Despite claims from some that it would be better for Boris Johnson to retain his position in Number 10, both candidates are more popular than the outgoing PM
With the Conservative leadership contest now whittled down to two candidates – Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – YouGov polling of almost 5,000 Britons can reveal that, although both politicians are considerably unpopular with the public as a whole, Sunak has a significant edge over Truss among swing voters.
Net favourability scores (the percentage of people telling us they have a ‘favourable’ opinion of someone minus the percentage telling us they have an ‘unfavourable’ opinion) currently stand at -30 for Sunak and -32 for Truss among the Brits are large. Neither can be characterised as popular.
But both candidates are significantly less unpopular than current Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who stands at -45. However, they are considerably more unpopular than Labour leader Keir Starmer (-18).
While there is little to separate the two leadership candidates among for example those who currently intend to vote Labour (-59 for Sunak, -62 for Truss) or those who voted Conservative in 2019 (0 and +3 respectively), the crucial difference between Truss and Sunak comes among swing voters.
Net favourability among those who voted Conservative in 2019 but now tell us they plan to vote Labour stands at -25 for Sunak and -45 for Truss. Equally, scores among those who voted Labour in 2017 but Conservative in 2019 register at -6 for Sunak and -19 for Truss.
Nevertheless, both candidates are fighting an uphill battle to bring the defectors back on board: Keir Starmer is highly popular among this group, with a net score of +57.
Perhaps significantly, Sunak’s score is markedly better than Starmer’s (-38) among those Lab-Con switchers who helped to give the Conservatives their 80-seat majority almost three years ago.
Finally, Sunak also does slightly better among those who voted Conservative in 2019 but who now tell us they do not know how they would vote in an election being held today. Among this group, the former chancellor sits at -12, whereas the current foreign secretary is at -16. Boris Johnson by comparison is at -22, while Starmer is all the way down at -59.
It is important to note at the same time that Liz Truss’ name recognition is still significantly below Rishi Sunak’s. While only 13% of the public don’t know enough about the former Chancellor to say how they feel about him, the figure is more than double that for Truss (29%). Truss then has much more headroom with the public to improve her ratings quickly than Sunak does – though equally, those ratings could well decline as the public become more familiar with her.
With Sunak’s campaign looking for any and all available avenues to close the gap on Liz Truss in terms of vote intention among Conservative Party members, these findings suggest there is perhaps some purchase in the argument that Sunak offers a better option to the Conservatives in terms of holding onto the voters who delivered them to power in 2019.
See full results here