Boris Johnson seen as less trustworthy than Keir Starmer, but David Cameron receives the lowest ratings of all

Around a third of Britons (35%) think Boris Johnson is trustworthy, compared with 42% for the Labour leader Keir Starmer

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI North
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Dylan Spielman Public Affairs
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According to the new Ipsos MORI Political Monitor, just over a third of Britons (35%) describe Boris Johnson as trustworthy, compared with 42% for the Labour leader Keir Starmer. Both get higher ratings among their own supporters, at 69% and 60% respectively. Among recent Prime Ministers, though, David Cameron gets the lowest ratings, with his trustworthiness rating half what it was almost a decade ago in 2013 when he was in office. Tony Blair also receives negative trust ratings, but Theresa May, Gordon Brown and John Major are all more trusted than distrusted. Fieldwork was carried out last week before the recent stories this weekend.

Trust in past PMs

Other key findings in detail (changes from March unless otherwise stated):

Trust in political leaders

  • More say Keir Starmer is trustworthy than do Boris Johnson. A third (35%) say the Prime Minster is trustworthy (59% say he is not) compared with 42% who say the Labour leader is trustworthy (41% say he is not).
  • Among their own supporters, 69% describe Boris Johnson as trustworthy (vs 26% who do not), and 60% of Labour supporters trust Keir Starmer (33% do not).
  • When looking at recent former Prime Ministers one in five (21%) say David Cameron is trustworthy (down from 43% when last asked in April 2013). Three quarters (74%) now say he is not trustworthy (up from 51%).
  • Tony Blair also receives negative scores with 23% saying he is trustworthy and 69% that he’s not. These scores are down from his last weeks as Prime Minister when 31% said he was trustworthy and 61% said he was not.
  • The public are marginally positive on balance about Theresa May, half (50%) say she is trustworthy while 45% say she is not.
  • More say Gordon Brown is trustworthy than not (47% vs. 41%) which is an improvement from his last weeks as Prime Minister in April 2010 when it was 41% who said he was trustworthy and 55% said he was not.
  • More also say they see John Major as trustworthy than not (48% vs. 36%)

Leader satisfaction ratings

  • 44% are satisfied (+2) with the way the government is running the country, 51% dissatisfied (+2). Net -7. Among Conservative supporters 84% satisfied (+5), 12% dissatisfied (-4).
  • 44% satisfied (no change) with Boris Johnson as PM, 50% dissatisfied (-1). Net -6. Among Conservative supporters 82% satisfied (-1), 13% dissatisfied (nc).
  • 36% satisfied with Keir Starmer as Labour leader (+3), 46% dissatisfied (+4). Net -10. Among Labour supporters 51% satisfied (-1), 39% dissatisfied (+6).
  • 18% satisfied with Ed Davey as LibDem leader (+3), 38% dissatisfied (+10). Net -20, but 43% don’t know.
  • 58% are satisfied with the way Rishi Sunak is doing his job as Chancellor (-1), 27% dissatisfied (no change). Net +31. Among Conservative supporters 86% satisfied (+3), 8% dissatisfied (-2).

Satisfaction

Overall, most believe MPs put their own interests or that of their party first, rather than the interests of their constituents or country – as has been the case for many years. The new poll reveals 43% say MPs look out for their own interests first while 36% say they’re looking out for the interests of their party. Few say they look out for their constituents’ interest first (8%) or that of the country (6%).

Less than a quarter (23%) say they trust MPs in general to tell the truth while a strong majority (73%) say they do not – figures that have remained relatively consistent since 2004 (with the worst figures in 2009 during the expenses scandal). The number saying they trust MPs to tell the truth however falls to 16% amongst 18-34 year olds. Trust also differs by party lines and may partly reflect which party is in power, for example, a third (35%) of Conservative supporter’s trust MPs in general, compared with just 18% of Labour supporters.

There is also a difference when it comes to a person’s own MP. Britons are more likely to trust their own MP to tell the truth (47% say they trust them to tell the truth while 41% say they do not trust them).

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

The biggest loser so far from the lobbying row in public opinion terms seems to be David Cameron, who is now seen as the least trustworthy of all recent former Prime Ministers, with a big drop from his time in office. Tony Blair also receives negative ratings, but Theresa May, Gordon Brown and John Major are seen more positively – with Gordon Brown and John Major having most crossover appeal. Overall trust in MPs remains low, as it has for many years – so far, this doesn’t seem to have made it worse, but engaging young people in politics remains a challenge. For the current occupant of No.10, the picture is not quite as clear cut. This data shows that on honesty Boris Johnson is clearly trumped by his opponent Keir Starmer, so this is an area of potential risk for him. However, his own supporters still trust him, and the public overall have never seen it as one of his strongest attributes. His overall satisfaction ratings as PM were unchanged last week, and as previous leaders have shown, you don’t have to be ahead on trust to win elections if the public thinks you have other strengths. The key question is whether and if these stories continue and start to change the public’s overall view on him as PM.

Technical Note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,090 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 16th – 22nd April 2021. 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 author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI North
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Dylan Spielman Public Affairs

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