Amidst the cold of the British winter, the country is gearing up for the marriage of Prince Harry and his American girlfriend, Meghan Markle, at Windsor Castle in May. Predictably, there has been extensive domestic and international media coverage of the engagement, prompting many commentators to suggest that it may lighten the spirits of a country still polarised from the aftermath of the EU referendum.
New polling by ICM for the Sun on Sunday among a nationally representative sample of the general public suggests that most people think the royal wedding will be a positive thing for Royal Family itself and among the population as a whole. Seven in ten (71%) people believe it will lead to a general ‘feel-good factor’ for the Royal’s and six in ten (59%) say the same about the general mood of the country.
However, people are split in terms of whether they think the couple’s marriage will be a boost for British businesses: 40% say it will lead to a feel-good factor for the UK economy and 42% say it will not. Moreover, fewer people say that the wedding of Prince Harry and Ms Markle will lead to a feel-good factor in the Conservative Government (26% compared to 41% who say not) as well as themselves personally (33% vs 53% who say not). Overall, the research suggests that it will lighten the spirits of the nation but will not necessarily benefit them materially.
The results of our poll also show support for the wedding in the content of Ms Markle being an American actress, of mixed ethnicity and a divorcee. The majority of the public agree (63%) that it makes the Royal Family look modern and more in touch with most British families (just 11% disagree) and that the couple will make great ambassadors for the UK and its people (61% agree and 9% disagree). While some have suggested that the glitz undermines the traditional respectability of the Monarchy, this is not a view widely held: twice as many people disagree as agree that it makes the Royal Family more like showbusiness than a serious institution (48% vs 22%).
While Theresa May will be disappointed that the royal wedding is unlikely to give the Tories a bounce in the polls, they trail Labour by just a single percentage point with the Conservatives on 40% and Labour 41% if a general election was held tomorrow. Labour are unchanged and the Conservatives down one point since ICM’s most recent poll for The Guardian, conducted last weekend.
Moreover, when set against fraught Brexit negotiations with Brussels for agreeing a transition deal and long-term trade arrangement, Mrs May will be pleased to lead Jeremy Corbyn (by 40% to 32%) when asked who would make the best prime minster. However, in a sign of how difficult things have been for the Conservatives since the general election, Mrs May’s lead over Mr Corbyn has fallen from 21 to 8 points since May.
It’s also the case that Mr Corbyn is perceived to be doing a better job as Labour leader than Mrs May is performing as prime minister. Corbyn registers a +3 score, with 41% describing him as doing a good job including 79% of Labour voters: in contrast, the PM records a -18 rating, with 32% of the public and 70% of Tory voters stating that she does a good job.
Vince Cable has work to do to get himself and the Lib Dems noticed. Not only do more people think he is doing a bad than good job (31% versus 19%), but his support among his own supporters is lower than for any other party (62%).
ICM Unlimited interviewed a representative sample of 2,050 adults aged 18+ online, on 29 November–1 December 2017. 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.