Boris Johnson leads most unpopular new government in 40 years, poll finds

New Tory leader also has lower approval rating than any recent PM during first days in office, according to survey

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
@BenKentish
Thursday 01 August 2019 14:44
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Boris Johnson booed in Scotland as he arrives for Nicola Sturgeon meeting

Boris Johnson’s government is more unpopular after his first week as prime minister than any other incoming administration in the last 40 years, according to a new poll.

Three-quarters (75 per cent) of voters are already dissatisfied with the new government’s performance, compared to just 18 per cent who are satisfied, according to an Ipsos Mori survey.

The net satisfaction rating of -57 is the worst for any incoming government in 40 years of the company’s polling, and is significantly lower than the next worst rating of -31 given to John Major’s new government in December 1990.

The finding is likely to in part reflect ministers’ repeated threats to take Britain out of the EU without a deal on 31 October – a move opposed by half of voters.

Mr Johnson’s own approval rating is higher than that of his government, with 38 per cent of voters dissatisfied and 31 per cent satisfied with his performance so far – a net rating of -7.

However, he is significantly less popular than other recent prime ministers at the start of their terms in office. Theresa May‘s first approval rating was +35, David Cameron’s was +14 and Gordon Brown‘s was +16. Going back further, Tony Blair scored +18 in his first month in office and John Major received +15.

Mr Johnson’s supporters are likely to take comfort from the poll giving the Conservatives a 10-point lead over Labour among likely voters, with 34 per cent of the vote compared to 24 per cent for Jeremy Corbyn’s party. The Liberal Democrats are on 20 per cent and the Brexit Party on 9 per cent.

Mr Johnson also has a personal lead of 25 points over Mr Corbyn on the question of who would make the most capable prime minister, with 52 per cent choosing the Tory leader and 27 per cent opting for his Labour rival. Mr Corbyn’s approval rating is a lowly -50, and 62 per cent of voters think Labour should change its leader before the next general election.

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos Mori, said: “Boris Johnson has got a boost from his own supporters, as he energises his base in his first month as prime minister, and especially when they compare him with Jeremy Corbyn, whose poor personal ratings among the public continue.

“However, the political situation remains volatile, with the Liberal Democrats’ revival continuing, the Brexit Party still to be reckoned with, and despite the new prime minister satisfaction with the government remains low and economic pessimism high.

“Historically, Boris Johnson’s first ratings as PM are also behind Ipsos Mori’s records for May, Brown and Major, which could point to challenges further down the line – ironically, his ratings in his first month as party leader are most similar to Jeremy Corbyn’s.”

Mr Johnson has said repeatedly that he wants to renegotiate the current Brexit deal with the EU but has committed to taking the EU out of the bloc by 31 October “do or die”.

His government immediately ramped up spending on no-deal preparations and warned the EU that the UK was ready to leave without an agreement.

Boris Johnson: The Brexit backstop is dead

According to the Ipsos Mori survey, the public is sceptical of Mr Johnson’s chances of securing a new Brexit deal. Just 33 per cent of voters think the prime minister will be able to get “a good deal for Britain”, while 64 per cent believe this is unlikely. Almost three in four voters (74 per cent) do not expect a deal to be in place by the 31 October.

But there is also concern about the possibility of no deal. Only 38 per cent support leaving, whereas 50 per cent oppose it.

Fifty per cent would instead prefer to delay Brexit further, compared with 37 per cent who would not.

The most popular outcome if a Brexit deal cannot be agreed by 31 October is a general election to elect a new parliament – an idea that has the support of 56 per cent of voters and is opposed by just 29 per cent.

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