Has familiarity of Jo Swinson bred contempt?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
November 20, 2019, 10:03 AM GMT+0

Since becoming Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson’s detractors have grown at a faster rate than her fans, although the party is enjoying a surge in support

This article originally appeared in The Times

The Lib Dem vote share has surged since the European Parliament elections in May and the party is enjoying levels of popularity not seen since before the coalition era.

As the party’s new leader, it would stand to reason that Jo Swinson should also be enjoying a popularity boost. But new YouGov data suggests that this is not the case, and that as she became more well known her detractors grew in number faster than her fans.

Our poll from July 23rd and 24th – just a day after Swinson became leader – found that 21% of people had a favourable opinion of her, and 29% an unfavourable one. A significant number of people were unaware of her or had no opinion.

Fast forward to last week and awareness of the leader had grown, and the unfavourable figure had also risen by 19 percentage points to 48%. But the favourable figure was essentially unchanged at just 24%.

Perhaps worse still is the fact that opinion among her target market – Remain voters – mirrors the national result.

Shortly after she become leader, 39% of Remainers had a favourable view of Swinson, which was twice the number who had an unfavourable view (18%).

Since then, however, Swinson’s favourable rating among this group has risen only five points to 44%, while her unfavourable rating has increased 17 points to 33%.

Among both the general public and Remain voters Swinson is less popular than her party. Our most recent survey on party favourability – in late October – found that 31% of Britons had a positive view of the Lib Dems and 53% a negative one. Among Remain voters those figures are 57% and 32% respectively.

While these numbers may be gloomy, there is nevertheless an opportunity coming up for Swinson to turn things around. Even if the Lib Dems lose their legal appeal to get themselves in the ITV debate, Swinson has been invited to take part in Sky News’s debate later in the month.

Back in 2010 Nick Clegg’s strong performances at the election debates sparked ‘Cleggmania’ and gave the Lib Dems a boost. If the current Lib Dem leader can make a similar splash then perhaps this ‘Swinsanity’ will help push the party further up in the polls.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here