Earlier this week there was a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members in the Times or, more specifically, two new polls of Conservative party members: YouGov polled the same party members before and after Boris Johnson came out in favour of leaving the EU to see what impact it had on the leadership race. Results are here.

At the simplest level Boris was ahead before, and was ahead afterwards, but there were some interesting shifts. Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out (from 83% approval to 76% approval), but his position in the leadership race improved. Presumably he annoyed some members who saw his actions as disloyal or disagreed with his stance, but he consolidated the support from those who did not.

Almost unavoidably Boris coming out was going to upset some members – he has carefully avoided having many fixed political opinions over the years, so I expect many pro-European members would have assumed Boris agreed with them, many anti-EU members would have assumed Boris agreed with them. For once, he is forced off the fence and forced to upset some people – so his overall approval rating among Tory party members fell. However, in the race to be the next Tory leader his position has improved. 43% now say they’d back Boris, up from 38%, with support falling for Theresa May and Sajid Javid, both of whom were seen as potential “outers” and both of whom ended up supporting Remain. Asked how they’d vote in a match up between Osborne & Boris the figures don’t change as much (Boris 55%, George 36% before, Boris 56%, George 38% after) – the broader balance between those party members who want Osborne as the next leader and those who don’t hasn’t changed much, it’s just Boris is now more clearly the “not-George” candidate.

Only a quarter of Tory party members said that the leadership candidates’s stances on the EU were an important factor in picking the next leader – 4% said they wanted the next leader to be someone who had campaigned for the UK to stay, 20% wanted the next leader to be someone who campaigned to leave, three-quarters picked other criteria as their main considerations. Far and away the most widely picked criteria was someone who will make a competent PM, picked by 67%, followed by someone who has a good chance of winning the next election on 52%.

At the moment, Boris is very clearly the front runner if he reaches the stage of the membership vote. At the moment that looks relatively likely – there will be a fair chunk of Conservative MPs who will want to vote for a leadership candidate who supported leaving the EU, and Boris is now obviously the biggest “pro-Leave” beast in the Tory party (though it will be interesting to see how the Parliamentary party divides – Boris maybe anti-EU, but he is not otherwise associated with the Tory right. Will the right of the parliamentary party fall in behind him, or will they want their own “proper” standard bearer?).

That said, it is very early days. If the referendum is lost it’s possible Cameron could go soon, but if not he may be here for a few years yet. Among Conservative party members there is very little call for Cameron to make an early departure – only 20% think he should step down in 2016 or 2017 (roughly the same proportion as think he should change his mind and teste the next election – the majority think he should stay till at least 2019). In reality though, any pressure for Cameron to go early will come from the Parliamentary party, not from the rank-and-file membership, and I expect that will depend upon the extent to which the Tory party rips itself apart over the next three months and the final result of the referendum.


32 Responses to “YouGov poll of Tory members”

  1. Fascinating stuff, especially the bit about only 24% of party members seeing the stance on the EU being the biggest factor. Didn’t someone once say something about ‘banging on about Europe’?

    Interest economic figures as well – PMI data now like three ducks in a row – construction, manufacturing and now services nearing the stagnation point. He will wriggle and blame whatever global events are in the news, but if the economy shrinks and the deficit doesn’t, that gap between Osborne and Boris is likely to grow.

    Also – the fact we have polls on Cameron’s succession just nine months into a parliament just shows what a long hard slog this is going to be for Cons – even if things work out for them.

  2. Second!

  3. Cracker – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/12182738/MEPs-allowed-to-claim-120000-in-expenses-without-proof-of-how-money-is-spent.html

    “It [scrutiny of expenses claims] would create an administrative burden for members and the consequences on the freedom of actions for the members so we do not want to interfere with their detailed political activities.”

    “We trust members [MEPs], so when they declare things [expenses claims]have been done according to the rules, it’s our decision to confirm whether the payments have been reasonable.”

    Funny how if I’m on an EU grant funded contract they don’t trust me, I have to show all proof of purchases, including bank statements to show the money has been spent, before I can claim the grant, and then I need to keep all the paperwork for 15 years.

    No worries about my ‘freedom of actions’.

  4. So that explains why they wanna raise taxes on vapes…

  5. ” Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out (from 83% approval to 76% approval) but his position in the leadership race improved”
    ……

    He’s still a big popular cuddly beast and a drop of 7% ain’t that bad.

