Theresa May’s popularity and Brexit message is leading her to election triumph

Jeremy CorbynIan
Forsyth/Getty Images

LONDON — A fascinating Business Insider / GfK general election opinion poll
came out on Wednesday morning.

The poll was based on a nationally representative sample of 1,952
British adults online and published with just over three weeks to
go until Brits go to the polls to vote in the June 8 general

Here were our main findings:

Beyond these headline figures are some interesting findings into
the state of Britain’s political parties heading into the general
election, plus how the public is feeling about the election, the
party leaders, and the main issues at stake.

Business Insider Political Editor Adam Bienkov and Political
Reporter Adam Payne joined GfK Research Director Keiran Pedley on
this week’s episode of Polling Matters to discuss the poll
results in depth. You can listen below.

These are some of the key takeaways from the Business Insider /
GfK poll.

Labour has big problems other than its leader

Jeremy Corbyn continues to suffer from poor approval ratings —
the Labour leader has a net approval score of -30 — but our poll
also found that the party may face a problem in finding a
successor who is more popular with the public.

31% of respondents said they’d consider voting Labour under
Corbyn’s leadership. However, just 25% would consider voting a
Labour Party led by London mayor Sadiq Khan, despite Khan being
hugely popular among London voters.

Yvette Cooper MP, too, who is a rumoured to challenge
in the event of an election defeat, isn’t much better
than the current Labour leader. Just 24% would consider voting
for a Cooper-led Labour, giving her a net score of -21% compared
to Corbyn’s -21%. Finding a viable election winner to replace
Corbyn could be a huge challenge.

“The main reason Corbyn has survived these challenges is that
there isn’t an obvious replacement for him and we can see that in
these numbers,” Bienkov told Pedley.

“Yes the amount of don’t knows for Yvette Cooper in this poll is
higher than the other candidates but as we’ve seen in elections,
people who say don’t know [who they’re going to vote for] tend to
end up leaning [the same way] as people who’ve already made
a decision. It’s not necessarily the case that as the public gets
to know Yvette Cooper she’ll suddenly become a more viable

There is no Lib Dem surge

One of the popular theories heading into the general election was
that the Liberal Democrats would enjoy a resurgence fuelled by
Remain-voting Brits who want to stop Brexit. But, in reality,
there have been no real signs of this happening.

Tim Farron’s party suffered net losses in the local elections
earlier this month and continues to linger below 10% in opinion
polls. The Business Insider / GfK poll put the party at just 7% —
no change from GfK’s last poll in March.

“We had a similar story in 2015 when everybody suggested the
polls were bad for the Lib Dems but they were popular locally,
are great campaigners, and will do better than the national
polling numbers suggested,” Bienkov explained.

“In reality, they did slightly worse than national polling
numbers and I think we’re going to see something similar today.
The narrative that we are going to see some sort of Lib Dem
breakthrough is not going to emerge.

Tim FarronREUTERS/Peter Nicholls

“We had local elections this month and one of the big stories out
of that was the death of UKIP. There is a very good chance we
could be talking about not quite the death of the Lib Dems but
certainly the stultification.”

Farron’s strategy of reaching out to the 48% is falling flat. The
party was able to pull off a remarkable by-election result in
heavy pro-Remain area Richmond Park but the strategy isn’t
producing the desired effect on a national level.

The party was able to pull off a remarkable by-election result in
heavy pro-Remain area Richmond Park last year but the strategy of
being the unambiguous anti-Brexit party so far hasn’t produced
the desired effect on a national level.

As I told Pedley: “what’s worth noting when we talk about
Remainers and Leavers is that lot is said about the 48% but as
has been written a lot rightly over the past few weeks, the 48%
is now a myth,” 

“Research came out earlier this week showing that around 68% of
Brits wanted Theresa May to get on with Brexit, leaving just 32%
of hardcore Remainers. May’s pitch is effectively to 68% of
Brits, going off those numbers.”

First impressions matter

Prime Minister May has been accused of running a negative
campaign based on hiding from the public and attacking Labour’s
policies while saying nothing about her own — but remains hugely
popular with the general public. 

49% of respondents said they approve of the job May is doing as
prime minister while just 22% said they approved of the job
Corbyn is doing as leader of the opposition. With these figures
in mind, it’s not difficult to understand why the Conservative
Party campaign has been so heavily focused on May rather than the
Tory party as a wider machine. 

On the other hand, despite many of Labour’s manifesto policies
proving to be popular with the public, Corbyn continues to be an
unpopular figure among Brits and according to past opinion
polls has been for some time.

As I explained, reputations are difficult things to shake off
once fixed in the public mind.

“In the grand scheme of things, it [Corbyn’s improved ratings]
seems to be a minor consolation,” I told Pedley.

“Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s reputations among the public
have been fixed for quite a while. For the majority of people,
May — no matter what journalists say about her campaign and dull
and unexciting it may have been — is seen as a stable, reliable
and rational leader, while Corbyn is seen as a chaotic maniac who
can’t be trusted with anything.

“Those perceptions — whether they are right of wrong — have
been there for months.

“There have been polls recently asking the public to judge the
quality of the campaigns.

“I don’t think it’s controversial to say Corbyn has run a pretty
sound campaign while May’s hasn’t been incredibly inspiring, but
figures show the public is more impressed with Theresa May’s.

“Corbyn’s numbers are improving which is a positive but the
general picture hasn’t changed that much.”