Theresa May has big lead as most capable Prime Minister

Theresa May seen as most capable Prime Minister. Brexit is biggest issue for Britons when deciding how to vote, followed by the NHS and education.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North
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One week following Theresa May’s call for a snap general election Ipsos’s Political Monitor finds the Conservatives with a significant lead over Labour. The first of our polls to open the election campaign shows the Conservative party standing at 49% (up 6 points from March) while Labour trail at 26% (down 4). The poll also shows the Liberal Democrats on 13% (no change), and UKIP at 4% (down 2). This is the biggest Conservative lead in our voting series since September 2008, and matches their lead in May 1983.

The Ipsos poll also finds that 63% of those expressing a voting intention have made up their mind on who they will vote for come June. Conservative voters are the most sure they’ve made up their minds with 78% saying they’ve definitely decided while 56% of Labour voters say the same. Liberal Democrat supporters however are least sure of their vote with 60% saying they may change their mind.

When asked who would make the most capable Prime Minister Theresa May holds a strong lead over Jeremy Corbyn. Three in five (61%) say Ms May is most capable compared with a quarter (23%) who say Jeremy Corbyn. This is better than David Cameron’s lead over Ed Miliband in 2015 (by 42% to 27%), and Mrs May’s score of 61% is the highest we have seen since we started asking this question in 1979, although there have been bigger leads (for example, Tony Blair over William Hague in 2001). Those who will vote Conservative are most sure of their leader with nearly all (98%) saying Mrs May is the most capable of the two. A quarter (25%) of those intending to vote Labour also choose Mrs May would make the most capable Prime Minister, although most - 62% - choose Jeremy Corbyn.

This month, we also asked voters to say how important to their vote were parties, their policies and their leaders, by allocating ten points across each. Of the three elements of the political triangle, policies were most important, allocated a mean score of 3.7 out of ten, followed by leaders and parties receiving similar scores of 3.1 and 3 respectively. Compared with April 2015, policies have become relatively slightly less important (down from a mean score of 4.3), and leaders more important (up from a mean score of 2.6).

This month’s Political Monitor also reveals Brexit as the top issue for the British public when considering who they’ll vote for with two in five (42%) citing Britain’s withdrawal and future relationship with the European Union as an issue. Brexit is the top issue for Conservative (57%) and Liberal Democrat (59%) voters while being cited by one in three (32%) Labour voters. Brexit is followed by three in ten (31%) saying the NHS is one of their top concerns when deciding how they’ll vote (the top issue for Labour voters with 39%) while Education is the third most mentioned issue with 21%. Other issues include managing the economy (18%), asylum and immigration (17%), taxation (14%), and poverty/inequality (8%).

Theresa May remains the leader with the highest satisfaction ratings – well ahead of her rival Jeremy Corbyn. Fifty-six percent say they are satisfied with Ms May (up 4 points from March) and 37% dissatisfied (down 2 points) leaving her a net satisfaction score of +19. She also has very strong backing from those who say they will vote Conservative in the General Election with 95% satisfied in her doing her job and just 3% dissatisfied. In contrast 27% of the public are satisfied with Jeremy Corbyn’s performance as Labour leader (also up 4 points) while 62% are dissatisfied leaving him a net satisfaction score of –35. Most (53%) Labour supporters are satisfied with him while 36% are dissatisfied. Three in ten (30%) say they’re satisfied with Tim Farron (up 4) while 37% say they are dissatisfied, however one in three (32%) say they ‘don’t know’ – leaving him with a -7 net satisfaction score. One in five (21%) say they are satisfied with UKIP leader Paul Nuttall (up 7 points) while half (50%) say they are dissatisfied with him.

This month also sees declining pessimism over the economy. Twenty-eight percent think the economy will improve over the next 12 months (up 6 points) while two in five (40%) think it will get worse (down 10 points) leaving a net Economic Optimism Index score of -12 (up 16 points)

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

“The Conservatives’ focus on leadership seems to be working for them – it was a key strength of theirs in 2015, and now their lead has increased even further, while voters also say leadership is a more important issue. The commitment of their supporters is also striking, compared with other parties – once again, especially to Theresa May’s leadership. This has all helped them to match the biggest lead we’ve ever recorded for the Conservatives in an election campaign, back in 1983.”

Technical note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,004 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 21st – 25th April 2017. Data are weighted to the profile of the population.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North

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