May vs. Corbyn, public perceptions

New Opinium polling commissioned by Keiran Pedley offers some light on public perceptions towards Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Surveyed during the end of January following May’s Brexit speech, voters were asked whether they’d agree or disagree with a few choice statements about them.

Chart: Public perceptions towards Prime Minister Theresa May

Chart: Public perceptions towards Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn

A note on the Sunderland Sandhill council by-election

Many a comment has been made about Sunderland’s Sandhill council by-election result from last night, about what it may or may not mean and whether it is indicative of something or nothing.

An anonymous source told me on Tuesday that the Lib Dems had been working the ward for three months, an abnormal length of campaigning for council by-election campaigns.

Ciarán Morrissey, a Liberal Democrat campaigner from the region who played a part in the campaign, said to me that he is “sceptical of narratives that say this [the Lib Dem gain] was because of Regrexit and Jeremy Corbyn,” instead placing blame on the local council and pointing out their campaign focused on local issues rather than the national picture.

“It was just old-fashioned groundwork. Heavily targeted literature plans, lots of literature, and lots of canvassing. Our messages were clear and were being read and believed, and we put out an absolutely huge volume of Focus, blue letters, etc., including a letter from Steve’s [the candidate] nana, who lives in the ward. We canvassed every day and kept returning to doors where we’d been told where to go, and kept this intensity up until polling day, having been at it since late November.”

Is it the case that the Liberal Democrats may now regularly be outgunning their opponents in manpower and literature when it comes to council by-elections? Perhaps. It doesn’t require confidants and scientific analysis to tell you the Lib Dems regularly go over and above what other parties do in election campaigns they think they can win in.

Is it the case that the Liberal Democrats are (re)gaining support, and so, logically, gaining council seats? Yes. Our poll of polls does note an uptick in support for them, but that alone does not explain the win in Sandhills, a seat they weren’t in contention for even at their height of popularity back in the 2000s.

Does the Lib Dem win in (Leave voting) Sunderland suggest Regrexit is driving votes to a pro-EU party? Very unlikely. National polling currently does not give Regrexit much credence. The subsamples (usual caveats apply) in national polls do note, however, that the Lib Dems are taking one in five of those that voted Remain in last year’s referendum.

My impression is the Lib Dems are in the process of successfully shaking off the negative reputation attained from the coalition years. Their ability to focus on local issues in, shocker, local council by-elections and campaigning hard is paying them dividends. Nationally, they are up in the polls but not by much.

For a better, clearer picture of how national public opinion is shaping up, keep an eye on our polling averages and the coming English, Welsh and Scottish elections of May this year. More on what is up for election soon!

With thanks to those cited on the ground in the area for providing valuable information.

Theresa May, five months on

Five months since Theresa May’s ascendancy to Downing Street, the public’s impressions of her are more positive than negative but waver slightly in the face of growing opposition.

Ipsos Mori’s satisfaction tracker show the new Prime Minister has over the course of the past five months – with the exception of October (where it was 48 per cent) – had half or more of voters indicating satisfaction with her premiership. This is not particularly remarkable when satisfaction with David Cameron in the first five months of his premiership was also 50 per cent and above before falling to the mid-40s and high-30s as his administration continued.

One month following May’s ascendancy 27 per cent of voters could not say whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with her performance. By December this had fallen to 15 per cent, with much of the August bench-sitters seemingly moving towards dissatisfaction. August had her at 54 per cent satisfaction, 19 per cent dissatisfaction. December has it 50 and 35 per cent respectively.

Chart: Public opinion on how well the Prime Minister is doing at her job, month by month

When asking voters whether they have a favourable or unfavourable opinion of the Prime Minister, 41 per cent told a ComRes survey in December they have a favourable view (down 1 point from August), 30 per cent said unfavourable (up 6). Whether you ask voters about satisfaction or favourability, Theresa May can take heart that she has net positivity in both areas but must be aware that attitudes are beginning to, slowly, shift against her.

