Public see Johnson as ‘most capable PM’ vs Corbyn - Ipsos Political Monitor July 2019

Ipsos's July Political Monitor sees a boost for Johnson from his own supporters but public pessimism about prospects of a deal before October 31st.

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
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  • Public see Johnson as ‘most capable PM’ vs Corbyn. But Johnson’s satisfaction ratings worse than Major, Brown and May when they took office
  • Public pessimistic about prospects of a deal ahead of October 31st Brexit deadline but expect UK to leave if no deal agreed

This month’s Ipsos Political Monitor shows some good news for the Conservatives as new Prime Minister Boris Johnson takes office. Mr Johnson’s personal poll ratings have improved, especially among his own supporters, and he leads Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on several leadership metrics. However, Mr Johnson’s satisfaction ratings are worse than other Prime Ministers taking office mid-parliament and the public remain divided over potential Brexit outcomes. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have a ten-point lead over Labour among ‘likely voters’, which is partly due to an increased enthusiasm among Conservatives saying they are certain to vote.

Voting intention

  • The Conservatives take a 10-point lead over Labour in our headline voting intention figures. In June the party standings were close with a minor 2-point lead for the Conservatives (although numbers are not strictly comparable due to a method change) *.
  • 82% of Conservatives say they are ‘certain to vote’, up from 61% last month and compared with 70% of Labour voters, suggesting that Johnson’s election has energised the Conservative base.
  • However, the political situation remains volatile, with around four in ten choosing other parties, and the Conservative-Labour gap among all voters being smaller, suggesting the picture could still change.

Boris Johnson vs Jeremy Corbyn

  • When asked ‘who would make the most capable Prime Minister’, Boris Johnson leads Jeremy Corbyn by 52% to 27%. This lead of 25 points has increased from 18 points last month (due to a small fall in the proportion choosing Jeremy Corbyn). This month, 15% say ‘neither’ or ‘no difference’ and 6% don’t know.
  • 73% of current Labour voters prefer Mr Corbyn to Mr Johnson (15% choose the Conservative leader), while 95% of Conservatives prefer Boris Johnson.  Current Lib Dem voters prefer Mr Johnson (42%) to Mr Corbyn (21%), but 30% say ‘neither’ or ‘no difference’ and 6% ‘don’t know’.
  • 38% agree that Mr Johnson ‘has what it takes to be a good PM’ (up four points from June 2019 and 13 points from March), 43% disagree. Among Conservatives his rating has increased from 59% to 77% thinking he has what it takes.
  • In contrast, just one in five (20%) agree that Corbyn ‘has what it takes to be a good PM’ and 65% disagree. This net rating of -45 is similar to June (-46) and March (-46) of this year.

Boris Johnson vs past PMs

  • 31% are satisfied with the job Boris Johnson is doing as PM. 38% are dissatisfied and 31% don’t know. Mr Johnson’s ‘net satisfaction’ rating stands at -7 points.
  • When compared to other PMs that assumed office during a parliament in Ipsos’s long-term trends, Mr Johnson’s net satisfaction rating (-7) compares unfavourably to the first monthly rating achieved by Theresa May (+35), Gordon Brown (+16) and John Major (+15). 
  • Boris Johnson’s first ratings as a new party leader are actually most similar to Jeremy Corbyn’s, who received a score of 33% satisfied, 36% dissatisfied in September 2015.
  • Similarly, 75% are dissatisfied with how the Johnson government is running the country compared to 18% that are satisfied. This net satisfaction rating of -57 is the worst starting rating held by any government assuming office in the 40 years of the Ipsos Political Monitor series (although of course governments that had just won an election would be expected to have a higher score), the closest being John Major’s (-31) in December of 1990. 

Pessimism over Brexit deal

  • Just 33% of the public are confident that Prime Minister Johnson will ‘get a good deal for Britain in negotiations with other European Union leaders’, while 64% are not confident.  60% of Conservative supporters have confidence in him.
  • 74% think it is unlikely that the ‘UK and the EU will have agreed the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union in time for the UK to leave by October 31st’. 23% think a deal is likely. 
  • However, 59% think it is likely that the UK will leave the European Union by October 31st if the UK and the European Union cannot reach an agreement. 38% think this is unlikely and 3% don’t know.
  • If a deal between the UK and EU cannot be reached:
    • 38% support leaving the European Union without a deal, whereas 50% oppose. 67% of Conservative voters support this outcome but 74% of Labour voters oppose.
    • 50% support delaying the UK leaving until an agreement can be reached, 37% oppose. 62% of Conservatives oppose this outcome and 75% of Labour voters support it.
    • 56% support a General Election to elect a new parliament, 29% oppose. 87% of Labour voters and 71% of Lib Dems support this outcome but a majority of Conservatives (55%) oppose.

Understanding a no-deal Brexit

  • In the event of a no-deal Brexit, 40% of the public think that they understand what will happen ‘very well’ or ‘fairly well’ compared to 54% that say ‘not well’ or ‘not well at all’. 
  • 79% of the public say that ‘the British public as a whole’ does not understand what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit, whilst clear majorities think the same about the UK government (57%) and ‘UK politicians as a whole’ (61%).

Jeremy Corbyn poll ratings

  • Just 19% are satisfied with the job Jeremy Corbyn is doing as leader of the opposition with 69% dissatisfied and 12% saying that they don’t know. His net rating of -50 has improved 8 points from June but is significantly worse than Johnson’s as PM (-7). 49% of Labour voters are satisfied with the job Corbyn is doing (up five points), but 43% are dissatisfied, as are 92% of Liberal Democrats.
  • 62% of the public agree (48% strongly) that Labour should change its leader before the next General Election, while 23% disagree.  37% of Labour voters agree the party should change leader, 21% strongly agree.
  • 29% agree that the Conservatives should change their leader before the next General Election including 10% of Conservative voters.

Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, said:

Boris Johnson has got a boost from his own supporters, as he energises his base in his first month as Prime Minister, and especially when they compare him with Jeremy Corbyn, whose poor personal ratings among the public continue.  However, the political situation remains volatile, with the Liberal Democrats’ revival continuing, the Brexit Party still to be reckoned with, and despite the new Prime Minister satisfaction with the government remains low and economic pessimism high.  Historically, Boris Johnson’s first ratings as PM are also behind Ipsos’s records for May, Brown and Major, which could point to challenges further down the line – ironically, his ratings in his first month as party leader are most similar to Jeremy Corbyn’s.
 Meanwhile, voters are pessimistic about the prospects of a deal being struck with the EU ahead of the October 31st deadline and a majority expect the UK to leave by then if an agreement can’t be reached. However, with a majority unclear on the implications of such an outcome, and the country remaining divided over the outcomes it wants, we can expect public concern to stay high as the deadline approaches.


Technical Note:

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,007 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 26th – 30th July 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. 

*Note on voting intention figures. There has been a change in our approach to the voting intention questions this month,.  Last month, the Brexit Party was unprompted, but this month we have prompted half the sample with them at the first voting intention question.  We will continue to keep this approach under review.

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs

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