In most ways, most Britons think the UK is worse now than it was in 2010

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 06, 2024, 8:15 AM GMT+0

Two thirds disapprove of the government’s record over the last 14 years

Earlier this year, the Guardian quoted Conservative MP Danny Kruger as having said the country was in a worse state than it was in 2010 when the party first came to power. With an election a month away, Rishi Sunak’s re-election chances look very shaky given that the public overwhelmingly agree with Kruger’s assessment.

A new YouGov survey finds that three quarters of Britons (73%) believe that the UK is in a worse state now than it was 14 years ago when David Cameron first entered Downing Street. This includes almost half (46%) who say things in the UK are now “much worse”.

A further 11% consider things to be about the same as they were in 2010; just 8% believe the country is better after almost a decade and a half of Conservative rule.

A majority (59%) of those who voted for the Conservatives at the last election likewise think the UK is now worse than in 2010. In fact, even those who currently intend to vote for the party are split: 33% things are worse, 32% say they are about the same, and only 31% think the party they are about to support at the ballot box has improved the nation in 14 years.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, fully two thirds of Britons (67%) say they disapprove of the Conservatives’ record since 2010 – just 16% signal their approval. Almost half of 2019 Tory voters (47%) disapprove of the government’s cumulative record, compared to 36% who approve, although two thirds of those who expect to vote Conservative on 4 July approve of the Tories’ record over the last 14 years.

The cost of living, NHS, and immigration top the multitude of ways in which the public think things are worse than they were 14 years ago

Across 21 different areas, most Britons say most things are now worse than they were in 2010. Top of that list is the cost of living, which 85% of Britons say is now worse, including 59% who say it is “much worse”. Aside from the recent period of high inflation, this also follows more than a decade of stagnating wages.

The public are also about as likely to say that the NHS is now worse than in 2010, at 84%, with the immigration system and economy coming joint-third, at 78%.

On these first three issues – cost of living, the NHS, and immigration – even a majority of those who intend to vote Conservative in the upcoming election say things are worse now than they were in 2010 (61-68%). Those who backed the party in 2019 are also overwhelmingly negative in their views, at 75-79%.

Aside from the litany of public policy areas that most people now think are worse, the population also see deterioration in some more intangible national areas, including Britain’s standing in the world (67%), the standards in public life (67%) and the health of British democracy (55%).

The public are most likely to say that progress has been made in social areas – although even here the response is very mixed. One in four Britons (27%) say that the situation with lesbian, gay and bisexual rights is better now than it was in 2010, but 19% say things are worse, while 21% say they remain about the same. These figures are roughly the same regarding transgender rights.

When it comes to racial equality, 22% say the situation is better now than in 2010, compared to 24% who think they are worse and 32% who consider them to be around the same.

Britons generally say Tory PMs since 2010 have done a bad job

Having served as custodians of the nation since 2010, it is no surprise – given the previous results – that the last 14 years’ of Conservative prime ministers generally get poor performance reviews from the public.

As he seeks a job extension, most Britons say that Rishi Sunak has been a poor or terrible prime minister (57%), compared to only 13% who think he has been a great or good one. A further 24% consider Sunak to have put in an average showing.

Even among those who currently intend to vote for his party, only a narrow majority (54%) give Rishi Sunak a positive job rating – 37% consider him to have been average, and 9% poor or worse. Those who voted Conservative in 2019 are divided: 27% think Sunak has done well, 36% say he has been average, and 34% bad.

This group have a more positive view of Boris Johnson, who of course led the party in 2019. Approaching half (45%) of 2019 Tories consider Johnson to have been a great or good PM, compared to 31% who see him as poor or terrible and 23% who rate him as average.

The wider public disagree – most (59%) say Boris Johnson was a bad prime minister.

To no-one’s surprise, Liz Truss garners the most negative reviews: 84% of Britons say she was a poor or terrible prime minister, as do similar numbers of past and future Conservative voters (80-81%).

With 50% of Britons also giving Theresa May a thumbs down, only David Cameron comes away with fewer than half of people criticising his time in office, at 38%. A further 36% say the now foreign secretary was an average prime minister, and 17% look back fondly on his time in office.

See the full results

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Photo: Getty