As he becomes PM, what do people think of Rishi Sunak?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
October 25, 2022, 1:30 PM GMT+0

Sunak receives a much warmer reception than Liz Truss

Britain has its third prime minister in seven weeks. With Rishi Sunak today receiving the keys to his new Downing Street home, YouGov posed the same series of questions we put to the public barely two months ago to see what people make of the new PM.

Britons are split on how good a prime minister they expect Rishi Sunak to be. A quarter (25%) expect him to be great or good, 29% think he will be average, and another 29% think he will be poor or terrible.

While these results are mixed, they represent a marked improvement over predecessor Liz Truss, whom 52% of Britons expected to do a bad job when asked just ahead of her victory in the Tory leadership contest.

Indeed, a substantial majority of Britons (68%) expect Sunak to do a better job as prime minister than Truss. They also tend to think he will be an improvement on his old boss Boris Johnson, with 41% saying so, compared to 30% who think they will be about the same and only 15% who think he will be worse.

The public’s priorities for Sunak as he enters Number 10 look much the same as they did when Liz Truss took over, with the rise in the cost of living topping the list. Close to two thirds (62%) of Britons put it among their top three issues for the prime minister to prioritise, followed by 47% for the rise in the cost of energy and 47% for the economy in general.

However, Britons do not tend to trust Sunak to manage their number one priority. By 48% to 37% say they don’t trust Sunak to make the right decisions on the cost of living, with almost identical figures saying the same of the rising cost of energy.

Britons do, however, tend to think that the new prime minister will make the right decisions when it comes to managing the wider economy (50%, versus 36% who don’t trust him to).

Across all categories, Sunak is more trusted than Truss was just prior to her taking over.

Sunak’s economic reputation does seem to have benefitted from the turmoil of his predecessor’s time in office. Asked to think back about his time as chancellor, 53% of Britons say he did a good job in that role, with only 28% saying he did a bad job.

Yet in our final tracker survey during Sunak’s time as chancellor, Britons thought he was doing a bad job by 44% to 22%.

Sunak is seen as hardworking, competent, and decisive, but also out of touch

Sunak scores well on several of the more important personal attributes questions. By 53% to 17% Britons see him as decisive than indecisive, and by 50% to 22% they see him as competent. He is also more likely to be seen as strong (39%) than weak (24%).

These are significantly better figures than Truss received in the run up to becoming prime minister, when just 21% saw her as competent and only 23% said she was strong or decisive.

However, two thirds of Britons (67%) believe the new prime minister – a wealthy man, married to a billionaire’s daughter – is out of touch with ordinary people. Only 13% consider him to be in touch, including just 22% of Tory voters.

A separate question in the survey found that just 24% of Britons think that Rishi Sunak understands well the challenges for day to day Britons, with 61% thinking he does not. This compares unfavourably to his new main foe Keir Starmer, whom 42% of Britons believe understands the challenges people face (although just as many say he does not, at 40%).

Britons also tend to think Sunak is untrustworthy, by 39% to 30%, and “putting on an act” (42%) as opposed to “authentic” (31%).

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