The Times this morning has updated YouGov polling of Conservative party members, now that the final list of candidates is known and ahead of the first MP’s vote today. A week ago YouGov had Theresa May leading on 36% to Boris Johnson on 27% and winning by 55% to Johnson’s 38% in a head-to-head contest. Since then Boris Johnson’s campaign has imploded and he has dropped out the race, so where do we stand now?

Asked their first preference Theresa May has the support of the majority of members, with 54% support compared to 20% for Leadsom, 9% for Gove, 5% for Crabb and 5% for Fox. Note that Michael Gove has gained little of Boris Johnson’s support, rather it is Andrea Leadsom who has taken over as the leading “Leave candidate” (in fact Gove’s behaviour appears to have utterly shattered his popularity among Tory members – a week ago 63% had a positive view of him, now it is down to 32%). In head-to-head contests May beats all comers with ease, but it is again Leadsom who comes closest. In a May-v-Leadsom final round May would win by 32 points, she would beat Liam Fox by 50 points, Gove by 51 and Crabb by 63.

Theresa May leads in every demographic group. Among members who voted to Remain she absolutely dominates, among members who voted to leave she beats Leadsom, but relatively narrowly. If the race becomes tightly focused on whether the candidates voted Remain or Leave, and Leave voters line up more strongly behind Leadsom it could get interesting… but currently Leave voters say they consider competence as PM and ability to unite the party as more important than how the candidates voted in the referendum, and in both areas May has a strong lead.

For the time being May is in a dominant position, but the fact that Leadsom is little known is in some ways an advantage: she doesn’t have negative perceptions to shed and Leave supporters can paint all their hopes onto her. If it’s a race about party unity and leadership, May has a strong advantage – she takes support from both Remain and Leave, and is seen as by far the strongest leader, the most suitable for the job of PM and the best in a crisis. If it boils down to Conservative party members looking for someone who voted Leave…

Full tables are here.


Tomorrow’s Times has a poll of Conservative party members about the forthcoming leadership election, showing Theresa May ahead of the supposed favourite, Boris Johnson. Asked who would they would prefer as party leader May is on 36% to Johnson’s 27% (Andrea Leadsom and Stephen Crabb are both on 7%, Liam Fox is on 4%). Party members only actually get to vote on the final two candidates of course, and in a straight contest between Theresa May and Boris Johnson current support stands at May 55%, Johnson 38% – a seventeen point lead for May. The full tables are here.

Theresa May appears to have had a good EU referendum campaign or at least, by standing a little aside from it her reputation has survived intact while most other Tory politicians have been damaged. When YouGov asked Tory members if they had positive or negative impressions of various politicians 72% were positive about May, up 4 from before the referendum. In contrast Boris Johnson was at 58% (down 18 since the referendum), Gove 63% (down 6), Sajid Javid 42% (down 8), IDS 54% (down 9), George Osborne 47% (down 21). She is also one of relatively few figures who is positively regarded by both those members who supported remain and those members who supported leave.

Part of the turnaround appears to be the perception that Theresa May is better placed to unite the party – 64% of party members said this was one of the most important considerations (up twenty points since Febrary) and May has a thirty point lead over Johnson on who would be better able to unite the party (46% to 16%). Given the current political and economic situation, she also has a lead over Johnson on ability to handle a crisis (49% to 18%), taking tough decisions (46% to 18%) and negotiating with Europe (32% to 22%).

Boris Johnson’s own strengths are still apparent though – he is seen as by far the best media performer and the candidate who best understands how to win an election. Both he and Stephen Crabb are ahead of Theresa May on who party members think would be most in touch with ordinary people. While the poll shows him losing in a May -vs- Johnson run off, they still suggest Boris would win in a run-off against Stephen Crabb (by 54% to 31%) or Liam Fox (by 52% to 29%).

This is, of course, a very early poll – it was conducted between Monday and Wednesday, so before nominations opened or the final list of candidates was confirmed. Party members don’t yet know what pledges and promises the candidates will make, what their detailed stance will be on Europe or other key issues. For less well known candidates like Stephen Crabb many members won’t know much about them at all. As the race begins though, Theresa May has the early advantage.


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The Times have a YouGov poll tomorrow asking who people want to see as the next Conservative leader. Now, this is a question that I had got a bit bored of asking over the years: almost always Boris Johnson wins easily – he is the most recognisable of the Tory leadership contenders, obviously the most charismatic, and seems to have swung the trick of getting judged by the standards of a celebrity rather than the standards of a politician. However, in today’s poll he is pipped by Theresa May – 19% of the public think she would be the best candidate for the next leader of the Tories, 18% think Boris Johnson. To put this in context a similar question a week and a half ago had Johnson six points ahead of May, a fortnight ago Johnson was twelve points ahead of May.

This is, I hasten to add, polling of the general public, not of the people who decide. It is the votes of Conservative MPs and the party members that actually count, and they may very well have completely different views. However – part of Boris’s appeal to the Conservative party is his supposed ability to reach out to voters, his charisma and his public popularity are one of his primary selling points. If he isn’t the choice of the wider public… well.

Anyway, the really interesting thing will be if the increase in support for Theresa May among the general public is echoed among the Conservative electorate. For that, however, we will have to wait for some polling of Conservative party members…


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.


The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up here. Topline figures are CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%.

Most of the rest of the poll dealt with Boris Johnson’s planned return to Parliament. Dealing with the practical implications first, 35% think Boris should stand down as mayor if he wants to stand for Parliament, 54% think it is fine for him to do this at the same time as being Mayor. If he actually gets elected 60% think he should stand down as Mayor, in the event he becomes Tory leader 79% think he should resign as Mayor.

Looking forward to whether there is a vacancy, 44% of people think that David Cameron should resign as Tory leader if he loses the next election, only 29% would like him to stay (a majority of Tory voters would actually back Cameron staying on as leader after a defeat, though personally I can’t imagine it being an issue – I think he’d step down anyway). If David Cameron wins the next election then by 46% to 28% people would like him to remain for a full term, 80% of Tory voters would want him to serve a full term.

Were Cameron to go, Boris is the frontrunner to succeed him. 30% would back Boris as the best Tory leader, ahead of Theresa May on 16% and George Osborne on just 7%. Amongst Tory voters Boris leads Theresa May by 41% to 15%.

Asked which words best describe Boris Johnson likeable (34%), buffoon (32%), entertaining (31%) and intelligent (26%) come top. It’s unusual for any politician to have three positive words in the top four of a question like this, but it flags up Boris’s shortcomings too: statesmanlike (1%) and competent (7%) are down at the bottom of the list. In a separate question 36% think Boris Johnson would be up to the job of Prime Minister, 43% think he would not.

And what difference would Boris as leader actually make? Well, with all the usual caveats for questions like this (people are crap at answering hypothetical questions and have no idea what Boris would actually do and say as leader) it wouldn’t actually make much difference to voting intention at all. A control question asking how people would vote with the current leaders produces voting intentions of CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%… with Boris as Conservative leader it would change to CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%.