The foreign secretary has opened up a commanding lead over the former Chancellor as the long campaign gets underway
Yesterday, Conservative MPs voted to send both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss through to the final stage of the party’s leadership contest.
One of them will now be selected to replace Boris Johnson by the party membership in a ballot running from 4 August until early September.
Earlier this week, our figures suggested that Truss would beat Sunak in a hypothetical head-to-head by 19 points.
Now, with the final two announced and the summer campaign just beginning, a new YouGov poll of Tory members suggests Truss retains her strong advantage.
As things stand, 31% of the membership intend to vote for Rishi Sunak, while 49% intend to vote for Liz Truss. A further 15% currently don’t know how they will vote, and 6% currently tell us they will abstain.
This puts the headline voting intention at 62% for Truss and 38% for Sunak (i.e. after people who are currently unsure or won’t vote are excluded) – a 24-point lead for the foreign secretary.
Sunak clearly has a mountain to climb to overturn the deficit he currently faces among the party faithful.
He can take some comfort in that around one in five members are currently either undecided or not planning to vote. Capturing a good percentage of them would significantly reduce the gap. But relying on undecideds alone will not work – Sunak has a lot of work to do convincing current Truss backers that they should be voting for him instead.
But Sunak faces some significant barriers in this pursuit, namely that Truss also holds sizeable advantages over him on key metrics such as trustworthiness and ability to lead the party.
For instance, while half (50%) of the membership believe Sunak would make a good leader, 42% think he would be bad at the job – including a quarter (23%) who think he would make a “very poor” leader.
By contrast, almost two thirds (62%) think Truss would make a good party leader, versus 31% who think she would be bad.
And perhaps most troublingly for Sunak, four in ten party members believe that he cannot be trusted. Just under half (48%) think that he can.
But only 18% of members think that Truss cannot be trusted – a full 22 points fewer than the same figure for Sunak. Six in ten (63%) believe she can be trusted. The foreign secretary clearly enjoys a significantly better personal evaluation among the membership than the former Chancellor currently does.
With our qualitative analysis this week suggesting that honesty and integrity were among the most important things that Conservative party members are looking for in their next leader, these trust ratings may go some way to explaining how Sunak is so far behind his rival at this early stage.
More members would have preferred a Badenoch/Mordaunt run-off
Further results from the survey show that only a quarter of party members are going to get a chance to vote for their preferred candidate to replace Boris Johnson. Asked which of the full range of Tory MPs who stood in the contest they would have most wanted to see become prime minister, just 13% of members choose Liz Truss, and 11% Rishi Sunak.
Kemi Badenoch tops the list, at 24%, followed by Penny Mordaunt, at 20%, meaning that the run-off will be between the third and fourth most popular candidates among members.