As we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies conducted on Sunday our latest voting intention poll, which found the Conservatives leading by 17%, we took the opportunity to ask respondents for their thoughts concerning the Governments’ performance in the month of April. Altogether, we found a significantly strong level of approval for all government ministers among the public.
The Prime Minister himself, who experienced quite a month in which he was sent to the ICU and nearly lost his life to coronavirus, received an overall approval of 56% with 24% disapproving. Among Conservative voters, his approval was at 83%, while among Labour voters, a more modest––but still high––38% approved of his performance and 40% disapproved.
Asked whether his handling of the coronavirus crisis had changed their view of him, 38% said they now had a more positive view of the Prime Minister, including a third of those who voted for Labour in 2019. A plurality of respondents did say their views had so far not changed.
However, the Prime Minister was outshone by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, the upbeat Rishi Sunak, whose approval rating for April was at an astonishing 65%, with just 11% disapproving. Among Labour voters, his level of support stands at 55%.
In fact, among the other Government ministers besides the Prime Minister, Sunak was the one who impressed respondents’ most in the past month.
Other prominent government ministers: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who filled in for as acting Prime Minister during Boris Johnson’s stay in the ICU and recovery afterwards, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, whose work has come under scrutiny, reached more modest approval ratings with 47% approving their job performance in the last month.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s main task for this month has been to increase the testing capacity of the NHS to 100,000 tests per day. Most respondents to our poll thought it was unlikely he would reach this goal by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, a major decision by Dominic Raab to extend the lockdown measures until the 7th of May was met with overwhelming approval. A nearly unanimous 88% agreed with it!
To the three percent who disagreed, we asked a follow-up question asking whether they disagreed because they thought the extension should have been for even longer. A quarter said yes, meaning that closer to 2% than 3% disagreed with the concept of an extension.
This is hardly any opposition to the lockdowns and supports our earlier study suggesting that it is the public, not the Government, who is driving the lockdowns.
Looking forward to the next major Government decision in May, a strong majority of respondents expect the Government to extend the current measures again: two-thirds said it is either ‘quite likely’ or ‘nearly certain’ that the lockdown will be extended.
So, as the public overwhelmingly supports the Government for now, it largely comes as the Government reluctantly follows the desires of the public, fearing for its safety, to extend this lockdown. The question for May is whether this high level of approval can survive as the Government, nervous about the economic effects of the lockdowns, tries to find solutions to end the lockdown and urge an uncomfortable public back outside.