Johnson and Starmer neck and neck on who would make ‘the most capable Prime Minister’ but public doubts about Labour persist

Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer are level with the British public on who would make the most capable Prime Minister

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Dylan Spielman Public Affairs
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Ipsos MORI’s latest Political Monitor shows Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer level with the British public on who would ‘make the most capable Prime Minister’. 38% say Johnson would make the most capable PM and 38% say Starmer. However, just one in four Britons think Labour are ready to form the next government – with 51% disagreeing.

Most capable PM

When asked who would make the most capable Prime Minister, 38% say Boris Johnson and 38% say Keir Starmer. Johnson’s numbers have fallen 9 points from 47% in March 2021, whilst Starmer’s have remained largely unchanged (up one point). The narrowing of the gap is largely due to the increase in respondents saying ‘neither’ (up 7 points to 13%). 1% say someone else (unchanged) and 9% say they don’t know (down a point).

Most capable

Public doubts about Labour

Just 25% think Labour are ready to form the next government (down 7 points from February 2021) with 51% disagreeing (up 8 points). Since Labour have been out of office, the highest scores Labour have achieved under each of their three leaders has been:

  • 32% agreeing under Starmer in February 2021 (43% disagreed),
  • 32% agreeing under Jeremy Corbyn in November 2019 (59% disagreed) and
  • 35% agreed under Ed Miliband in June 2014 (52% disagreed).

Whereas in April ’97, 55% of Britons thought Labour were ready to form a government.

Ready to govern

When asked whether a series of attributes apply to the Labour Party:

  • Just 27% think the party is ‘fit to govern’ (down 8 points from October, 2020),
  • One in five (20%) think the party has ‘a good team of leaders’ (down 10 points from October 2020 and similar to the 22% that said the same in Nov ’19),
  • More than half (56%) think the party is divided (up 4 points from October 2020 but significantly below the 75% that said the same in Nov ’19 under Corbyn),
  • In more positive news for the party, just 16% think Labour are ‘extreme’, (down 4 points from October 2020 and much less than the 50% that thought the same in November 2019),
  • 48% think Labour are concerned about people in real need in Britain and 39% think the party ‘understands the problems facing Britain’ but these numbers are down 12 points each respectively since October 2020,
  • Just one in three (33%) think the Labour Party ‘looks after the interests of people like me’ (down 7 points from October 2020).

Party image

Tories maintain slight poll lead plus other political trackers

When asked about voting preference the Conservative lead over Labour has fallen significantly since August, with the Tories now holding a slender 3-point lead going into party conference season.

  • Conservatives: 39% (-2)
  • Labour: 36% (+6)
  • Liberal Democrats: 9% (-4)
  • Greens: 6% (-2)

Looking at our political trackers:

  • 35% are satisfied with how the Government is running the country (down 4 points from August) and 51% dissatisfied (unchanged).
  • When asked whether or not the current Conservative Government deserves to be re-elected, 32% agree that it does and 46% disagree.
  • Meanwhile 39% are satisfied with the job Boris Johnson is doing as PM (down 2 points from August) and 51% are dissatisfied (down 1 point). 76% of Conservatives are satisfied with the job Johnson is doing. 1 in 5 dissatisfied.
  • Overall, 25% of Britons are satisfied with the job Starmer is doing as Labour leader (down 2 points from August) and 50% are dissatisfied (down 3 points). 40% of Labour supporters are satisfied with Starmer but 43% are dissatisfied.

Likeability of leaders and their parties

Elsewhere in the poll:

  • 39% of Britons say they ‘like Boris Johnson’ (down 7 points from March ‘21) with 41% saying they ‘like Keir Starmer’ (down 3 points),
  • Meanwhile 45% say they ‘like the Labour Party’ (unchanged) whereas just 36% say they ‘like the Conservative Party’ (down 5 points from March ’21).

Gideon Skinner, Head of Politics at Ipsos MORI, says of the findings:

As we enter conference season, the Conservatives seem to be experiencing some mid-term wobbles, with satisfaction with the running of the country dipping (probably due to issues other than COVID-19), and with the lowest likeability scores for the Prime Minister and his party since he became leader. However, while this may have given an immediate boost to Labour in the headline figures, the more detailed data is less rosy, showing a long way for them to go to persuade voters they would be a credible alternative government at the ballot box, while Keir Starmer faces many more critics of his leadership among his own supporters compared with Boris Johnson who has a much happier base.

Technical Note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,008 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone: 17th to 23rd September 2021. 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.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
  • Dylan Spielman Public Affairs

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