Corbyn vs May: how the public sees the two leaders

June 06, 2017, 4:38 PM GMT+0

With just days to go until polling day, May is seen as competent and strong whereas Corbyn is seen as likeable and honest

As we enter the final day before the election, the finishing line is in sight for the party leaders and their teams. Throughout the campaign, there has been a strong focus on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn as the only two likely Prime Ministers in the race. Given there is now so much scrutiny on the leaders in a campaign, how do they shape up?

New YouGov research has asked about the characteristics of the two main party leaders. Are they seen as: competent or incompetent? In touch or out of touch? Strong or weak? Likeable or dislikeable? Honest or dishonest?

The research shows that whilst both May and Corbyn are seen as out of touch (52% and 44% respectively), this is where the similarities end. People are more likely to see May as competent (53% vs Corbyn’s 34%) and strong (52% vs 31%), while Corbyn is more likely to be seen as honest (49% vs May's 32%) and likeable (46% vs 33%).

However, we also asked the same questions about Theresa May last summer, just after she became Prime Minister. And these results are instructive as it shows that increasingly people are seeing her in a more negative light, with the driver of this shift being “don’t knows” making up their minds unfavourably about the Conservative leader. This chimes with other recent research we did that suggested May’s extended “honeymoon” came to an end in the first half of the election campaign.

While we didn’t ask about Jeremy Corbyn last summer, we did ask about him earlier in the campaign. Across the board, the Labour leader’s positive attributes have improved. Most notably, 31% now see him as strong, compared to 25% on May 20th-21st, and 46% now see him as likeable, compared to 39% on May 20th-21st. Again, it seems as if this is the “don’t knows” making up their minds.

Top three word association

We also asked people to choose three words they would associate with Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. The most common one used to describe both is “intelligent” (33% and 24% respectively). Alongside this, more people think the Prime Minister is “strong” than the Labour leader (29% vs 8%), but on the flip side, they also believe she is more “out of touch” (29% vs 22%). On the other hand, Corbyn is seen as more “honest” than May (30% vs 11%) but also “weaker” (25% vs 13%).

These results create an interesting and revealing picture of the two party leaders. Do the British public want a competent and strong leader or one who is honest and likeable? We will find out on Friday morning.

Photo: PA

See the full results here

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