I missed YouGov’s latest poll earlier this week – topline figures did not show anything new, with voting intentions of CON 42%, LAB 25%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 11%.
More interesting was the regular tracker on how well or badly the government are doing at negotiating Brexit: 36% said well, 34% badly. YouGov have been asking the question since last autumn and this is the first time it has scraped into positive territory, presumably because the government and EU have actually made the first steps towards beginning the process.
YouGov also released a survey asking some more detailled questions about how people see Theresa May. There is a clear pattern to what people view as her strengths and weaknesses – a majority of people think she is decisive (56%) and has what it takes to get things done (56%). On balance people think she is good in a crisis (by 44% to 24%) and is honest (by 40% to 25%). However, she is also seen as being out of touch (by 46% to 32%), as having no sense of humour (by 32% to 27%) and a cold personality (by 45% to 26%).
As May herself said in her first Prime Minister’s Question Time – remind you of anyone? The public perceptions of May’s character are similar to the public perceptions of Margaret Thatcher – someone who is a strong and capable leader, but not particularly warm or caring. YouGov also asked directly how similar people thought May was to previous PMs – 47% said she was similar to Thatcher, 31% thought she was different.
It’s interesting to ponder in which direction the causality works here. Do people think May is similar to Thatcher because they have some similar strengths and weaknesses and aspects to their characters… or do people think of May as similar to Thatcher because of the obvious superficial similarities (a female, Conservative, Prime Minister with a strict demeanour) and have, therefore, assumed that May will have the same sort of characteristics as Thatcher. In short, do people think May is like Thatcher because she’s tough, or think she’s tough because she’s like Thatcher? Or, as these things tend to work in real life, do they reinforce one another?