Director of Political and Social Research

YouGov's first polling for the 2012 London mayoral election has Boris Johnson only narrowly ahead on first preferences.

In London's Westminster voting intention, Labour is four points ahead of the Conservatives, at 42% (up five from the general election), the Conservatives on 38% (up 3 from the general election) and the Liberal Democrats on 13% (down 9 points, echoing the collapse in support that YouGov's Great Britain polls have shown.

Boris Johnson is doing slightly better than the Conservative party, but still has only a narrow two point lead over Ken Livingstone in first preference votes. The current figures are Johnson 46%, Livingstone 44%, the Liberal Democrat candidate 4% and other candidates 7%. 85% of Conservative voters would back Boris Johnson, compared to 78% of Labour voters who would back Ken Livingstone. Liberal Democrat voters split evenly between Johnson and Livingstone.

Boris Johnson himself still has a good approval rating as mayor. 58% of respondents think he is doing a good job as mayor, with 34% thinking he is doing a bad job. On specific issues his highest approval ratings are on his handling of the bus service (54% approval) and the Olympics (51% approval). 46% approve of his handling of crime and 43% approve of his handling of the tube (the only area where he has a net negative rating).

By the standards of British politicians in power, these are pretty positive ratings. They probably don't translate into a better voting intention figure because the public also have a positive recollection of Ken Livingstone's period in office - 56% think Livingstone did well as mayor, compared to 36% who think he did badly. Ken Livingstone is almost slightly more likely than Boris Johnson to be seen as competent and in touch. 52% think Livingstone is competent, 44% think he is in touch with ordinary Londoners. In comparison, 45% think Johnson is competent and 40% in touch.

The Liberal Democrats and minor parties have yet to select their candidates, and the mayoral election itself will not be until May 2012. In practice the proportion of people saying they will vote Liberal Democrat or "other" in the election will almost certainly rise once other candidates are in place. Livingstone and Johnson have been reselected by their respective parties unusually early with 20 to go until the Mayoral election - too say it is early days yet is an understatement!

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