Non-dom scandal and COVID fines send Johnson and Sunak favourability scores tumbling

Isabelle KirkData Journalist
April 19, 2022, 2:21 PM GMT+0

The historically popular chancellor has fallen out of favour with the British public following a series of controversial stories

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been hit by a wave of damning stories – from his wife Akshata Murty’s non-domiciled tax status and him holding a US green card while serving as chancellor, to receiving a fixed-penalty notice for Downing Street lockdown parties. From being tipped to be the next prime minister, Sunak’s job is now in jeopardy.

Boris Johnson has also been fined – and both the chancellor and the prime minister have rejected calls to resign, despite polling showing that the majority of the public think they should both step down.

YouGov polled the British public before, during and after the week of bad news for Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson.

Rishi Sunak’s popularity falls to -44 in latest polling

Before the news of Rishi Sunak’s wife’s non-domiciled tax status, the chancellor’s net favourability was at -29 (4-5 April). While initially these stories did not appear to have much cut through (his net score stood at a similar -25 on 8-10 April), the dragging out of the story into the following week with the additional revelations that Sunak had held a US green card while serving as chancellor took its toll, with his score dropping to -37 by 11-12 April.

Following the news that Sunak had been issued with a fixed-penalty notice, his favourability dropped a further seven points, and is currently at -44 as of our latest survey on 13-14 April.

Two-thirds of the British public (66%) now have an unfavourable opinion of Sunak, compared to just 22% who see him in a positive light.

Rishi Sunak’s net favourability is now sitting at the same level as Boris Johnson’s (-45). The prime minister’s popularity took a 10-point hit in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that he would receive a fine for attending lockdown parties.

Keir Starmer’s popularity has been relatively constant. The Labour leader’s net favourability is currently sitting at -22, making him the least unpopular senior politician – a spot that was held by Rishi Sunak until very recently.

Favourability of senior politicians

In the days following the reveal that Rishi Sunak’s wife held non-domiciled tax status, most senior Conservative cabinet members took a hit in the polls, even those not embroiled in the non-dom and COVID fines scandals. For instance, from 8-10 April to 11-12 April, Priti Patel’s net favourability score dropped seven points and Liz Truss dropped eight points.

In particular, health secretary Sajid Javid’s net favourability score dropped nearly 15 points over that period, from -16 to -30. This is possibly due to his own admittance that he held non-domiciled status for six years while working in finance, and possibly due to the public mixing up Javid and Sunak, who was bearing the brunt of the scandal at the time. Sajid Javid’s net favourability has been sitting around -30 since 8-10 April, and is currently at -29.

Nadine Dorries, who had her own share of bad publicity after the proposed plan to privatise Channel 4, had a net favourability score of -31 as of 8-10 April (the only survey on which she was included), with 11% holding a favourable view and 42% an unfavourable one. However, almost half of the public (47%) didn’t have an opinion about the culture secretary.

Elsewhere, Priti Patel remains unpopular with the British public, with a net favourability score of -58: 71% of Britons see the home secretary in an unfavourable light. Foreign secretary Liz Truss is at -27, although more than a third of the public (37%) answered “don’t know”. Finally, defence secretary Ben Wallace has a net favourability score of -11, but two-thirds of the public (67%) didn’t offer an opinion.

See full results here and historical data here