Does Boris Johnson still have the support of Conservative party members?

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
January 10, 2022, 2:50 PM UTC

A third of Tory members think the prime minister should stand down

Prime minister Boris Johnson has spent the last month mired in controversy – the alleged rule-breaking Christmas parties, the investigation into the financing of refurbishing Downing Street and record coronavirus cases – and has seen his favourability with the British public drop to an all-time low.

A new YouGov / Sky News survey reveals that a third (34%) of Conservative party members think Johnson should stand down as leader and let someone else take over, and that a similar number think he has been doing a bad job as prime minister (38%).

While times have been tough for the prime minister, these figures are not as bad as those his predecessor Theresa May faced in May 2019, just weeks before she was forced to step down. At that point 79% of her party members thought she was doing a bad job and an equal number thought she should resign.

Currently most Tory members think Johnson has been doing a good job as PM (61%), and want him to remain leader of the party (59%). This is, however, a far cry from July 2020, when 85% thought he was doing well as prime minister and 89% wanted to keep him as leader.

His current ratings are comparable to those Theresa May received in our July 2018 poll of the party membership, just prior to then-Brexit secretary David Davis’s resignation.

Members remain confident Johnson can lead them to victory at the next election… if he’s still in charge

Despite the party’s recent slump in voting intention polls, more than three-quarters (79%) of Conservative members remain confident the Tories will win the next general election. And while there have been rumblings in Westminster that some Conservatives are concerned whether Boris Johnson remains an election-winning machine, the party membership continues to have faith: 61% say he has what it takes to win the next general election, compared to 23% who do not.

Whether or not the prime minister’s political career will last long enough for him to do so is a point of division, however: around half (47%) think it is likely he will still be party leader by then, while 45% expect him to have gone.

Most Conservative party members also have faith in Johnson’s ability to rule and his plan for the nation. By 60% to 30% Conservative members say the prime minister has what it takes to run the country. Likewise, by 55% to 32% they believe he has a clear vision for the country, although this may be less obvious to the wider public, with a recent YouGov survey showing few are familiar with the government’s defining ‘levelling up’ agenda.

But it seems as if Tory members have less faith in the prime minister’s team than Johnson himself - half (51%) of Conservative members think that the prime minister doesn’t have a good team around him, compared to a third (34%) who think he does and 15% who aren’t sure.

Who would Tory members choose as the next party leader?

When asked who they would like to see as the next leader of the Conservative party if Boris Johnson stepped down, a third (33%) of members say Rishi Sunak and a quarter (25%) Liz Truss.

The chancellor of the exchequer is popular among Conservative members, with nearly half (46%) saying they think Sunak would be a better party leader than Johnson and 30% saying he would be much the same. Just 16% think he would be a worse leader than Johnson. Similarly, 46% think Sunak would do better against Labour in the next general election, with 16% saying he would do worse. Two in five members (40%) who voted for Boris Johnson in the leadership election think Rishi Sunak would make a better leader.

Liz Truss is also viewed favourably by Tory members, with 39% saying she would make a better leader than Boris Johnson, and 27% the same. Around a quarter (23%) think current health secretary Sajid Javid would make a better leader than Boris.

Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab are less popular, with around half of Conservative members thinking they would make worse leaders than the current Prime Minister.

See full results here