Strong approval for government's vaccine programme as Johnson preferred to lead pandemic response

Almost nine in ten (86%) think the Government is doing a good job obtaining vaccines for Britain, including 84% of Labour voters.

The author(s)

  • Gideon Skinner Public Affairs
  • Keiran Pedley Public Affairs
  • Glenn Gottfried Public Affairs, Ipsos MORI North
  • Cameron Garrett Public Affairs
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  • Mixed results for Keir Starmer – positive satisfaction ratings and on balance seen to be changing Labour for the better but public divided on whether he has a clear vision for the country.

A new Ipsos MORI poll for the Evening Standard shows that Britons prefer Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer to lead the rest of Britain’s COVID-19 pandemic response and the subsequent economic recovery. Key findings in detail (changes from December unless otherwise stated):

Voting intention

If an election was held tomorrow the vote shares would be: Conservative 42% (one point higher than in December); Labour 38% (-3); Liberal Democrats 7% (+1), Greens 8% (+3).

voting intention

Leader satisfaction ratings / economic confidence

  • 41% satisfied (+4) with the way the government is running the country, 51% dissatisfied (-2). Net -10.
  • 42% satisfied (nc) with Mr Johnson as PM, 51% dissatisfied (+1). Net -9.
  • 40% satisfied with Keir Starmer as Labour leader (+2), 35% dissatisfied (+2). Net +5.
  • 14% satisfied with Ed Davey as LibDem leader (-1), 40% dissatisfied (+11). Net -26.
  • 60% (-3) think the economy will get worse over next 12 months, 29% (+2) that it will improve, giving an Economic Optimism Index score of -31.

COVID-19 response

The vaccination rollout is praised. Almost nine in 10 (86%) think the Government is doing well at obtaining vaccines for Britain, including 84% of Labour voters. Some 78% approve of the pace of rollout – saying the government is doing a good job at ‘ensuring the public is vaccinated as soon as possible’. Three-quarters (75%) think the Government is doing a good job at making sure different groups of the population are vaccinated in the right order.

In terms of overall handling of the pandemic:

  • 38% think the government is handling the coronavirus outbreak well (+1 from Dec) and 46% badly (-1). Ratings are better among those aged 55+ (56% well) than 18-34s (19%).
  • 39% think Mr Johnson is handling the outbreak well (+2), 46% badly (nc).
  • 32% think Keir Starmer is handling the outbreak well (+1), 22% badly (-1).
  • 40% say Mr Hancock is handling it well (+14 from October), 41% badly (-7)
  • 55% think Rishi Sunak is handling the coronavirus outbreak well (+4 from Oct), 20% badly (+2)

COVID-19 ratings

Pandemic response: Johnson or Starmer?

Some 44% of the public think Boris Johnson would respond better to the pandemic from now until the end of the crisis, compared with 27% who think Keir Starmer would do better. Asked who would be better at managing Britain’s recovery after the pandemic, 29% picked Keir Starmer, 44% Boris Johnson.

Public perceptions of Keir Starmer

39% of Britons say they know ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ about Keir Starmer. This compares with 85% for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and 65% for former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Some 48% say Labour has changed for the better under Starmer, who took over last April. Just four per cent say Labour had got worse and 35% that he had made no difference. Over-35s, graduates and social grades ABC1 are more positive, while younger voters were more likely to say he had made no difference.

Overall 35% think Starmer has done a good job at giving them a reason to vote Labour and 37% say bad job. 60% of 2019 Labour voters say Starmer has done a good job here, 24% say bad job. Among 2019 Conservative voters these figures are 23% good job and 55% bad.

Similarly, 37% think Starmer has done a good job at ‘demonstrating he has a clear vision for the country’, 34% say bad job. Half (51%) of 2019 Labour voters say he has done a good job here but 27% say bad job.

Some 36% think Starmer “has what it takes” to be a good PM, which is down two points from August. 25% disagree with the rest being neutral on the question or saying they don’t know. One in three (33%) think he is ready to be PM, while 37% disagree (Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn received much higher negative scores on this question when they led the Labour Party). In contrast, 42% of Britons think Boris Johnson ‘has what it takes to be a good PM’, 44% disagree (little change from August).

Keir Starmer is described as decisive by 46% and indecisive by 28%. 39% believe Starmer is someone who ‘leads opinion’ but 34% say he follows it.

Good PM

Is Labour ready for government?

Labour is behind the Conservatives for having the “best team of leaders to deal with the country’s problems” by 41% to 21%. Only 16% think they are the most “clear and united” party, compared with 32% for the Conservatives. A third (32%) believe Labour is ready to form the next government, which is up from 29% in August. 43% do not believe Labour is ready, though this is less than the 59% who disagreed in November 2019 – before the last General Election.

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

The British are among the most likely in the world to say they would get a vaccine, and our poll shows that is backed up by strong public approval for the government’s vaccine programme (and which also seems to be boosting Matt Hancock’s ratings too). This is adding to Keir Starmer’s challenges, who is yet to convince voters of his vision for the country post-pandemic. The public are still to make up their mind about him (he is even now less well-known than Jeremy Corbyn), although he is broadly seen as changing Labour for the better, and he’s not attracting the negativity of his predecessors (his personal ratings remain net positive). But it’s not just about the leader – the public still have questions about the party itself and whether it is ready for government. Although these are showing signs of slow improvement, there is still a long way to go before they match election-winning Oppositions

Technical note

Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,056 adults aged 18+ across Great Britain. Interviews were conducted by telephone 29th Jan – 4th Feb, 2021 Data are weighted to the profile of the population. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

The author(s)

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

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