New Polling Shows Shifting Dynamics: Sunak and Starmer’s Evolving Rivalry
Survation’s latest political polling conducted between the 23rd and 24th of March shows Sunak catching up to Starmer on our best Prime Minister tracker.
The top line results of our most recent poll, published today, shows Labour’s at a slight decline to 14 points, 1 point down compared to our previous poll conducted between the 17th and 20th of March. Labour remains ahead at 45% (-1) while Conservatives sit unchanged at 31%.
Last week's post-budget polling revealed Starmer catching up to Sunak on the issue of trust on economic matters. In this most recent poll, we can see that the two leaders are now equally trusted on the economy, which is an interesting area to look out for in future polling. With 33% of respondents indicating that they are confident in Keir Starmer's handling of economic matters, compared to 31% being confident in Sunak, we could see Starmer overtaking his opponent on economy trust.
In terms of likeability of party leaders, Starmer is ahead of both Sunak and Davey with 44% of respondents saying they somewhat or strongly like Labour's leader, compared to 38% for Sunak and only one in five for Davey.
Sunak on the contrary leads on the dislike scores at 36% of respondents indicating they somewhat or strongly dislike the Prime Minister while this figure is only 27% for Starmer and 23% for Davey.
This leaves Starmer with a NET likeability score of +17 points, Sunak second with a NET score of +2 points, and Davey remains last with -2 points.
When asked how much they like each of the political parties, the only two parties which came out at a net positive like rating were Labour at 13% and the Green Party at 5%. The Conservatives were down to 6th place with a net likeability score of -14%, while at the bottom of the ranking was UKIP with a net score of -31%.
Despite this, on the question of who would make the best Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak is now only 1 point behind Keir Starmer. With Starmer at 38% and Sunak just behind at 37% this is the smallest difference between the two politicians which we have recorded since the beginning of February. In our previous poll with fieldwork conducted between the 2nd and 3rd of March, Starmer was leading by 3 points at 38% vs 34%.
To unpack some of this, we can look at the breakdowns of this question by voting intention and party identification, which paint an interesting picture for both leaders.
Firstly looking at Conservative voters at a hypothetical General Election, we find that 11% think Keir Starmer would make a better Prime Minister than Sunak/Don't know. This number drops to only 3% of those who identify with the Conservative party as their closest party.
Once we turn to Labour, however, 14% of those who would vote for the party in an election tomorrow believe that Sunak is a better choice for PM out of the two leaders. Instead of observing the same drop as Conservative supporters once we look into party identification, we instead see a similar share (13%) believing that Sunak would make a better PM over the leader of their closest party.
Consistent with previous polling, Liberal Democrat voters and supporters are split almost evenly between the two politicians, with 44% of potential LibDem voters favouring Sunak vs 43% for Starmer, with these figures dropping to 39% vs 38% among supporters.
One more interesting thing to unpack here is the breakdown of people who do not identify with any political party. Although in our previous poll from 2nd-3rd March we noted that 45% of those without a party identity would vote for Labour in a hypothetical election, here we find that more people in this group would favour Sunak as their Prime Minister (23%) than Starmer (14%).
Interestingly, the figures this time show even more non-identifiers (50%) are willing to vote for Labour, compared to only 33% who would vote Conservative. While this difference largely mirrors the overall voting intention (45% for Labour and 30% Conservative), Labour's overall vote share is the same as in the poll from 2nd-3rd of March, while the number of non-identifying voters who would vote for the party has increased by +5 points.
Though we observe a narrowing between the two party leaders in the best Prime Minister question, we can see Labour attracting more supporters in a hypothetical election than the Conservatives from all major parties, with the exception of Reform UK where 7% of Reform supporters would vote for the Conservatives compared to 5% potentially voting for Labour. Out of the other parties, 1 in 4 Green Party supporters (26%) would cast their vote for Labour, with a similar share of LibDem supporters (24%) willing to do the same.
Conservative supporters lead in the ranking of being the most "loyal" supporters as 93% of them would vote for the party they feel closest to in an election. Second is Labour with 90% of their own supporters choosing to vote for them, while last is the Green Party, with 56%.
While the gap between Sunak and Starmer is closing in terms of who would make the best Prime Minister, Starmer's lead remains strong on likeability, while the ground is even on economy trust. Despite the Labour leader being less favoured among Conservative voters and supporters than Sunak is for those on the opposition's side, Labour remains a more viable option at a potential General Election across supporters of all major parties apart from Reform. Whether this will translate into tactical voting is unknown, but Starmer's aim should be to convince those 13% of Labour supporters that he is the better option for a Prime Minister than Rishi Sunak if he wants to solidify his lead among supporters.
Get the data
Survation conducted an online poll of 1,023 adults aged 18+ in the UK. Fieldwork was conducted between 23rd and 24th March 2023. Tables are available here.
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