Mapping the Future: The American Political Landscape and the Road to 2024

By Lord Ashcroft

As the new Congress convenes, I have brought together into a single report the research I conducted during the campaign for the November 2022 elections. Its implications go well beyond a single set of midterms. The model that we use, and the findings reported here – based on a poll of 20,000 Americans and extensive focus groups in the key states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida and Arizona – help us understand the landscape of opinion in the United States, the divisions that continue to define American politics, and the forces that will be at work in the run-up to the 2024 presidential election and beyond.

The research also helps explain why the red wave scheduled for November never materialised, despite economic pain and voters’ clear view that the country was heading in the wrong direction, with the Biden administration’s policies making things worse rather than better. Our analysis shows that we saw, in effect, one midterm but two elections, with different parts of the electorate voting according to completely separate sets of perspectives and priorities. Meanwhile, as the exit polls confirmed, nearly as many voters treated the election as a referendum on the former president as on the incumbent – hence the result that seemed to defy political gravity.

The temptation for the Democrats will be to take the result as an endorsement (more…)

Time to turn the page on Trump? My presentation on the US midterms to the International Democrat Union

By Lord Ashcroft

This is the text of my presentation today to the IDU Forum in Washington DC

We all know that the story of the US midterm elections was supposed to be a red wave, but we saw the Republicans take a slim majority in the House and go backwards in the Senate. My research, conducted in the weeks leading up to those elections, helps to explain what’s going on and what the implications are for the presidential election in 2024. The analysis is based on a poll of 20,000 Americans, together with focus groups in the crucial states of Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Florida.

We have used a model that helps us understand the landscape of opinion and the dynamics that drive American politics (more…)

2017, 2010, 1997: Why Sunak faces three prime ministerial problems all at once

By Lord Ashcroft

My new research report, out today, is titled They Think It’s All Over. This is not (only) an attempt to find a topical link to the World Cup. It encapsulates our finding that even if Rishi Sunak and the government manage to make progress on the huge challenges facing Britain, the electoral battle they face could be even tougher.

Sunak faces problems that were familiar to three of his Downing Street predecessors. No two elections are exactly alike, but the precedents look ominous. And unlike Theresa May, Gordon Brown and John Major, Sunak faces all three of them at once.

 

The 2017 problem – the broken coalition

In 2015, David Cameron assembled a coalition of the willing behind his long-term economic plan to restore order to the public finances, successfully selling austerity under the promise “we’re all in this together”. Two years later Theresa May struggled to hold together this alliance (which had included many middle-class who voted Remain in 2016) and to attract enough recent Brexit supporters (many of whom were suspicious of the Tories, not least because of austerity) (more…)

They Think It’s All Over – Can The Tories Turn It Round?

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in the Mail on Sunday

Ask a group of people who’ve previously voted Tory about what they felt when they heard Rishi Sunak was to become PM and the chances are someone will say “relief”.

There are plenty of doubts – about his ability to empathise with voters given his family’s wealth, his role in Boris Johnson’s downfall, and some of the Covid bailouts he unveiled as chancellor – but many welcome the return of some sanity to politics and sense to the public finances.

Yet in footballing terms, the Conservatives find themselves three goals down with the clock ticking. The scoreline is made up entirely of own goals (though Johnson, the former captain, still claims one of them never crossed the line). A late substitution seems to have put the Tories back in the game and gives a glimmer of hope for extra time. How likely is that, really?

The fact that basic competence now feels like statesmanship of the highest order is surely a bad sign. My latest research shows how voters are seeing things.

(more…)

A month out from the midterms, my new US research on Biden, Trump and the outlook for 2024

By Lord Ashcroft

This is the text of my talk at the E2 Summit in Utah, hosted by Senator Mitt Romney and Speaker Paul Ryan

 

I always feel something of an imposter when speaking to an American audience about their own politics. Rather than sharing that view, I hope you will feel I can bring the objective detachment of the outsider – not least because my analysis is based on a poll of 20,000 Americans, together with focus groups of voters from all walks of life in four crucial states: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Florida.

Since last we met the political agenda has moved on, but the forces underlying the divisions that have long driven American politics remain. At our last gathering I introduced a model designed to help understand these forces. Here I will use the same tool to look at the landscape of opinion that underlies the midterm election and the approach to 2024 (more…)

No Turning Back – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, and the Conservative voting coalition

By Lord Ashcroft

Polling of Conservative members, including that conducted by ConHome, has consistently put Liz Truss ahead of Rishi Sunak in the race for the leadership. My new research among wider electorate – a 10,000-sample survey together with 12 focus groups around the country – helps explain the gap. It also shows how Boris Johnson’s remarkable voting coalition sees things, and why keeping them together will be such a challenge for his successor.

