8 in 10 dissatisfied with how the government is running the country

Ipsos's September 2019 Political Monitor shows net satisfaction with how the government is running the country now stands at minus 67.

The author(s)
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North
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  • 8 in 10 dissatisfied with how Boris Johnson’s government is running the country
  • Majority of Britons (55%) dissatisfied with the job Boris Johnson is doing as PM – up 17 pts from July
  • But Johnson seen as more capable Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn (50% to 29%)
  • Public want an election this year (51%) – but most (67%) expect another hung parliament

As the Conservatives kick-off their party conference in Manchester, 81% of the British public tell Ipsos’s Political Monitor that they are dissatisfied with how the government is running the country. Just 14% are satisfied. The government’s net satisfaction score now stands at minus 67, with only the governments of John Major and Theresa May ever achieving lower ratings in the Ipsos Political Monitor series – dating back to 1977.

Meanwhile 37% are satisfied with the job Boris Johnson is doing as Prime Minister (up 6 points from July) but a majority (55%) are dissatisfied (up 17 points). His net satisfaction rating is -18 (down 11 points). Conservative supporters remain satisfied overall with their leader (71% - up 4 points) while 21% are dissatisfied (up 13 points) – leaving him a net satisfaction score of +50 (down 9 points).

In other findings:

Government competence & chaos

  • Just one in five (22%) Britons say the word “competent” is an accurate way to describe the current government. 2 in 3 (66%) disagree.
  • 43% agree that the return of a Conservative government after the next General Election would lead to chaos. 40% disagree.
  • In contrast, 52% of Britons agree that there would be chaos if a Labour government was elected compared to 35% that disagree.

Leadership attributes

When asked about several leadership attributes that may or may not apply to a Prime Minister:

  • A third (36%) say Mr Johnson is a capable leader (10 points lower than Theresa May when asked in April 2018), 32% say he would be good in a crisis (11 points lower than May), 31% say he has sound judgement (10 points lower than May), and 30% say he’s a good representative for Britain on the world stage (not asked of May).
  • Three quarters (76%) say that Johnson ‘has got a lot of personality’ but just over half (56%) say that he is ‘more style than substance’ and just over one in four (27%) say that he is ‘more honest than most politicians’.
  • Forty-three per cent say that Boris Johnson understands the problems facing Britain while three in ten (60%) say that he is out of touch with ordinary people.
  • Three in ten (30%) say that Johnson gives them confidence in Britain’s future while 63% see him as patriotic

Handling of Brexit

  • 38% think Boris Johnson is doing a good job handling Brexit (13 points higher than Theresa May when last asked in May 2019).
  • However, more than half (53%) say he’s doing a bad job.
  • 71% of Conservative supporters say he’s doing a good job at handling Brexit and 19% saying he’s doing a bad job.
  • There is little confidence that Boris Johnson will get a good deal for Britain from other European Union leaders. Three in ten (30%) say they are confident he will get a good deal (down 3 points from July) while 67% say they’re not (up 3 points).
  • If the UK does not leave the EU by the 31 October deadline, the public are split about what Boris Johnson should do with regards to his political future with 46% saying he should resign as Prime Minister while 47% think he should continue.

Labour readiness for government

The British public do not see Labour as a government-in-waiting. 

  • Three in five (62%) Britons disagree that the Labour Party is ready to form the next government.
  • A quarter (27%) agree they are ready including 70% of Labour supporters (20% disagree).
  • A similar proportion of the British public disagrees that Jeremy Corbyn is ready to be Prime Minister – 63% disagree while 27% agree including 68% of Labour supporters.
  • In contrast, 53% agreed that Tony Blair was ready to be PM when Ipsos asked about the then Labour leader in April 1997.
  • When asked who would make the ‘most capable Prime minister’ half (50%) say Boris Johnson compared with three on ten (29%) who opt for Jeremy Corbyn (16% say neither).

General Election and outcome

When it comes to a General Election, a majority (51%) believe that it should happen this year. A quarter (26%) would prefer to have it next year while 5% would like it to be in 2021 and 9% in 2022 (the last possible year it could be held). Both a majority of Conservative voters (52%) and Labour voters (58%) want the election to happen this year.

If a General Election does take place two-thirds (67%) believe the result would be a hung parliament. A majority of voters believe the Conservatives will be the largest party whether in a hung parliament (46%) or as an outright majority (12%). A quarter (23%) believe Labour will be the largest party with 18% saying this would be in a hung parliament and just 5% saying as an outright majority government.

Keiran Pedley, Research Director at Ipsos, said:

Much is understandably made of Jeremy Corbyn’s historically poor personal poll ratings but the truth is that Johnson’s government is historically unpopular too. The dim view that the public appear to take of both the government and opposition makes the coming General Election very unpredictable. However, Conservatives will take some heart in the fact that the public appear to prefer Johnson as Prime Minister to Corbyn.

Technical Note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,006 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 13th – 16th September 2019.  Data are weighted to the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error. On the basis of the historical record of the polls at recent general elections, there is a 9 in 10 chance that the true value of a party’s support lies within 4 points of the estimates provided by this poll, and a 2 in 3 chance that they lie within 2 points.

The author(s)
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North

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