Political Research Manager

New data from YouGov Ratings shows that, whilst more people dislike Theresa May than like her, she still scores better than every other Prime Minister from the past 25 years

For the past year and a half Theresa May has struggled to regain the support she had amongst the public before the General Election campaign.

While the Prime Minister is much less popular that she was during her honeymoon period at the start of her premiership, it is important to put these numbers in context. Even though she has faced stiff opposition to her handling of the Brexit negotiations and called an election where she lost her party its majority, Theresa May is still the most popular living British Prime Minister.

This is shown in new data from YouGov Ratings, which measures the popularity and fame of anything and everything, from politicians to chocolate and based on millions of responses from the British public. It shows that just 32% have a favourable view of the current Prime Minister, compared to 46% who have an unfavourable view. This means the Prime Minister has a net score of -14.

Looking at her immediate predecessor, who is now rumoured to be considering a comeback, just 18% of the public have a favourable opinion of David Cameron while 57% view him negatively – a net score of -39. The two most recent Labour Prime Ministers are also well behind Theresa May. While 18% see Gordon Brown positively, 47% have a negative view leaving him with a net score of -29. It is even worse for Tony Blair – with only 14% seeing him positively compared to 59% who take a dim view meaning his net score is -45.

The only living ex-PM who is almost on a par with Theresa May is Sir John Major. While just 23% have a positive view of the former Tory leader, the fewest people see him negatively (38%) leaving him with a net score of -15.

Ratings figures are compiled over the long-term, with current scores being pulled together from data collected between May 15 and October 31. The results are slower to respond to news and therefore more representative of long-term opinion. This data helps to illustrate how all of these premierships, like so many political careers, in some way ended in failure.

Whether that be losing a General election, in the case of Gordon Brown or John Major, losing the support of your party, in the case of Tony Blair, or losing the EU Referendum, in the case of David Cameron. Although Theresa May has not had an ideal couple of years, she is still yet to have a failure large enough to lose her the job.  

The data also indicates that supporters of political parties are less willing to show loyalty towards an ex leader than they are towards a current one. The majority (58%) of 2017 votes like current leader Jeremy Corbyn, but just 30% who have a favourable view of Gordon Brown, and only one in five (20%) have a favourable view of Tony Blair.

On the Conservative side, Theresa May is liked by the majority (57%) of Conservative voters, compared to under a third who still like David Cameron (29%) and John Major (32%). The evidence also shows that it is Leave voting Conservatives who are bringing down the numbers for their Remain backing ex-PMs. Only 27% of Conservative Leave voters have a favourable opinion of Cameron and 27% having a favourable opinion of John Major.

So although, Theresa May hold the title of most popular living Prime Minister,  much of this is probably just a symptom of her still being in post, meaning she still commands the of Conservative voters, and still hasn’t has a failure large enough to end her career, If her popularity goes the same way of her predecessors, this won’t hold into the future.

Photo: Getty

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