The Farage factor, faith in Labour, why are people really deserting the Tories, and is the campaign making a difference?

Two thirds of 2019 Conservative voters say they like a lot of what Nigel Farage stands for and nearly half would like to see him in a senior position, according to my latest poll – though they are doubtful about his proposed “takeover” of the Conservative Party. Most think Labour will not achieve reductions in NHS waiting times or immigration numbers, and fewer than half say they have finally decided how to vote.


The campaign


The prime minister’s early departure from the D-Day ceremonies in France was the single biggest story of the week, spontaneously mentioned by 1 in 5 of our poll participants. However, the leaders’ TV debate provoked a good deal of recall: 16% mentioned the debate itself, while 23% mentioned the claim that taxes would rise by £2,000 a year under Labour – evenly split between the prospect of Labour tax rises, and the suggestion that Sunak was lying. Nigel Farage standing for parliament and having milkshake thrown over him were also among the biggest stories.



As we see from our political map, different stories were notice by different parts of the electorate. Apart from stories on tax, pensions and immigration, most stories were more likely to be have been picked up on the Labour/Remain/Lib Dem-leaning left-hand side of the map, which looks much more engaged in the election. Notably, the same incident – “claims of Labour tax rises” and “Sunak lying about Labour tax plans” – were described very differently by respondents in different parts of the map when they recorded the stories they remembered in their own words.


The Farage factor



Reflecting on his emergence as leader of Reform UK, just under 1 in 3 (32%) said they thought Nigel Farage playing a prominent part in British politics was on balance a good thing. 63% of 2019 Tories agreed, including 31% who said it was a very good thing.



While 34% said they liked a lot of what Farage stood for, only 21% – though nearly half (45%) of 2019 Conservatives – said they would like to see him in a senior position. However, people were more doubtful about his ambition to stage a “takeover” of the Conservative party after the election. While nearly half (48%) of 2019 Tories said that sounded like a good thing, only 17% also thought it sounded possible.



More generally, just over 1 in 3 of those who voted Conservative in 2019 said they would be more likely to do so again at future elections if the Tories became more like Reform UK in the things it said and the policies it promised. More than half (57%) of those saying they were likely to vote for Reform on 4 July said the same.



Party attributes


We asked 2019 Conservatives who were unlikely to vote Tory on 4 July why they had moved away from the party. More than 7 in 10 (72%) agreed that “they have not delivered what they promised” and “they are out of touch with the concerns of people like me”. More than 6 in 10 agreed “they can’t be trusted” and majorities agreed that they can’t be trusted, are not competent, and don’t have the right policies to tackle the country’s problems. They were considerably more likely to say the party was not Conservative enough than to say it had become too right-wing.



Looking at the four biggest parties, we asked which if any more positive descriptions applied to each of them. All the scores were very low – the highest being the 24% who said Labour were “on the side of people like me”. Only 1 in 20 said the same of the Conservatives. Labour also led on having the right priorities for the country, sharing people’s values, being competent and capable and doing what they say they’ll do – though only 12% thought this was actually true of the party. Reform UK scored highest – and higher than any other party – on being clear about what they stand for.


Policy issues


Following Labour’s pledge to bring down NHS waiting times, we found only 31% saying they thought waits would be shorter after 5 years of Labour government than they are now. Only two thirds (67%) of those currently likely to vote Labour say they expect times to be come down under Labour.



Voters were even more sceptical about Keir Starmer’s pledge to bring down levels of migration over a term of Labour government. Only 17% said they thought illegal immigration would be lower than it is now after 5 years of Labour government, and only 1 in 10 said the same about legal immigration.



When it came to tax, majorities thought levels would rise over the next few years whichever party was in government – though slightly more thought this would happen under Labour (65%) than the Conservatives (57%). Though people were twice as likely to think taxes would fall under the Tories than under Labour, only 12% thought the Tories would cut taxes.

Following suggestions that the Conservatives should promise to leave the European Convention on Human rights, we found a majority (58%) saying that the UK should remain a member. However, 2019 Tory voters said they would rather leave the ECHR by 57% to 29%. Those saying they were likely to vote for Reform UK said Britain should leave by 78% to 13%.



The fundamentals


Despite the D-Day debacle, the overall picture on leadership ratings is broadly unchanged since last week – indeed Sunak is up a point and Starmer down a point since our last survey, with the Labour leader ahead by 38% to 19% as best prime minister, and 43% saying they don’t know. Voters currently leaning towards Reform UK preferred Sunak over Starmer by 25% to 9%, with 66% saying ‘don’t know’.



On the question of who would do the best job running the economy, Starmer and Rachel Reeves were ahead by 14 points, also down a statistically insignificant point since last week’s survey.

Only 6% of all voters, including just 8% of 2019 Conservatives, said they were satisfied with the current government. More than three quarters (77%) of 2019 Tories who currently say they don’t know how they will vote or will stay at home said they would rather have this Conservative government than a Labour one, as did 88% of 2019 Tories currently leaning towards Reform UK.



The election choice

With three weeks to go, fewer than half of all voters say they have definitely decided how to vote: 44% say they have made up their minds, a figure which has crept up by a point in each of the last two weeks.



Likely Labour voters were the most likely to say they had finally decided (69%), followed by those leaning towards Reform UK (60%) and the Conservatives (59%). Only just over half (51%) of those leaning towards the Lib Dems said they had made up their minds.



At the same time, to put the question in a slightly different way, more than half of voters overall (including 80% of those leaning towards Labour) said nothing in the campaign so far had changed their mind from what they expected to do when the election was announced. One in five said either that they had been pretty sure but were now thinking again (13%) or didn’t know but now had a clearer idea.



When we ask people how likely they are to vote for each party on a 100-point scale, we find 2019 Tories’ mean likelihood of voting Conservative on 4 July at 43/100 – down 2 points since last week’s survey. 2019 Conservatives’ mean likelihood of voting for Reform UK was 28/100, up from 20 last week. Among those who put their likelihood of voting for one party at 50/100 or more, 43% currently say they are most likely to vote Labour, 21% Conservative, 15% Reform UK, with the Lib Dems and Greens currently on 7%.


The political map



Our political map shows how different issues, attributes, personalities and opinions interact with one another. Each point shows where we are most likely to find people with that characteristic or opinion; the closer the plot points are to each other the more closely related they are.

Here we see how the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and Reform UK are seen by voters in different parts of the electorate. It is also clear where we are most likely to find voters who have moved away from the Conservatives since the 2019 election, and the reasons they have done so.

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