As I wrote in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, the Tories’ strategic choices are extremely limited. However much some might regret the direction the party has taken in recent years, recreating a Cameroonian coalition in time for the next election is simply not an option. The new leader’s task will be to turn out as many as possible of those who backed Johnson in 2019.

Conducting this research has brought home once again just how remarkable was the voting bloc that Johnson assembled, albeit with the considerable help of Jeremy Corbyn and parliament’s intransigent remainers. Our venues – all Tory seats – included Esher and Cheltenham, Wolverhampton and Middlesbrough, and in terms of background, occupation and ethnicity the participants – all 2019 Conservatives – were as varied as those in any research project I can remember. Welcome to modern Britain, you might say. My point is that the Conservative electorate did not always look like this.

If the size and diversity of the Johnson coalition is partly explained by Johnson and his unusual appeal, it also helps explain something about his premiership. A charitable view would be that his notorious cakeism was a response to the conflicting demands of his voters, and that if he veered about like a shopping trolley it was to try and stop any of them falling out over the edge (more…)

Liz the lioness? My new polling on the Tory leadership

By Lord Ashcroft

This article first appeared in the Mail on Sunday

The increasingly frantic tone of the leadership election suggests that the Conservatives are making a momentous decision that will define their party for years to come. In fact, the idea that the Tories face a grand strategic choice is an illusion. With two years until the next election, the new leader’s only option is to turn out as many of Johnson’s 2019 supporters as they possibly can.

In the last decade the Tory vote has become much more working class and culturally conservative – more Brexity – than when David Cameron entered Number 10 (a result, ironically enough, of his decision to hold the referendum that ended his premiership). It will not be easy to reassemble Boris Johnson’s big, diverse voting coalition, but no new leader can simply trade it in for a new one. It is too late to send new Tory voters home from the party and reissue invitations to people who have already left.

The trick will be even harder to pull off because none of the three stars that aligned to make the 2019 result possible – the Brexit deadlock, Jeremy Corbyn, and Johnson himself – is still in its place.

Most 2019 Tories agree it was time for Johnson to go. But as I found in my new research, out today, that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it (more…)

My new polling from Ukraine, Russia – and 11 neighbouring countries

By Lord Ashcroft

Below is the text of my presentation to the International Democrat Union Forum in Berlin: Regional Views on the War in Ukraine.

Over the last three weeks I have conducted polls in both Ukraine and Russia, along with 11 other countries in the region: Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Georgia.

 

 

Let’s start with the conflict itself. In Ukraine, people are digging in for a long war. More than two in three Ukrainians expect the conflict to last at least another four months – more than in any other country we surveyed. A quarter expect it to be going on more than a year from now (more…)

Canadian politics after covid

By Lord Ashcroft

This article was first published in Canada’s National Post

One reason the Ottawa truckers’ protest at the start of this year captured international attention was that political flashpoints are vanishingly rare in what is, to outsiders, a famously harmonious country.

As a pollster used to studying the fractious politics of Britain and the US, I wondered whether the blockade was an isolated blot on Canada’s peaceful political landscape, or a sign of emerging tensions. I also wanted to see what the results meant for the long-serving Trudeau government and – as a former deputy chairman of the UK Conservatives during their long wilderness years – for the centre-right opposition as it chooses a new leader and a new direction.

My poll of 10,000 Canadians, together with focus groups throughout the country, finds few signs of the polarisation that shapes politics in the US and parts of Europe. Canadians largely agree that their country is among the best places in the world to live, that opportunities exist for those prepared to take them, and that more should be done to promote the rights of indigenous people. There is a wide consensus that in important respects Canadian life has improved in recent years, especially when it comes to the environment, minority rights and embracing diversity.

But Canadians also agree on what has got worse (more…)

“He’s a bit of a geezer, in an Eton sort of way”: my by-election focus groups in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton

By Lord Ashcroft

By-elections are hardly ever convenient for a government, but next week’s contests in marginal Wakefield and supposedly safe Tiverton & Honiton are especially inopportune. The events that precipitated each of them have hardly helped, judging from my focus groups of 2019 Conservatives in both constituencies this week.

“It’s a bit more serious than partygate, isn’t it,” as a man in the West Yorkshire seat put it. “OK, he was found guilty but the thing that got me was that part of the Tory party was told before he was elected. They knew beforehand but stood by him.” Not everyone agreed (“it was an individual – people like that can get into everywhere”) but there was no doubt the former MP Imran Khan’s offence had “tarnished things.”

In Devon, some were sorry to see the demise of Neil Parish. “Being a farmer, I think it’s a shame. He was a farmer himself and he was a good advocate for us.” Even so, he had to go. “There’s a combine called the Dominator, so I can see that, but he did do it a second time. He’s done the right thing and resigned. It’s what it was, silly boy, and it’s a shame because he was a good MP.” Some of the women took a different view. “I thought he was a right numpty before that,” said one, “so it wasn’t a surprise (more…)