Public perceptions of May, while mostly good, are not exclusively so. A recent Opinium survey (13-16 Dec) showed she is seen by a great deal of the public as decisive, strong, principled, able to get things done, able to stand up for Britain abroad, and someone with the nation’s interests at heart. She is not, however, seen as in touch, possessing of views similar to most voters,  or representative of public opinion.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fares worse than May in most categories but beats her on perceptions of principle and being in touch with ordinary people.

Chart: Public perceptions of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Despite some comical process stories and perceptions that her government is handling Brexit badly, Theresa May is seen as strong, decisive, capable and has a net satisfaction rating of +15 (Ipsos Mori, Dec). Whether these positive perceptions will continue or collapse in 2017 is yet to be seen.

Resources used:
Ipsos Mori polling
ComRes polling
Opinium polling
Photo: PA

What do the boundary changes mean?

The Boundary Commission(s) for England, Scotland and Wales have all respectively published their initial boundary proposals (map below). The intentions of these proposals are to see an equal number of electors in all seats across the United Kingdom (no less than 71,000) with the hope that they will be used for the 2020 General Election. These proposals are likely to be altered and revised come the Autumn of 2017, however.

At the last election, which used different boundaries, the Conservatives won 330 seats and Labour 232. The new draft constituencies raise the question of how the country may have looked were 2015 fought on these proposed boundaries. This is to gauge for 2020 how far, for example, Labour may need to climb to clinch Downing Street (on the old boundaries they would need to make a net gain of 93 seats), or how fatter or thinner the current 12 seat Tory majority may be.

To our knowledge there have been only two attempts at number crunching to gauge the notional results of these new boundaries. The calculations by Anthony Wells and Martin Baxter both suggest that the notional results on these new boundaries are to give the Conservatives an enlarged majority. Putting it in percentage terms, on the old boundaries, the Tories took 50.8% of seats (330/650), on the new they would have took around 53% (Wells: 319/600, Baxter: 316/600).

How notional results are calculated for these new constituencies involve assumptions made through aggregating the ward results of local council elections. While not accurate to the single vote – and those with very close notional results ought to be judged as tossups/too-close-to-call, most of the time they do provide a satisfactory indicator of where support for each party is concentrated and how that constituency – in the aggregate – is composed. It ought to be said that notional figures are a simple aggregate exercise and don’t account for the potential reality that electors may have voted otherwise in the event a certain candidate/personality was on the ballot paper.

The wards included to compile East Thanet, for example, show a seat with a result closer between the Conservatives and UKIP than South Thanet, of which the seat broadly replaces. It would therefore be reasonable to suggest that East Thanet ought to be regarded as a tossup. The notionals by Anthony Wells make it Conservative; Martin Baxter’s make it UKIP.

PartyAnthony WellsMartin Baxter
Liberal Democrat44
Plaid Cymru33
Other parties1818

On the notional results:-

What of the Greens?

The redrawing of the boundaries in Brighton sees Green support split between Brighton North and Brighton Central & Hove, whereas on the old boundaries it was mostly concentrated in Brighton Pavilion. The new Brighton North seat, which replaces much of Caroline Lucas’ Pavilion constituency, sees the addition of Tory leaning wards such as Hove Park and Withdean, notionally turning the constituency in the aggregate blue instead of green. It should be stressed, though, that this is a purely arithmetical exercise. It does not account for the potential reality that electors may have voted differently depending on the constituency they could vote in.

What of the Liberal Democrats?

On the proposed boundaries the Lib Dems are notionally set to defend four seats, down from eight: Orkney & Shetland, Ceredigion, Westmorland & Lonsdale and North Norfolk.

Southport and Carshalton & Wallington go notionally Conservative; Leeds North West and Sheffield Hallam & Stocksbridge go Labour. The redrawn Cambridge seat, like East Thanet, looks set to prove an interesting toss-up with a notional result of Labour leading the Lib Dems by just 200 votes.

The proposed boundaries, notionals:

Notional results sourecd via Anthony Wells,