Economic competence: what difference does who you ask about make?

Adam McDonnellResearch Director of Political and Social Research
April 29, 2022, 9:28 AM GMT+0

YouGov investigates whether mentioning the party, leader and/or chancellor influences how the public perceive economic competence

With the cost-of-living crisis continuing to cause problems for the public, we have seen a narrowing in the gap between the Conservatives and Labour when it comes to handling the economy. Our latest tracking data found that the parties are now tied on the issue, an area that the Tories have led on since 2013.

But does it make a difference if you ask about the party, leader, chancellor or a mixture of them all? We asked the following question seven times, changing the answer options each time, finding small differences across the various versions:

For Labour, it makes very little difference whether asking about the party, the leader, or both combined, with between 27% and 30% of the public proclaiming them best on the economy regardless of wording.

There is a difference in those picking the Conservative option, however. When presented with just the party, 28% say they would handle the economy best (compared to 30% saying Labour). When presented with just the leaders, Boris Johnson is picked by 21%, trailing Keir Starmer by six points.

When asking about both party and leader in one option proves slightly better for the Conservatives than just asking about Johnson, but is still worse for them than when just asking about the party. In this version, “a Labour government led by Keir Starmer” is ahead by five points, at 29% to “a Conservative government led by Boris Johnson”’s 24%. This suggests that while Labour and Starmer are viewed synonymously when it comes to economic competence, Johnson is a slight drag on his party’s rating.

Comparing the chancellor and shadow chancellor is the only version where the Conservatives perform better than Labour (22% vs 16%), though this is partly due to Rachel Reeves’ low name recognition. A third of people say they are unsure for this question, way above the 16-20% who said the same for the other combinations.

When combined with their respective parties, both scores improve, but Reeves in particular gains more support with 28% picking “a Labour government with Rachel Reeves as Chancellor” compared to 25% picking “a Conservative government with Rishi Sunak as Chancellor”. Mentioning the party, leader, AND chancellor all in one question produces almost identical results to just asking about the leader and party. The Labour ‘package’ outperforms the Conservatives’ by 30% to 25%.

See full results here