The past fortnight has seen an excitable Westminster village react to rumblings of cabinet dissent and possible threats of resignation from Theresa May’s team as the Brexit process nears a crunch phase. And those rumours of a leadership challenge to Theresa May never quite seem to go away…
But how does Theresa May stack up against her opposite number at the despatch box, Jeremy Corbyn? We asked over 2,000 members of the British public to choose between the Labour leader and the Conservative Prime Minister on a range of key leadership characteristics. And the results demonstrate the stark difference between the leaders in the eyes of the public – not just in terms of their politics, but also in their personal style and perceived qualities.
The results are shown below, excluding those who answered ‘don’t know’ (ranging between 20% and 32% of respondents):
|Jeremy Corbyn||Theresa May||May Lead|
|…is more likely to take tough decisions||35%||65%||30%|
|…is more competent||40%||60%||20%|
|…is the stronger leader||40%||60%||20%|
|…is more intelligent||42%||58%||16%|
|…is more trustworthy||49%||51%||2%|
|…is more likeable||53%||47%||-6%|
|…is more likely to understand people like me||57%||43%||-14%|
|…is more likely to stand up for what they believe in||58%||42%||-16%|
There’s a strong lead for May being more likely to take tough decisions, with almost twice as many choosing her over Corbyn on this characteristic. 3 in 5 of those expressing a view also think she is more competent and the stronger leader when compared to Corbyn. An only slightly lower proportion (58%) think she is more intelligent than Corbyn.
Corbyn’s leads are more moderate in size. The same proportion of those expressing a view who think May is more intelligent think Corbyn is more likely to stand up for what he believes in (58%). A similar proportion (57%) think Corbyn is more likely to understand people like them. By a slim margin, a majority of the respondents in our poll who expressed a view think Corbyn is the more likeable of the two leaders – achieving 53% to May’s 47%.
But it seems the country is pretty much evenly split in terms of which party leader is more trustworthy, with 51% of those expressing a view choosing May, compared to 51% choosing Corbyn. Given the topicality of trust in politicians, we thought this question deserved extra analysis.
1 in 3 respondents (30%) answered ‘don’t know’ to this question – the second highest proportion of don’t knows across all the attributes we tested. And it’s it’s worth keeping an eye out for where these ‘don’t knows’ are coming from, which we take a look at below.
While there is a negligible difference between remainers and leavers on this question, and only a small difference on 2017 general election vote between Labour and Conservatives (25% vs. 22% don’t knows), bigger differences appear when combining the two factors.
Generally, those that support a party also have more favourable views of its leader – at least when compared to the opposition. So it’s not surprising that those who voted Labour are more likely to think Corbyn is trustworthy and those who voted Conservative think the same about Theresa May, regardless of EU referendum vote. Indeed Theresa May scores higher among Tory leavers (77%) than Conservative remainers (70%). These are fairly healthy proportions on both scores – but maybe, just maybe, that slightly higher score from Conservative leavers could be seen as a vindication of May’s message discipline when routinely insisting that Brexit really does mean Brexit.
Corbyn scores fairly well among Labour remainers, of whom 73% think he is more trustworthy than May. But this score drops by a full ten percentage points to 63% when asked of Labour leavers. And at least part of this could be ascribed to the increased proportion of don’t knows – almost 3 in 10 Labour leavers (29%) don’t know which leader is more trustworthy, compared to less than 1 in 5 Conservative leavers (19%).
Considering Corbyn is often considered to be closer to the Leavers within the Labour party, this may seem a slightly surprising conclusion. May, a remainer in 2016, is considered more trustworthy among leavers within her party compared to remainers. Corbyn, often considered ambivalent at best on the EU, is considered more trustworthy by the remainers in his voter base – with Labour leavers more likely to refuse to say they don’t know who is more trustworthy, even when comparing him against a Conservative Prime Minister.
Overall there’s little change in our headline VI figures. We’ve narrowly missed out on ‘three in a row’ when it comes to identical polling figures for the three main national parties at Westminster. But with the Conservatives dropping only one percentage point to 1%, this is a poll well within the margin of error compare to our last published Guardian/ICM poll a fortnight ago. So we’re pretty much back where we were two weeks ago.
The figures are below, with percentage point changes versus the previous poll in brackets:
ICM Unlimited interviewed a representative online sample of 2,021 adults aged 18+, between 8th – 10th June 2018. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.