Boris Johnson’s heir apparent is not an obvious improvement, in public opinion terms
With a commanding lead in Conservative leadership contest polling, Liz Truss’s coronation as the next prime minister seems all but assured.
So what do Britons make of the likely successor to Boris Johnson, and how does she compare to her rivals and predecessors?
Few expect Liz Truss to be a good prime minister, or even an improvement over Boris Johnson
Only 12% of Britons expect that Truss will be a great or good prime minister, with half (52%) expecting her to be poor or terrible. As Boris Johnson packs his bags in anticipation of Monday’s results, he leaves a legacy only 22% of Britons consider good or great, with 55% assessing his time in charge as poor or terrible.
When asked to compare the two directly, Britons are divided on whether Truss will be a general improvement on the old model. A quarter (24%) expect her to be better than Boris Johnson, while an equal proportion expect her to be worse. A further 37% of Britons believe she will be much the same as her predecessor.
Conservative voters more obviously consider Truss to be a downgrade from Johnson: 43% think she will be worse, more than twice the number who think she will be better (20%). Compared to other recent prime ministers, Truss is seen as likely to do worse than all of them (a list going as far back as Margaret Thatcher, whom Truss has tried to imitate but is seen as inferior to by 45% of Britons and 60% of Conservative voters).
When it comes to handling specific issues facing the UK, few Britons expect Truss to manage the nations’ travails well. Across 11 issues we asked about, between 16% and 24% expressed any form of trust in Truss, with most (53-65%) lacking confidence in the likely next prime minister.
Nor indeed do many expect Truss to even do a better job of managing them than Boris Johnson – although that is faint praise for the current PM, given that by far the most common answer in each case is that neither would do a good job.
The only issue on which Truss is seen as better equipped to handle is “restoring trust in politics”, although even here she secures the backing of just 16% of Britons to Johnson’s paltry 7%.
On a personal level, while many Britons have yet to make their minds up about Truss, she already has a reputation for being out of touch
The best the public can say of Liz Truss is that she seems hard working, although even here only 38% say so. Only 12% actively think she is lazy, with the largest portion of the public (50%) unaware either way.
Across all other attributes we asked about, negative perceptions outweigh positive ones by wide margins. Truss performs worst on connecting with everyday Britons, with 65% considering her to be out of touch with ordinary people. Just 12% of people consider her in touch. Even Conservative voters – who tend to take a positive view of Truss across all measures – are split on this attribute, with 39% considering her in touch and 39% saying she is out of touch.
In terms of personality, Truss cannot exactly be said to be an upgrade from Boris Johnson in public opinion terms. While Johnson tends to have more people saying negative things about him, this is largely a factor of the public’s greater familiarity with him (11-16% responded “don’t know” on questions about Johnson’s attributes, compared to 32-36% for Liz Truss).
Even when excluding those who answer “don’t know”, Truss is only a marginal improvement over Johnson in terms of decisiveness and competence, ties on strength, and comes far behind in terms of likeability.
And when compared to Keir Starmer, Truss finds herself behind on competence and likeability, while proving little better in terms of strength or decisiveness.
Separate questions on Liz Truss and Keir Starmer’s ability to relate to the public show that she lags behind the Labour leader. Only 15% think that she “understands the challenges of day to day life for people like you” well, with 66% thinking she understands them badly. Twice as many say Starmer understands such challenges well (31%), although this is hardly a ringing endorsement for the leader of the opposition. Half of people (50%) think he badly understands the challenges facing the average Briton.