    BTW someone skim-reading this article might get the wrong impression of Boris.

    “Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out ”

    “Almost unavoidably Boris coming out was going to upset some members”
    ____

    London’s pink quarter will be very excited tonight. ;-)

  6. Boris favourite to be Tory leader.

    Just imagine a future with Donald Trump (sic) in charge of both the UK and the USA…

  7. “. If the referendum is lost it’s possible Cameron could go soon, but if not he may be here for a few years yet. Among Conservative party members there is very little call for Cameron to make an early departure – only 20% think he should step down in 2016 or 2017 (roughly the same proportion as think he should change his mind and teste the next election – the majority think he should stay till at least 2019). In reality though, any pressure for Cameron to go early will come from the Parliamentary party, not from the rank-and-file membership, and I expect that will depend upon the extent to which the Tory party rips itself apart over the next three months and the final result of the referendum”
    ________

    If the No side win then I can’t see how Cameron can lead the country up until 2019 or whenever he decides to bolt.
    Each day he is painting an Apocralypse scenario should the UK vote to leave so how on earth can he govern the country if the voted against his project fear?

    I really can’t understand why he went for a EU referendum if life is so bad outside of it?? I mean the picture he is painting regarding a No vote is far worse than the pre-reformed EU negotiations.

  8. Allan
    “I really can’t understand why he went for a EU referendum if life is so bad outside of it??”

    Presumably it was to try to reduce Con to UKIP defectors. That worked well didn’t it?

  9. Those tables of Tory members’ views are very boring compared with the amount of data contained in the crossbreaks of the YG polling of the GB Lab “Selectorate”.

    http://election-data.co.uk/#/

    Were crossbreaks unnecessary because the vast majority of the Tories are the same gender, age, geographic region etc? Attack of the Clones?

  10. Presumably “Boris” had, has, political appeal beyond the Conservative Party, like Reagan did with certain Democrats.
    How has his deciding to support leave affected his relationship with them?

    We just removed a Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) who was very good at playing to his political base, within his own Party, but he forgot, at some point, that the majority of voters and non-voters were not members of his Party.

    If the vote is to remain on June 23rd will Boris be trusted by the average voter who voted to remain to become the Prime Minister?

  11. I think EU membership is actually a pretty low salience issue for the general public. We’ve always recognised that it matters more to Tory party members than most other people, but I think we also need to recognise that this cuts both ways.

    I doubt that the retail voters out there, comparing the brands of Boris and Jeremy, are going to be hugely swayed by whatever position Boris took on EU membership.

    In that sense it’s a win-win. Curry favour amongst the faithful, without risking too much opprobrium with everyone else.

    And Boris is fundamentally a very intelligent and shrewd politician, despite his shambolic and self-deprecating image.

    One day his teflon coating may scratch off, but I’m not sure it will be over the EU referendum.

  12. Good morning all from a sunny Itchen Abbas.

    PETE B

    I think the whole in out referendum will damage Cameron/Tories and UKIP will be waiting in a dark corner ready to pounce on disgruntled Tories.

    I know Cameron tried to keep the Tory Euro skeptics happy and avoid support shuffling over to UKIP by holding the referendum but his whole project fear over how bad outside the EU is will certainly get a lot of Tory hackles up should a Yes vote win on the back of such a miserable negative campaign.

  13. Talking of negative campaigns and project fear from the Yes side…. I’m surprised the No side hasn’t warned of the dangers of remaining in the EU and the acceptance of Ukraine into the EU.

    Just imagine…thugs with guns who have murdered dozens in today’s Ukraine could one day be packing shelves down at your local supermarket if we remain in the EU.

    Food for thought!!

  14. Boris does have plenty of skeletons – including some links with the criminal fraternity. A close friend was jailed years back for a very serious offence.

  15. But then the firm expectation was that Cameron’s friendship with Coulson, Brooks etc would damage him and in fact he went on to win a majority.

  16. @GRAHAM

    Boris’s opponents have clutched at that particular straw many times, only to find that it has no effect at all on his popularity. I think most people realize that almost everyone is related to, or went to school with, or has met socially, someone who has misbehaved. Unless they themselves were personally involved in the misbehaviour, there is not, nor should there be, any guilt by association. In this case there is no evidence of any fire, just a bit of fog.

