Public more likely to think Boris Johnson has done a bad job as PM than any other since WWII

Do the public think these former PMs did a good job or a bad job in office? New Ipsos polling

The author(s)

  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Ben Roff Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
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  • Churchill most likely to be seen to have done a good job by the public
  • Outgoing Boris Johnson ranks 4th on doing a good job but top on doing a bad job

As the end date of Boris Johnson’s time as Prime Minister nears, new research by Ipsos in the UK shows Britons are more likely to say he has done a bad job as Prime Minister than any other person to hold the position since the Second World War – although he also ranks 4th on those being seen to have done a good job.
Meanwhile, Winston Churchill tops the list of those Prime Ministers the public think has done a good job.

Question: Based on what you know, would you say that the following Prime Ministers did a good job or a bad job as Prime Minister, or neither? - Ipsos

Key findings from the poll include:

  • Winston Churchill (62%) and Margaret Thatcher (43%) are first and second amongst the public on being seen as doing a good job as Prime Minister - unchanged from when Ipsos last asked this question in February 2021.
  • The big movers are Gordon Brown and Theresa May, who have seen a 7- and 6-point increase in the proportion thinking they have done a good job in that time.
  • Boris Johnson is in first place for being seen to have done a bad job (49%), followed by Theresa May (41%), David Cameron (38%) and Tony Blair (35%).
  • There has been a 6-point fall in the proportion of Britons that think Gordon Brown did a bad job – reflecting his improved scores since 2021.

When we look at 2019 Conservative voters:

  • The runaway leaders in terms of which Prime Ministers did a good job are, unsurprisingly, Winston Churchill (81%) and Margaret Thatcher (73%). Boris Johnson is 3rd on 55%.
  • Also unsurprisingly, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown top the list of having done a bad job amongst this group (51% and 50% respectively).

Amongst 2019 Labour voters:

  • Tony Blair (51%), Winston Churchill (50%) and Gordon Brown (46%) are most likely to have been seen to have done a good job. Followed by Harold Wilson on 38%.
  • Boris Johnson is the runaway leader on having done a bad job (78%), followed by clear majorities for Thatcher and May (both 57%) and David Cameron (54%).

Keiran Pedley, Director of Political Research at Ipsos, said:

Winston Churchill continues to top our list of Prime Ministers the public think did a good job in office, followed by Margaret Thatcher. Boris Johnson will be reasonably content with finishing 4th on that list but less happy about topping the list for having done a bad job. However, there is a certain degree of recency bias in who tops the bad job list, with Johnson making up a top three with Theresa May and David Cameron. Time will tell how Johnson’s legacy is judged, as we see by improved scores for Gordon Brown over time, negative perceptions today may soften in the future.

Technical note:

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,111 Britons aged 18+. Interviews were conducted online from 19th to 22nd August 2022 Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Ben Roff Public Affairs
  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs

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