Boris Johnson is still popular with the party members, and few expect a majority under the next leader
Our recent Conservative members poll for The Times finds that Liz Truss has extended her lead over rival Rishi Sunak for the party leadership. The survey also looked at a variety of issues that have emerged over the campaign, a selection of which are detailed below.
Members think it was wrong to oust Boris Johnson
By 53% to 41%, Conservative party members say it was wrong for Tory ministers and MPs to force Boris Johnson to resign back in July. Truss and Sunak supporters are split. Those who intend to vote for Liz Truss think it was wrong to oust the PM by 66% to 28%. Among those who plan to back Sunak, these figures are reversed.
Likewise, members tend to think it was wrong for Rishi Sunak to resign as chancellor, by 51% to 40%. Again, Sunak and Truss supporters take opposing views on this matter.
Boris Johnson is seen as a better prime minister than either of the two candidates
Asked who they thought would make the better prime minister, Truss leads Sunak by 58% to 29%. But throwing Boris Johnson into the ring for a triple threat shows the current prime minister winning, with 40% saying he would make the best PM, to Truss’s 28% and Sunak’s 23%.
Those who intend to vote for Truss are divided, with 49% backing Johnson on this question vs 45% who think Truss will be an improvement. By contrast, few Sunak voters are deterred: 76% think the former chancellor would be the better PM, with only 18% switching their vote over to Boris.
Conservative members aren’t confident of a Tory majority under either candidate
Only 39% of members believe that the Conservatives will win a majority at the next election under Liz Truss. Even fewer (19%) say so if Rishi Sunak is in charge.
Even among those who intend to vote for Sunak, just 37% expect him to lead the Tories to a majority in 2024.
Liz Truss leads on the issues
Across six issues we put to Conservative members, Liz Truss is trusted more to handle all of them. Coming top are responding to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, as well as the wider issue of defence, with 69-72% of members saying she would be best to manage both of these. Only 16-19% of members said that Sunak would do a better job.
Sunak performs best of the cost of living and the NHS, but even here only 30-31% of members name him as the best candidate. Truss scores 55% for the cost of living, and 47% for the NHS.
Tory members aren’t bothered by Sunak’s wealth or Truss’s political past
Even prior to the campaign, questions had been raised about the wealthy status and tax affairs of Rishi Sunak. Regardless, only around a quarter of Tory members (28%) think it matters to whether or not he would make a good prime minister that Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy are very wealthy.
That Murthy used to be non-domiciled for tax purposes is seen as more problematic, with 43% of members thinking it matters. Nevertheless, a majority (54%) don’t see it as an issue.
Attacks from Sunak’s camp on Truss have included the fact that the foreign secretary was a Liberal Democrat in her youth, and more recently backed the Remain campaign in 2016. Such blows are not landing, however. Despite being predominantly Leave-voting, few Tory members (25%) care that Truss backed Remain, including 27% of Leave voters.
Even fewer care about Truss’s former Lib Dem allegiance (14%).