early hat into what is likely to become a crowded Labour leadership ring she did so with a vow to step down if it ever became clear, from the polls and her colleagues, that she couldn’t win a future election as a sign of her loyalty to the party.

This was a fairly obvious shot at Jeremy Corbyn who went into the 2019 GE as the with the worst ratings of any major party leader of the last 45 years but will also likely be a line she uses as a challenge to other leadership hopefuls.

She (sensibly) didn’t specify what polling numbers would signal the need for a new leader so I decided to have a helpful poke about to see if we could come up with a point of no return.

(This post is going to deal solely with leadership approval ratings, I may follow up with VI ratings in the future but that’s a rather larger task).

The first thing to do was to try and establish a baseline for electoral performance, how unpopular could you be but still win.

The lowest rating by a LotO who went on to become Prime Minister is -22 by David Cameron (in September 2007) before he recovered into positive territory over the next year. So, we can take that as our first bottom point.

Next, we can take a look at the ratings of every winning party leader: 

Which gives us the lowest winning score of -25 by Tony Blair in 2005. This is also the only election where the winning leader had a lower approval rating than the losing leader, Michael Howard rating at -10. It should be noted that Howard only had 72% of respondents expressing an opinion, which is a particularly low score (next lowest is 79% and the average is in the mid-80s).

To see if there’s any more margin for an unpopular LotO victory here’s the ratings of all PMs at election time.

Which gives us a new low score to beat with -27 for John Major in 1997. So, we can safely say that victory is still possible with a net rating in the mid negative 20s.

But these are the scores at election time, which usually come at the end of some pretty strong improvements in LotO ratings. So, if Emily Thornberry finds herself below that line she shouldn’t be quite ready to let Jess Phillips ‘knife her in the front’.

There’s no exact way to identify what level of recovery is impossible, so I’m falling back on the cheap crutch of history to show what is at least certainly possible. With that in mind I’ve plotted the net ratings recorded by LotOs against the peak rating they achieved after that date. So, in the top right we have David Cameron hitting -22 before climbing to +23, while in the bottom left, we have Corbyn’s -60 and the -44 he recovered to.

We see Corbyn’s staggering 2017 rise from -41 in March 2017 to -1 in July (the last result before the 2017 GE had him at -11). It overshadows what was also a very impressive recovery by Ed Miliband who went from -44 in November of 2014 to -19 at the May 2015GE.

That sizable Mili-surgence is also the lowest score to still show a recovery back past the Major line. The left of him is occupied only by Michael Foot and Jeremy Corbyn. Foot first dipped under that mark by hitting -46 in November of 1981 (before sliding further down) while Corbyn smashed through it in February of 2019 with -55.

Corbyn did manage to gain VI polling leads through the spring of 2019 when May’s popularity nosedived (into -40s in personal ratings and the 20s in VI ratings) from failed Brexit deals, but when she was replaced by Boris Johnson (whose personal ratings were merely quite bad rather than historically awful) the Conservative scores rose and Labour were left behind. Theresa may have taken Jeremy’s chance of victory with her as she left.

One last little note, the only leader listed here not to fight a general election was Iain Duncan-Smith. He was invited to step down in the traditional Conservative way when his personal ratings in the -20s and the party was polling in the low-to-mid 30s, despite reasonable local election gains.

Since WWII the Labour party has never sacked a leader before fighting an election. 

The only Labour leaders since WWI to not fight an election where John Smith who died as leader in 1994, and George Lansbury who stepped down shortly before the 1935 election due to his pacifism causing a rift between him and the wider party.

So, the next Labour leader is probably safe until the next election whatever their score, and comebacks can come from further back than you might expect.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal


PB GE2019 Analysis: Corbyn’s Satisfaction Ratings at elections

Monday, December 9th, 2019

I’ve written before about Jeremy Corbyn’s personal ratings difficulties, and they did not improve in the following months.

In September and October of 2019, he racked up satisfaction ratings of -60, the lowest any Leader of the Opposition has rated since Ipsos-Mori started polling it in 1977 (snatching the record from Michael Foot). In October that came from satisfied a rating of 15%, the third lowest rating on record (narrowly losing out to William Hague in June of 1997 and Michael Foot in the summer of 1982).

