Worst public satisfaction ratings for any government since John Major

Ipsos’s Political Monitor for March 2019 reveals low levels of public confidence in the Prime Minister to get a good Brexit deal.

The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
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  • Worst public satisfaction ratings for any government since John Major
  • Increasing numbers would blame the UK government for a no-deal


Ipsos’s Political Monitor reveals low levels of public confidence in the Prime Minister to get a good Brexit deal, while over eight in ten think the government is doing a bad job handling Brexit, and over eight in ten are dissatisfied with the way the government is running the country overall – figures only equalled in Ipsos’s forty-year time series by John Major’s government.  The data shows only around one in five Britons (18%) are confident Theresa May will get a good deal for Britain out of the EU negotiations –  four in five (79%) lack confidence.

Confidence in May to get a good Brexit deal for Britain
Even among Conservative supporters three in five (60%) are doubtful she will get a good deal. Despite these poor figures confidence is not much higher in Jeremy Corbyn if he were Prime Minister – 21% would be confident in him to get a good deal with two-thirds (76%) with little confidence.

The new poll shows more bad news for the Prime Minister who has just eight days left before Britain potentially leaves the EU with no deal. When it comes to handling Britain’s departure from the EU two-thirds of the public say Theresa May has done a bad job - up from 50% in March last year. Conservative supporters have more faith in their Prime Minister with 57% saying she’s done a good job, though this is down from 74%.  Figures for Theresa May’s Government overall are even worse with 85% of the public saying it’s done a bad job (up from 54% last year). A third (32%) say the EU has done a good job at handling Brexit while most (56%) say it’s done a bad job. A quarter (27%) think their local MP has done a good job with 36% saying they’ve done a bad job (37% are unsure).

And if no agreement is reached on the terms of Britain’s future relationship with the EU by 29th  March, the UK Government and Conservative MPs get much of the blame. Nearly half (48%) say the Government would be to blame (up from 35% in December) followed by 35% saying Conservative MPs would be to blame (up from 31%). A third (32%) would blame the EU (up from 27%) while 28% would blame Brexit campaigners (down from 35%). A quarter (23%) would blame the Labour Party and Remain campaigners while 10% would blame other opposition parties.

Support for a potential delay to Brexit if no agreement is reached depends on the timeframe in question. When asking the public if they would support a three-month extension half (48%) say they would support it while 38% would oppose it. When asked about a two-year extension a third (34%) say they would support it while a majority (58%) would oppose it.

The new poll also shows little change in the public’s perception of the impact of Brexit on Britain’s economy and sovereignty:

  • Only a quarter (27%) think Brexit will be good for the British economy over the next five years, although half (49%) think it will be good for the economy over the next 10-20 years.
  • A quarter (27%, up from 18% in December) think Brexit will be good for their own standard of living, but 39% think it will make it worse and 31% say it will have no impact.
  • Most think Brexit will be better for Britain’s ability to make decisions in its own best interests (58%) and for Britain’s control over immigration from the EU (51%).

Leader & Government Satisfaction Ratings

Theresa May now sees her worst leadership satisfaction ratings since she became Prime Minister. Three in ten say they’re satisfied with the way she is doing her job (29%, down 4 points) while two-thirds are dissatisfied (65%, up 7 points) – leaving her a net satisfaction score of -36. The Government also sees the lowest satisfaction scores for the way it is running the country for any administration since John Major’s premiership. Just 11% are satisfied with the Government (down 11 points) with 86% dissatisfied (up 15 points) giving it a net satisfaction score of -75.

Net satisfaction with the Government (1979 – 2019)
Conservative supporters remain positive on balance about Theresa May with 63% saying they’re satisfied in her, but they are less happy with the government overall – 71% are dissatisfied (up 24 points).

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership satisfaction scores also remain low. One in five are satisfied (20%, up 3 points) with the way he is doing his job as Labour leader while 70% are dissatisfied (down 2 points) – leaving him a net satisfaction score of -50. Labour supporters are still very much split as well – 42% are satisfied in him (down 2 points) while 40% are dissatisfied (down 6 points).

Economic Optimism Index

Britons continue to be pessimistic about the state of the country’s economy. The latest Ipsos Economic Optimism Index shows 58% believe it will get worse over the next 12 months, 16% think it will improve and 20% it will stay the same – leaving an EOI score of -42, the same as last month.

Voting Intention

Our ongoing vote intention scores show the Conservatives with a small lead over Labour with the Conservatives at 38% (no change), Labour at 34% (down 4 points), the Liberal Democrats at 8% (down 2 points), and UKIP on 7% (up 3 points).

Ipsos Voting Intention March 2019

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

In forty years of our polling, the only other government to reach this level of dissatisfaction was also beset with European troubles – John Major’s, after Black Wednesday, which isn’t an encouraging precedent.  The Prime Minister’s ratings are not quite as low, suggesting she retains some sympathy from her party supporters at least, but her numbers are also falling - albeit with little sign of the public preferring Jeremy Corbyn.  This, combined with continuing pessimism about the economy, means the Conservatives’ support is on shaky foundations.


Technical Note

Ipsos interviewed a representative sample of 1,050 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 15th – 19th March 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 Independent Group and the Brexit party were added as unprompted options to the voting intention questions this wave.


The author(s)
  • Gideon Skinner UK Head of Political Research
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos North
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs

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