- 38% of Britons trust Conservatives most on defence, 19% trust Labour most.
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace holds stronger approval ratings on handling of Ukraine than Cabinet colleagues Liz Truss and Priti Patel
- More than half think Britain is not doing enough for Ukrainian refugees
New Ipsos polling shows the British public trust the Conservatives more than Labour on defence by a 2:1 margin. 38% trust the Conservatives most and 19% trust Labour. On foreign affairs more generally the gap is smaller but the Conservatives still lead: 31% to 25%.
A similar picture is observed when considering party leaders. 34% trust Boris Johnson most on defence and 21% trust Keir Starmer most. Johnson’s lead over Starmer is though much smaller than Theresa May’s lead over Jeremy Corbyn in April 2017 where 57% trusted May most and 18% trusted Corbyn most. On foreign affairs more generally the two leaders are tied on 26% each.
Handling of Ukraine
Ipsos also asked the public whether they approved or disapproved of how the party leaders and various Cabinet ministers were handling the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Overall, 44% approve of Boris Johnson’s handling of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and 41% disapprove.
- Johnson’s net score of +3 is better the figures Tony Blair recorded for his handling of the Iraq war. Blair’s highest net satisfaction score was -9 in September 2002 (before the war began when the poll asked about ‘the current situation with Iraq’). His worst score was -60 in May 2007 – shortly before he left office. However Tony Blair received higher scores for his reaction to the September 11th terrorist attacks, starting at +74 in the immediate aftermath and remaining positive for the next 6 months – although they turned negative by September 2002.
- Returning to the present day, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace leads Cabinet colleagues foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Home Secretary Priti Patel on public approval of how they have handled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- 39% approve of Ben Wallace’s handling of Ukraine, 27% disapprove.
- For Liz Truss, 28% approve and 41% disapprove.
- For Priti Patel, 21% approve and 58% disapprove
Amongst Conservative voters a similar pattern emerges.
- 75% approve of Johnson’s handling of Ukraine, 56% for Ben Wallace, 48% for Liz Truss and 39% for Priti Patel.
For Labour leader Keir Starmer, 33% of the public approve overall and 31% disapprove (35% don’t know). Amongst Labour voters, 50% approve and 22% disapprove.
The poll also asked whether Britain was doing enough to help Ukrainian refugees. Overall 56% think Britain is not doing enough, 31% think Britain is doing about the right amount and 6% think Britain is doing too much. Almost 7 in 10 (69%) Labour voters think Britain is not doing enough and Conservative voters are evenly split between those who think Britain is doing enough and those who think it is doing the right amount (both 43%).
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos, says of the findings:
Boris Johnson and the Conservatives have benefited from some recovery in the polls this month, but public reactions to the Government’s response to the war in Ukraine are not all positive. Around 4 in 10 approve of the way the PM and Defence Secretary are handling the invasion, but reactions are not so encouraging for the Home Secretary amidst public concern that Britain is not doing enough to help refugees. Views of leaders can also change – Tony Blair had very high public approval ratings for his initial response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, much higher than Boris Johnson does now, but a year later they had turned negative. Nevertheless, the Conservatives still have a solid lead over Labour as most trusted on defence and many do not have a strong view of Keir Starmer’s response, although taking a broader view beyond conflict the Labour leader is level with Boris Johnson on foreign affairs more generally.
Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone: 9th to 16th March 2022. Data are weighted to match 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. This is especially important to keep in mind when calculating party lead figures.