Little to choose between Hunt and Johnson in terms of public opinion

As the Conservative leadership contest gathers pace, Ipsos MORI’s June Political Monitor reveals that there is little to choose between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson in terms of public opinion.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
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Little to choose between Hunt and Johnson in terms of public opinion

Both leadership candidates enjoy large leads over Jeremy Corbyn in terms of who is seen to be ‘the most capable PM’

No clear sign one candidate will improve Conservative fortunes over the other

As the Conservative leadership contest gathers pace, Ipsos MORI’s new Political Monitor reveals that there is little to choose between Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson in terms of public opinion.

‘Has what it takes to be a good PM’?

  • Both Hunt and Johnson have improved since May in terms of the proportion of people agreeing they ‘have what it takes to be a good Prime Minister.’
  • 31% agree that Hunt ‘has what it takes’ (+12 points) and 34% agree that Johnson ‘has what it takes’ (+9 points).
  • However, more disagree that Johnson has what it takes (53%) than Jeremy Hunt (42%). This means that overall Johnson has a ‘net agree’ score of -19 and Hunt -11. This is because a greater proportion ‘don’t know’ how to rate Hunt (10%) when compared to Johnson (3%).
  • • Amongst Conservative supporters, their scores are also similar. 53% of Conservative voters agree Hunt ‘has what it takes’, 24% disagree (net score +29) and for Johnson 59% agree and 28% disagree (net score +31).

Good Prime Minister

Most capable PM

  • When asked who would ‘make the most capable PM’, the Conservative leadership candidates or Corbyn, both Hunt and Johnson convincingly lead the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
  • When asked to choose, 51% of Brits choose Johnson and 33% choose Corbyn as the most capable PM. This is a gap of 18 points.
  • Likewise, 52% of Britons choose Hunt over Corbyn and 29% choose Corbyn. This is a gap of 23 points.

Leadership attributes

  • Britons were asked whether a series of personal attributes applied to Hunt and Johnson.
  • Hunt performed marginally better than Johnson on more traditional Prime Ministerial qualities such as being a ‘capable leader’ (37% vs. 33% respectively), being ‘good in a crisis’ (32% vs. 27%), having ‘sound judgement’ (36% vs. 27%), and being a ‘good representative for Britain on a world stage’ (41% vs. 28%).  
  • On the other hand, Johnson is well ahead of Hunt on having a ‘lot of personality’ (79% vs. 18%) and leads on being ‘patriotic’ (64% vs. 50%).
  • However, Johnson is also less likely than Hunt to be seen as ‘more honest than other politicians’ (25% vs. 31%), is more likely to be seen as ‘out of touch with ordinary people’ (62% vs. 53%) and more ‘style over substance’ (54% vs. 29%).  
  • Both Johnson and Hunt run neck-and-neck when it comes to ‘understanding the problems facing Britain’ (40% vs. 39% respectively) and giving people ‘confidence for Britain’s future’ (28% vs. 25%).

Leadership attributes

Likely to consider voting Conservative

  • There is little evidence that either Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt would make much difference to how likely people would be to consider voting Conservative.
  • Among Conservative voters, 79% say that they are likely to consider voting Conservative under Johnson versus 84% for Hunt.
  • Among non-Conservative voters, just 14% say that the would be likely to consider voting Conservative under Hunt compared to 21% that say the same about Johnson.

Confidence in getting a good Brexit deal

  • 41% are confident Boris Johnson would get a good deal for Britain in negotiations with other European Union leaders (53% are not confident). This compares with 37% who would be confident in Jeremy Hunt to get a good deal (52% are not). However, both candidates score significantly better than Theresa May’s most recent score on this measure in May (18% confident).
  • Conservative supporters have roughly equal amounts of confidence in both candidates. 62% say they would be confident in Boris Johnson to get a good deal (33% would not be) and 60% would be confident in Jeremy Hunt (31% would not be).
  • However, 64% of Conservative voters like Johnson’s approach to Brexit compared to 49% that say the same about Hunt.

Leader satisfaction ratings and economic optimism

  • 8% are satisfied with how the Government is running the country, 85% dissatisfied, leaving a historically low net satisfaction score of -77.
  • Following the announcement of her resignation just 25% are satisfied with the job Theresa May is doing as PM and 69% are dissatisfied. This gives the PM a net score of -44.
  • Just 17% are satisfied with the job Corbyn is doing as Leader of the Opposition and 75% are dissatisfied, a net score of -58 (down 5). On par with the lowest net score for any opposition leader in the Ipsos MORI political monitor series going back to Michael Foot.
  • A third (33%) are satisfied with Vince Cable as leader of the Liberal Democrats with 40% dissatisfied giving him a net score of -7 (down 2). 27% say they don’t know.
  • This month the Political Monitor also asked about Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party. A third (35%) are satisfied with Mr Farage and 54% are dissatisfied – giving him a net satisfaction score of -19.
  • The new poll also shows the public becoming more pessimistic over the health of the economy. Thirteen percent say it will improve over the next year (down 3 points) compared with 57% who say it will get worse (up 6) – giving an Economic Optimism Index score of -44 (down 9).

Voting intention figures

Given the volatile political environment following the Euro elections and the start of the Conservative leadership contest, voting intention figures show some change and should be interpreted with caution and alongside other indicators to give a full picture of public opinion. At this stage of the political cycle, they should be treated as a temperature check of the current mood amongst the public, and may continue to change.

Our latest Ipsos MORI figures show the Conservatives on 26% (+1), Labour 24% (-3), Lib Dems, 22% (+7) and the Brexit Party on 12% (-4). The Green Party are on 8% (+1) and UKIP are on 1% (-2).

Note on voting intention figures. The above figures continue to use the same methodology as previous Ipsos MORI Westminster voting questions, with the Brexit Party not prompted directly.  We have not changed methods this month in order to give a clean trend to make comparisons with our last poll before the European elections. Our methods are constantly under review and we will continue to monitor this in the future.

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

It’s Conservative members who get the final say on who leads their party, but amongst the public at large the race between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt is neck and neck.  Both have seen improvements in their ratings over the last month as the campaign finally got underway, both have a clear lead over Jeremy Corbyn as the most capable PM, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages – Johnson is streets ahead when it comes to personality, but Hunt is seen as a better representative of Britain abroad.   But neither comes with a guarantee that they will be able to attract many new voters to the party, especially against a backdrop of an historically unpopular government and growing economic pessimism.

 

Technical Note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,043 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 21st – 25th June 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 author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Head of Political Research
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs

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