In September he scored a dissatisfaction rating of 76%, which is comfortably the lowest on record since no other LotO has ever gone past 69%. Corbyn has had eight ratings in 2019, the first seven were the seven highest dissatisfaction ratings recorded (his best rating of 68% tied for 10th worst ever). In the latest results collected up to the 4th December he rated at -44 on 24% satisfied, 68% dissatisfied, which was a big improvement for him and the 19th worst rating ever recorded (only Foot and Corbyn have rated worse).

The caveat hanging over Corbyn’s ratings is that during the 2017 election he produced the greatest rise in personal ratings of any election campaign (rising alongside Labour’s poll ratings). His rating in March 2017 (the last one before the election was called) was -41. Shortly before election day he was at -11 (and peaked a month later at -1). Leaders of the Opposition normally show a gain in the four months leading up to an election, but Corbyn’s rise is on a different level to any other on record.

Corbyn’s gain of 30 points in net satisfaction is on a different level to any other gain in, the next highest was +16 in 2015 and 2005 (where unfortunately we don’t have a rating close to the election to see if the rise would have continued). Corbyn’s rise also happened entirely during the election campaign itself which takes it even further out in front.

Corbyn’s October rating of -60 was taken just before the election was called, so he’s starting from 19 points further back than he did in 2019 and had less campaigning time to work with. Here’s a fun table.

Which makes it appear that Corbyn isn’t having as good a campaign as last time, a week out from election day he is rating much lower and improved much less. But what that misses is that in 2017 Theresa May opted for a longer election campaign in 2017 than is taking place in 2019. If we centre the ratings around the date the election was called, we get a somewhat different picture.

Corbyn’s ratings are actually improving at about the same incredible rate as in 2017, but he’s starting from a much lower point and has nine fewer days to work with.

His ratings performance in both his election campaigns is hugely better than his (awful) ratings performances outside of them, but in 2019 he started in a much deeper hole with less time to climb out of it. It leaves him heading into this election with the worst ratings of any leader of the opposition in the last forty years.

Tomas Forsey

Tomas Forsey is a longstanding PBer who posts on PB as Corporeal and tweets as PBcorporeal


The killer polling numbers for Corbyn – the pre election Ipsos-MORI leader ratings

Friday, December 6th, 2019

As I have said repeatedly over the years leader ratings are a better guide to election outcomes than voting intention numbers. The reason is that this form of questioning is what pollsters do best – asking for opinions not seeking to get poll participants to predict whether they might take part in some future event and what they will actually do.

Ipsos-MORI has been doing this in the UK since the late 1970s and has resisted the temptation to mess about with its long term trackers.

The result is that it is able to put together a chart like above and we are comparing like with like.

Assuming Johnson’s Tories do win then he’ll have the distinction of winning with the worst ratings on record. The reason, of course, is that Corbyn has reached record lows for an opposition leader on this metric.

It is extraordinary that he has survived with numbers that surely would have led to a replacement in earlier times.

We are where we are and it is hard to see Corbyn still being in the post a week today.

Corbyn’s net rating of -44 compares to -11 at this stage of the 2017 General Election and a score of -41 at the beginning of that campaign.

Swinson’s satisfaction level has stayed the same since October at 29%. Her problem is that her dissatisfaction numbers have moved from 41% to 51%. Essentially the don’t knows of October have moved against her.

Mike Smithson


Swinson opens up a 28 point ratings gap over Johnson in six London remain seats

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

In deepest Remainia the polling picture is very different

For the last couple of Sundays the former YouGov president, Peter Kellner, has published a total of six constituency polls as part of an effort to examine potential tactical voting possibilities in seats which voted Remain at the referendum. So far all of them have been in London but next weekend we are promised a selection from elsewhere in England.

The voting figures in all six seats have the Tories in the lead with in all but one of them showing much reduced gaps over the LDs compared with the last general election.

As well as voting questions in the  polls, carried out by Deltapoll, there have been leader ratings in every survey asking whether those sampled thought Johnson/Corbyn/Swinson are doing well/badly.

