As a summer of campaigning begins, both the public and Conservative voters are split over who they would rather see in Number 10
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have emerged as the final runners in the contest for the top seat of the Conservative party and the office of prime minister. Now, the candidates face a summer on the campaign trail, gathering support among Conservative party members.
YouGov’s initial polling has found Truss holding the lead over Sunak among Tory party members, but what do the party’s wider voting base, and the public, make of the two?
Early on in the process, the general population is split: 28% say they would want to see Sunak in the top job, while 25% want Truss. But almost half (47%) currently can’t choose between the two.
Fewer Conservative voters are unsure (22%), but they too are split over the candidates, with 36% preferring Sunak and 41% preferring Truss.
How are Truss and Sunak perceived by the public?
The summer will see both Truss and Sunak trying to win over party members, but their actions on and off the campaign trail will impact how the public views them.
Asked what attributes most strike them about the two candidates, Sunak is more likely to be described as competent (21% listed it among his top three values versus 13% for Truss). However, Sunak is also more likely to be branded "out of touch" among the public, at 42% compared to 22% who say this of Truss.
Sunak is also more likely to be viewed as dishonest (29% to Truss's 21%) and uncaring (21% to 14%).
However, it is worth bearing in mind that Sunak has had significantly more publicity in the past (for better or worse) than Truss. As such, some 32% of the public say they don’t know enough to describe the foreign secretary, compared to 18% who say this of the former chancellor.
Among current Conservative voters, 43% choose “clever” as one of Sunak’s top three characteristics, while only 4% say this of Truss. As with the general public, Sunak is also more likely to be described as competent (40% to 33%), and decisive (28% to 4%). Yet Sunak is also more seen as “out of touch” (36% to 12%), and dishonest (16% to 7%).
In terms of attributes Truss performs better on, more Tory voters see Truss as honest (22%, to Sunak's 10%), and caring (20% to 4%). However, as with the public, Conservative voters are more likely to be unsure about Truss (28%) than Sunak (11%).
Can Sunak and Truss win over new and old voters?
Conservative party members may not have listed electability among their top traits for their next party leader. However, both candidates will almost certainly be thinking in some capacity about the 2024 general election lurking in the not-too-distant future.
Key to that will be their ability to bring voters on board once Boris Johnson has gone, with the former PM having led the Conservatives to a significant polling deficit against Labour. Some 7% of the public say they would be more likely to vote Conservative with Sunak at the helm but 15% say they would be less likely to do so with him as party leader. When it comes to Truss, 9% say they would be more likely to vote Conservative if she was in charge, while 12% would be less likely to.
Of voters who backed the Conservatives in the 2019 general election, 11% say they would be more likely to vote for a Sunak-led party. However, one in four (26%) of the party's previous voters would be less likely to vote Conservative again under the former chancellor. Should Truss take charge, 18% say they would be more likely to vote Conservative again and 16% say the opposite.
See full results here