In their first head-to-head debate the party leaders effectively drew, according to a snap YouGov poll - but Corbyn came across as more trustworthy and in-touch with ordinary people
Taking to the podiums in the first debate of the 2019 general election, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn did everything they could to win over floating voters. Our snap poll shows that the public is divided on who won, with most Labour voters siding with Corbyn, most Conservative voters backing Boris, but very few changing their minds.
Viewers are split down the middle over who ultimately held the upper hand in the debate, with 51% backing Mr Johnson over the 49% saying Corbyn was the strongest of the two. But given the Conservatives went into this debate in the lead, they will hope the lack of a knockout blow means they can maintain this until voting day.
Throughout the debate both leaders pressed home the topics they know are important to their core voters, and Johnson’s strong Brexit agenda will have pleased Conservative voters, 82% of which recently said leaving the EU is the number one issue facing the UK. In fact, Johnson was seen by the viewers as giving the best performance with regards to Brexit during the debate, with 63% favouring Johnson’s answers to just 27% preferring Corbyn on the issue.
On the flipside, in terms of the future of the NHS and health, which 48% of Labour say is one of the most pressing issues for the UK, half (54%) of the viewers thought Corbyn was the stronger of the two candidates, compared to just over a third (38%) who backed Johnson.
Mr Corbyn’s comments on levels of “gratuitous wealth” at the same time of rising poverty in the UK will have appealed to swathes of the population, 79% of whom say they want to see heavier taxes on billionaires in the UK.
Despite the efforts of both leaders, and a specific challenge on the nature of public trust, viewers are somewhat split on who they see as most trustworthy following the debate, 40% say Boris Johnson, and Jeremy Corbyn slightly ahead on 45%.
However, when it came down to who people could relate too, Mr Corbyn’s performance won over 59% of viewers who said he is more in touch with ordinary people, compared to the 25% who think Johnson is the more relatable of the two.
In terms of other issues mentioned throughout the debate, including the royal family and the future of the union, 46% of viewers felt Corbyn gave the better performance compared to just shy of two in five (39%) who preferred Johnson’s responses.
When pressed on whether the union was worth sacrificing to deliver Brexit, Johnson claimed the union of the UK was more important than Brexit and that a Labour coalition risked the loss of Scotland from the union. This is in conflict however with 41% of Leave voters who previously told YouGov that Scotland becoming independent would be a price worth paying for delivering Brexit.
This article previously appeared in The Times Redbox