Fewer than half of 2019 Tory voters say Conservative are the best party to manage the economy

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
August 02, 2023, 10:36 AM GMT+0

We take a combined look at our ‘most important issue’, ‘government handling’, and ‘best party’ trackers

Another week passes, and the government’s ratings continue to languish. The latest YouGov tracker data shows two thirds of Britons (66%) disapprove of the government’s record to date, with only 14% approving.

When it comes to their handling of specific issues, most Britons think the government is doing a bad job on most issues. Following a week of trying to row back on green policies, the government’s handling of the environment has received its lowest rating since tracking began in mid-2019, a net score of -37.

Bad as these figures are, taking a deeper look through our tracking data reveals that the government’s issue-handling ratings are even worse among those who consider each issue to be one of their top issues facing the country.

While the government barely scrapes a positive net score on its handling of defence among the wider population (+1), among those who see it as a top issue they receive a net score of -20.

This continues to be the government’s best score of those topics present on both the top issues and government handling questions, and by a wide margin. Second best (or second least bad) for the government is their handling of the economy – although they still score -68 among those who consider the economy to be a top issue facing the UK.

On all the other issues listed, the government scores lower than -70. While many of these are not issues the Conservative brand is not normally positively associated with, even on more traditional Tory topics like immigration they score a rock-bottom -86.

When it comes to Conservative voters specifically, a similar trend is present, albeit from a slightly more positive starting point.

That people are more likely to consider the government to be handling their particular top issue badly is perhaps unsurprising – you are more likely to say something is a top issue when it is in crisis after all.

And thinking the government is handling an issue badly is one thing, but do people think the alternatives could do any better?

Across ten issues, the Conservatives receive no more than 27% saying they would be the best party to handle that issue. Labour lead the Tories on seven of the issues, including the key matter of the economy (by 25% to 20%), but also immigration (by 22% to 17%) and particularly the NHS (40% vs 12%).

Labour hold a seven point lead among those who consider the economy to be one of the most important issues facing the country, with 28% saying Labour would be the best party for the challenge compared to 21% who think the Conservatives are.

By contrast, the Tories are clearly more favoured by those who say immigration is a top issue, by 29% to Labour’s 9%. A separate YouGov poll recently found that immigration was one of the two areas that Britons are least likely to think would get better under Labour.

Worryingly for the Conservatives, among those who backed the party in 2019 fewer than half consider them to be the best party to fix the economy (44%). One in eleven (9%) now see Labour as the best party for the economy.

Only half see the Tories as the best party on their best-performing topic (defence, at 52%), and at the other end of the scale just 28% of 2019 Conservative voters think the Tories are the best party for the NHS, and 25% for housing (although they hold a six point lead over Labour in both cases).

Labour voters are more confident that Labour is the party to fix the economy, at 57%, with 5% saying the Conservatives are. On their best performing topic – the NHS – fully 75% think their own party is best placed to manage it. Labour voters have least confidence the party is best on Brexit, at 38%, with 14% saying the Lib Dems and 15% saying no party is.

When it comes to Tory voters who currently say the economy is a top issue, the party performs no better – only 47% think the Tories are the best party to tackle the issue, with 10% saying Labour are.

Tory voters who say the NHS and housing are top priorities are actively divided on whether Labour or the Conservatives are best on the issues: 29% who think that health is a top issue say that Labour would be the best party to manage it, while 27% maintain that the Conservatives would be. Likewise, 23% of Tory voters who prioritise housing say Labour are the best party for the job, compared to 20% for the Conservatives.

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