How the Public Views Boris Johnson and the Privileges Committee

Boris Johnson has announced his resignation from Parliament alongside close allies Nadine Dorries and Nigel Adams. Johnson’s surprise resignation was triggered by the forthcoming report from the House of Commons privileges committee into whether the former Prime Minister intentionally misled Parliament over gatherings held in 10 Downing Street during lockdown – he was handed the report last week before its expected publication in the coming days. It is anticipated the committee will recommend a suspension from Parliament of more than 10 days, which would have triggered a recall petition and a likely by-election in Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Johnson’s resignation makes this by-election a certainty. 


On behalf of 38 Degrees, we conducted polling on March 23rd (immediately following Johnson’s hearing at the privileges committee) and again on May 12th – 15th to gauge public opinion on the inquiry.


In March, 57% of respondents thought Johnson was unfit to be an MP following the investigation into Partygate and his appearance before the privileges committee. By May this had increased to 60%, with three in four Scottish respondents thinking him unfit compared to 54% in the South of England. Those with higher level qualifications were far more likely to think Johnson unfit. Respondents with at least an undergraduate degree or equivalent were 20% more likely to think him unfit than those with level 1 or no qualifications in March and 19% more likely in May.



Support for a 10 day suspension if Johnson was found to have misled Parliament rose +3% from 39% in March to 43% in May. While a majority of Remain voters thought a 10 day suspension was the most appropriate sanction in both polls, just 35% and 39% of Leave voters thought it so in March and May respectively.



Despite disagreement on the appropriate sanction, a majority of both Leave and Remain voters thought the former PM intentionally misled Parliament about events held at Downing Street during lockdown. Among 2019 Conservative voters this fell to 45%, but across all respondents the figure was 63%. 



A majority thought the privileges committee should make Johnson face a by-election, and 58% would have wanted their MP to vote in favour of such an outcome should there have been be a recall petition. Older respondents were most likely to favour their MP supporting such a measure, and there was majority support among Leave and Remain voters - although this fell to 47% among those who voted for the Johnson-led Conservatives in 2019.



Boris Johnson was not a popular politician when he won a landslide victory in the 2019 General Election. A majority thought he was untrustworthy and unstatesmanlike in October 2019, two months before the election. Nor is he a popular politician now, with a majority thinking him unfit to be an MP. Given that half of all respondents in March said they would have less trust in the political system if Johnson was not sanctioned, and a majority think he intentionally misled parliament, the privileges committee’s decision to suspend Johnson, and potentially create a rift between him and Sunak, may actually work in the current administration’s favour.


Get the data

Survation conducted an online poll of 1,019 adults aged 18+ in the UK on their reaction to Boris Johnson's appearance before the Privileges Committee on behalf of 38 Degrees. Fieldwork was conducted on 23rd March 2023. Tables are available here.

Survation conducted an online poll of 1,010 Adults aged 18+ in the UK on behalf of 38 Degrees. Fieldwork was conducted between 12th - 15th May 2023. Tables are available here.


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