The Daily Telegraph
Polling suggests Truss has much to do to impress herself on the public
‘When pollsters have asked whether she or Mr Starmer would make the better PM, voters put Sir Keir ahead’
Liz Truss’s leadership campaign has succeeded in winning over a majority of her party’s membership. But with the party she leads well behind in the polls, she faces the much more difficult job of securing the support of the wider public.
During the leadership campaign, the polls consistently found that Ms Truss was less successful than Mr Sunak in appealing to those who were not committed Conservative supporters, though neither was particularly successful. But of course, the choice that voters will have at the next election will not be Ms Truss or Mr Sunak but Ms Truss or Mr Starmer.
Yet here too the polling suggests the new leader still has much to do to impress herself on the wider public. For when pollsters have asked whether Ms Truss or her Labour opponent would make the better prime minister, they have put Sir Keir ahead.
According to Redfield & Wilton, 39 per cent prefer Sir Keir while 35 per cent prefer Ms Truss. Opinium suggests the gap is even wider with figures of 29 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. The figures from both these polls also suggest that Ms Truss now comes off less well in this comparison than was the case earlier in the leadership contest.
The same is true of other polling questions. Deltapoll, for example, has reported the public now give Ms Truss a rating score on average of 4.3 out of 10 compared with 4.8 at the end of July.
But perhaps the most striking evidence that Ms Truss’s current level of popularity could be a problem comes from Survation. When last week they asked voters how they would vote using their standard voting intention question, Labour were 10 points ahead, in line with that of other recent polls. Yet when the pollster asked voters how they vote with Ms Truss named as the Tory leader (and with the other parties headed by their current incumbents), the Labour lead rose to 17 points.
So how might the new Conservative leader improve her popularity? One of the accusations that Ms Truss successfully levelled against Mr Sunak was that he was out of touch with ordinary people. Yet that is also a perception that many voters have of her. Both Opinium and Yougov have found that this is among the most widespread of the negative impressions that people have.
According to Opinium, 51 per cent feel that Ms Truss is out of touch while Yougov suggests 65 per cent take that view. Meanwhile, when voters are asked how much they trust Ms Truss to make the right decisions about various issues, the topic on which most voters express doubt is the cost of living crisis. According to Yougov only 18 per cent trust her judgment on this issue while 65 per cent do not. Even a third of those who voted Conservative in 2019 share this doubt.
These two perceptions are connected. A Tory leadership contest that was overtaken by rising public concern about the cost of living crisis, a crisis to which neither candidate had a clear answer, helped create the impression of a leadership that was out of touch. According to Ipsos no less than 66 per cent of voters believe that the Government is not providing enough support to help people deal with the rapid rise in prices – and are more likely to trust Labour to address the problem.
Ms Truss’s ability to win over voters will not depend on their current impressions. Rather they will judge her actions in addressing the biggest threat to living standards since 1945. If she gets it right she might yet win their respect – and applause.
But with financial difficulty already threatening to blight the lives of many voters, she now needs to be quick.