Labour overtakes Tories in voting intention for first time since July 2019

Sienna Rodgers
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

The Labour Party has overtaken the ruling Conservatives in polling on voting intention for the first time since July 2019 and for the first time since Boris Johnson took over as Prime Minister according to fresh research by Opinium.

In a significant boost for new leader Keir Starmer, who was elected in April after the party suffered a devastating general electoral defeat, the new poll shows Labour on 42% of the vote share, up three points from two weeks ago.

The Conservatives under Johnson’s leadership are down three points to 39%, as public disapproval over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has reached its highest level – 50%, a net of -20 – since the pandemic hit the UK.

Opinium has suggested that Starmer’s leadership is largely responsible for the Labour surge because nearly half of British voters polled – 46% – say their opinion of the party has become more positive since he took over the mantle.

55% say they can imagine Starmer as Prime Minister, while 36% say they believe he would make the best Prime Minister – compared to 32% who say the same for the current occupier of 10 Downing Street, Johnson.

But the polling also shows that voters are divided on whether Labour could form the next government, with 40% thinking that the party could do so and 42% not. The figures indicate progress compared to July, when 36% thought Labour was ready for the task and 47% not.

Labour last had a poll lead over the Tories in July 2019, with two points over the Conservatives as Theresa May’s premiership was coming to an end. Both the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party were polling strongly at the time.

Commenting on the new polling results, which prompted Opinium’s chief executive to tweet the exploding head emoji on Saturday morning, the company’s head of political polling Adam Drummond said: “The Labour Party has finally caught up with its leader in polling…

“Keir Starmer has had better approval ratings (both raw and net) than the Prime Minister for some time and the two leaders have tended to draw on the question of who would be the better Prime Minister. Now the Labour leader has pulled ahead on that measure as well, leading the Prime Minister by 36% to 32%.”

Although the government has recently announced new national Covid restrictions, the poll suggests that 45% of the public believe the government is underreacting to the pandemic, with just 30% thinking that it is acting proportionally.

Two thirds – 68% – say the government has not acted fast enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Starmer has repeatedly accused Johnson’s administration of being “too slow” – on the first lockdown, on testing and more.

Polling by Opinium in mid-March, before the UK lockdown, had the Tories on 49% in terms of voting intention, with Labour well behind on 32% – a gap of 17 points. At that point, 44% approved of the government’s handling of Covid.

Opinium Research carried out an online survey of 2,002 UK adults aged 18+ from September 23rd to 25th 2020. Results have been weighted to representative criteria.

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