Liz Truss extends polling lead over Rishi Sunak in race for prime minister

Foreign secretary seen as best candidate to beat Keir Starmer in general election - but ‘none of these’ preferred to all of them

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Sunday 07 August 2022 09:44 BST
What have Tory leadership rivals Truss and Sunak pledged for the country?

Liz Truss has extended her lead over Rishi Sunak as best candidate for prime minister to an overwhelming 26 points among Conservative voters, according to a new poll.

The survey by Opinium suggested that the foreign secretary’s performance in high-profile TV debates and hustings has impressed voters, with sharp increases in ratings on leadership attributes over the past two weeks.

But the poll found little enthusiasm for Ms Truss’s keynote policy of immediate tax cuts, with more than one-third (34 per cent) saying taxes and spending on public services should remain at current levels and 26 per cent saying taxes should be raised to increase funding, compared to just 22 per cent saying they should be cut.

Even among those who voted Tory in the 2019 general election, just 27 per cent said taxes and spending should be reduced, with 41 per cent levels should remain as they are now an 22 per cent wanting them increased.

Today’s survey, for The Observer, found that Ms Truss led Mr Sunak by 27 per cent to 20 as favoured prime minister among all voters, and by 48 per cent to 22 among those who backed the Tories in 2019.

However, the poll did not measure support among the tiny group of 160,000 Conservative Party members who have a vote in the ballot to choose a replacement for Boris Johnson. Earlier polls suggest that they too prefer Ms Truss by a comfortable margin.

With many members already having received their ballot papers, and the final packs expected to arrive on doormats within the next few days, the former chancellor has very little time to turn the situation around.

And today’s poll suggests he is heading in the wrong direction, with Ms Truss overhauling him on key leadership attributes.

While Sunak was two weeks ago judged the contender who most looks like a PM-in-waiting, Ms Truss now leads him on that measure.

And the Opinium poll found she was also ahead on being in touch with ordinary people, being principled, trustworthy and compassionate and having “views similar to my own”.

In a head-to-head match-up with Sir Keir Starmer, voters preferred Truss as PM by 29 per cent to 28, while Sunak trailed the Labour leader by 24 per cent to 28.

However, Opinium’s head of political and social research Adam Drummond, warned that opinions could change swiftly after the new PM is installed on 5 September, with the arrival of inflated energy bills in October likely to ensure that any honeymoon period is brief.

“Compared to our last poll, Truss’s scores among 2019 Tory voters for almost all attributes are up by double-digit amounts,” said Mr Drummond.

“In particular, ‘looks like a prime minister-in-waiting’ has gone from net +5 to net +28 for Truss while for Sunak it has dropped from net +14 to net +6.

“Tory voters think they’re more likely to win the next election with Truss (67 per cent) than Sunak (58 per cent).

“And when the two candidates are put in head to head match-ups against Keir Starmer among all voters, Sunak trails by four - essentially the same as Boris Johnson - while Truss leads by one, although the real winner in all of these head-to-heads is ‘None of these’, which is higher than any individual candidate.

“But in October energy prices are going to go up by 70 per cent and the Bank of England predicts a five-quarter recession and any honeymoon the new prime minister gets is likely to be short-lived.”

- Opinium questioned 2,010 adults in Great Britain between 3 and 8 August.

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