Given that the sample for each seat is about 500 taking one set of numbers is probably not very helpful. However with six polls and an aggregated sample of more than 3k then we get something more meaningful and I’ve put together the net aggregated leader numbers in the chart above.

These should be compared with the ratings latest national Deltapoll which has Johnson on net minus 10%, Corbyn on net minus 34% and Swinson net minus 22%.  The biggest variation in this series of constituency surveys is with Swinson.

What is clear is that a very different election is taking place in strong Remain areas suggesting the possibility of CON losses if enough tactical voting takes place

Mike Smithson


The first sign that Boris Johnson is going to repeat Theresa May’s dire campaign performance at GE2017?

Sunday, November 24th, 2019

Corbyn reducing the PM’s net approval ratings lead by 23 points in a week is a worrying sign for Boris Johnson.

Longstanding readers of PB will know that leadership ratings are a much better predictor of electoral outcomes than headline voting intention figures, they foretold the unexpected Conservative majorities of 1992 and 2015. The 2017 ratings were also an indicator that Mrs May was about to squander David Cameron’s majority.

From this piece I wrote in the final weekend before the 2017 general election I looked at Mrs May’s collapsing ratings saying it should alarm Conservatives of which the YouGov figures were indicative of all the pollsters.

Boris Johnson must hope these Deltapoll findings are an outlier and not a harbinger, nearly halving a 47 point lead in the space of a week is not the sign of him winning over the voters he needs to win a majority. In a week Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn have received a lot of coverage thanks to the debates the more people see Boris Johnson the less they like him, with the reverse situation for Corbyn?

We should be getting the Ipsos MORI ratings in the next few days, these are considered the gold standard because they’ve been polling since the 1970s and it allows to put the current figures into context. If Ipsos MORI show something to Deltapoll then it really will be déjà vu all over again.

The only real game changers I can see left are if it turns out Nick Timothy has once again written the Conservative Party manifesto or Donald Trump making a decisive intervention during his visit to the UK next month before the general election. The one thing I feel confident in saying and betting on is that Donald Trump will not be circumspect during his visit.



The voting polling’s bad for LAB but Corbyn’s ratings are even worse

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Above is the Wikipedia list of all the published polls since the general election campaign began. The overall picture is of not that much variation with the Tories in a range of 37-42%,  LAB 27-31% and the LDs 15-17%.

The one party where there’s a lot of variance is Brexit which has a polling range of 4-10%. That’s largely explained by YouGov’s methodology change that factors in the fact that Farage’s party will be only be contesting non-CON seats.

Generally I’m not a great fan of voting intention polling as a means of getting a feel for how things are going – leader ratings have historically been a better guide.

What’s  pleasing about the current election is that we are getting a wider range of regular leader ratings than we’ve seen before.

The weekly Deltapoll have joined Ipsos-MORI and Opinium in always including a ratings element. Ipsos MORI has also added a favourability question.

Swinson has the the largest number, 33%, saying don’t know and that should get smaller during the campaign. Johnson tops on favourability while Corbyn has the most saying they have an unfavourable view. This is in line with other pollsters and other question formats.

Mike Smithson


Corbyn’s Ipsos-MORI satisfaction ratings drop to the lowest for an opposition leader since it started in 1977

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Hardly the platform for an election campaign

Ipsos-MORI, has been polling UK politics since 1977, and throughout that time has been asking in exactly the same manner if those sampled are satisfied/dissatisfied with a range of political leaders. We had the latest numbers for Jo Swinson yesterday. Today the Corbyn figures are released and have the LAB leader with a dissatisfied rating of 76% with just 16% saying satisfied.

Amongst those who voted LAB at 6E2107 33% said they were satisfied with 60% saying satisfied. Compare that with the 42% satisfied to 35% dissatisfied that the same segment recorded for Jo Swinson.

As Keiran’s Tweet points out these are the worst figures any opposition leader recorded by the firm and his Tweet looks at the record lows for all who’ve held that post for more than half a century.

The LAB leader needs to stage a recovery far far in excess of what happened at GE2017 for his party to have any chance. Then Corbyn started the campaign with a net rating of -25%. That compares with today’s net rating of minus 60%.

Mike Smithson