  17. I do hope the debate will shift to whether or not we should be in EU, rather than who should lead the Tory Party. I am finding it all rather tedious

  18. Anyone have any idea what is going on in the Baden Wutemburg state election, due March 13th. Latest February 26th poll has the Greens tied for first place with the CDU, in a state that the CDU governed from 1957 to 2011. CDU has dropped 9 points since the 2011 election and the Greens have ostensibly gone up 5.9%.

    Meanwhile the SPD are in free fall from 23.1% in 2011 to 16% now and are in danger of being overtaken by the Afd who are currently at 11%. The FDP might get back in the legislature, but it does not look like the Left party will.

    If the Greens surpass the CDU that is going to be a German first for the Greens to be largest Party in a geographical location.

  19. Allan
    “Just imagine…thugs with guns who have murdered dozens in today’s Ukraine could one day be packing shelves down at your local supermarket if we remain in the EU.”

    More likely on the dole while running various criminal enterprises?

  20. Allan,

    Don’t kid yourself. Ukrainian gangsters are here already.

    @Andy,

    I wonder if Germany isn’t seeing a little of what the USA is seeing; a deepening polarization of the “two sides”, with the middle losing out.

    We’ve been a little shielded from this in the UK as our politics is fairly multi-dimensional. It’s happened a little on the left, with Labour in the doldrums and drifting leftwards, with the Greens and nationalists doing well and the centre-left (between Blairites and LibDems) at a low ebb. It did happen a little on the right, with UKIP rising (although they were slightly the lion that didn’t roar). But it’s nothing like France, Germany, Greece or the USA. Mostly our electorate are still clustered in the middle ground and there’s a large subsection who could easily go left or right depending on personalities and political events.

  21. @Neil A

    “It did happen a little on the right, with UKIP rising (although they were slightly the lion that didn’t roar)”

    We might have heard the roar a little more in a vaguely proportionate voting system.

    3,881,099 little roars lost in the wind.

  22. Did you know the Mayor of London has a surname?
    Please don’t call him ‘Boris’ unless he’s your mate – he’s a very wealthy and very powerful politician. Thanks.

  23. I wonder whether Osborne’s being cleverer than people give him credit for. Perhaps he either leaked the pension plans to gauge reaction before introducing them, or had no intention of introducing them anyway so that when he does something in the budget that is a bit unpopular the reaction is softened because it’s not as unpopular as the pension changes.

    Or is that too Macchiavellian?

  24. @Pete B

    No, I would say both of those tactics are well known and commonly used in politics.

  25. @Neil

    It doesn’t make much sense to complain about people using first names when… you only give your first name.

    kthx

  26. @NEIL A

    “But then the firm expectation was that Cameron’s friendship with Coulson, Brooks etc would damage him and in fact he went on to win a majority.”

    ———-

    Yes, but that woz before peeps had seen Ed ** eating a sandwich, which trumps everything

    ** soz about the first name, hope everyone isn’t offended by this life-changing event!!

  27. @NEIL A

    “But then the firm expectation was that Cameron’s friendships etc would damage him and in fact he went on to win a majority.”

    ———-

    Yes, but that woz before peeps had seen Ed ** eating a sandwich, which trumps everything

    ** soz about the first name, hope everyone isn’t offended by this life-changing event!!

  28. Alec
    ‘In some deeply disappointing news, the government has confirmed there won’t be any major changes to pensions. Osborne has got cold feet about introducing a flat rate of pension tax relief which could have saved billions while also helping the 85% of basic rate taxpayers. ‘

    Hopefully Osborne has given Labour something to latch on to here. Perhaps such proposals will appear in their next manifesto!

  29. @ALLAN CHRISTIE
    Personally I’m more concerned about Turkey being an EU member state.

  30. We need to know what it will cost. us if we leave and negotiate Trade deals with the EU .We have a good idea what we would save £18 billion . If we apply the formula used by the EU in Norway it will cost a lot more than we pay to be a member .

  31. I’d much rather be in a Union with Ukraine and border Russia, than in a Union with Turkey and border Syria

  32. Definitely think Boris will be the next leader, but Priti could do surprisingly well too