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New mega-poll reveals voter’s desire for stronger EU-UK ties and dismay at Rishi Sunak.

This new megapoll of over 10,000 respondents carried out by Focaldata on behalf of Best for Britain was undertaken to review the political landscape on the eve of an election year. 

With most polls showing Labour on a consistent and almost unassailable lead, and after a torrid year for the Government, we examine the large number of voters who remain undecided, how political parties can win their support and which of the two men Britain wants to be Prime Minister. 

We also asked when the public would like to go to the polls and if they plan to vote tactically.


Britain wants an early General Election

Our mega-poll of over 10,000 respondents has found that the British public has run out of patience with Rishi Sunak’s government.

A whopping 3 in 5 voters (61%) want an early general election. One in four (25%) say the election should take place immediately, and over 1 in 3 (36%) say it should take place by June 2024 at the latest. By contrast, a mere 17% think the Prime Minister should wait until late 2024 with fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) thinking he should wait until the last possible moment in January 2025.

Rise of the Tactical Voter

Our polling has discovered that the outcome of the next general election will be decided by people voting tactically. In total, over half (52%) of respondents said they are ready to vote tactically, and of these, almost 4 in 10 (38%) said they would do so to remove the government from power. Only 13% said they would vote tactically to keep Rishi Sunak in Number 10 Downing Street. Considering that some 32 million people voted at the last General Election, the poll suggests that over 16 million voters could engage in tactical voting, with 12 million doing so to deliver a change of government. 


Labour’s lead is healthy, but high numbers of undecided voters remain

Labour enjoys a seemingly unshakeable poll lead, with countless polls placing their vote share consistently between 40% and 50% for most if not all of 2023 once undecided voters are omitted. However, our mega-poll finds Labour’s vote share may be softer than previously thought.

Having asked all 10,006 respondents which party they would vote for at the next general election, we found that over 1 in 3 (35%) say they would vote for the Labour party, with just under 1 in 5 (19%) saying they would vote Conservative, and as many as 15% of voters still undecided as to how they would vote. 

However, the poll also revealed that, of the voters who are yet to make up their mind, and who may determine the outcome of the next general election, 38% had voted Conservative at the last election in 2019, with only 11% saying they had voted Labour. The findings echo previous Best for Britain research, carried out 12 months ago, which found that many undecided voters (dubbed the Wavering Wall) are likely to lean more towards the Conservatives rather than the Labour Party. 

Although these figures will make unsavoury reading for Rishi Sunak, such a heavy skew towards the Conservative party in the substantial ‘undecided’ voter group should give Keir Starmer’s Labour pause for thought.


Britain fed up with Sunak, but undecided on who should be the next Prime Minister. 

The poll found that voters are even less certain about who is best placed to lead the country. 

Asked ‘who would make the best Prime Minister’, Keir Starmer came top of the list with just under 1 in 3 (32%) saying he is their preferred candidate to lead the country. However, 29% of voters said they remain undecided, forcing Rishi Sunak into an embarrassing third-place, with only 1 in 5 (22%) saying he is their top choice for the top job.

To understand how the results translate in each GB parliamentary constituency, we analysed the data using multilevel regression and poststratification techniques (MRP).

MRP can accurately estimate public opinion in specific areas and certain groups by analysing granular demographic data and weighting it to the relevant population. MRP has been historically very accurate, with the technique used to predict both the result of the EU referendum and Trump victory in 2016, as well as the hung parliament in the 2017 UK election. In the 2019 general election, Best for Britain’s MRP accurately predicted the outcome in 95% of constituencies.

Looking at how these results map onto individual GB parliamentary constituencies, Keir Starmer is voter’s most popular choice for next Prime Minister in 390 seats. Of the remaining constituencies, 238 remain undecided (with the answer of ‘Don’t Know’ topping responses), with Rishi Sunak being favourite for next Prime Minister in a paltry four seats.

In 258 of the 390 seats in which Keir Starmer is seen as best Prime Minister, he enjoys the support of over a third of constituents. 

Keir Starmer also leads Sunak in every seat in Scotland, coming up as voter’s top choice for next Prime Minister in 52 of 57 seats: in the remaining seats, voters are mostly still undecided. 

Starmer's lowest level of support is in North Norfolk (23%), which is only 7% less than Sunak’s highest rating in Castle Point (30%). 

This however isn’t the worst reading for Rishi Sunak, who is so unpopular that he is third choice in his own seat of Richmond and Northallerton. When analysing the results, ‘Don’t Know’ was voters’ top response with 32%; Keir Starmer came second with 27%; and Sunak third at just 24%.

Keir Starmer also leads Rishi Sunak in two seats where by-elections are expected to take place in the New Year. In Blackpool South, the Labour leader was the top choice for 40% of constituents; a clear gap ahead of Sunak who trails on a measly 17%. In the previously Conservative safe seat of Wellingborough and Rushden, the race is closer but with Starmer still the top choice for next Prime Minister between the two men with 28%, and Sunak on 22%.

Whoever wins, voters want a closer relationship with the EU

Irrespective of who wins the next election, the next UK Government will be in charge of reviewing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal (the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement) with the EU in 2025/2026. The review will be the first check-in on the management and working of the UK’s and EU’s relationship since the deal came into force in May 2021, and will quickly top the next government’s foreign policy agenda. 

For this reason, we also asked voters what, if any, changes to the relationship they would like to see, irrespective of who wins the next general election. 

Given the options of a closer relationship, keeping the relationship the same or seeking a more distant relationship with the EU, our megapoll found that the most popular option, selected by almost half of respondents (45%), was for a Labour government led by Keir Starmer to seek a closer relationship with the European Union. 

This was more than double the amount of people who thought an incoming Labour government should keep the relationship the same as it currently is (22%) and five times the number of voters who wanted a more distant relationship (9%).

And how do these results translate to individual constituencies? To find out, we commissioned cutting edge MRP analysis in line with the new parliamentary constituency boundaries that will be in force at the next general election. 

The analysis revealed that, with the exception of Boston and Skegness, in each of the remaining 631 constituencies across Great Britain, voters want a future Labour government led by Keir Starmer to seek a closer relationship with the EU. In this scenario, we didn't find a single constituency where voters prefer either the current relationship, or a more distant relationship with the EU.

This strongest support for a closer relationship with the EU was found to be in the constituency of Bristol Central (61%), while the highest support for a more distant relationship was found in Chorley, although it was the preferred choice for just 15% of voters.

Even in Boston and Skegness, the constituency with the largest leave vote (some 75% in 2016), the most popular option was “Don’t Know” (31%), followed by a Labour Government led by Keir Starmer to seek a closer relationship with Europe at 30%. A more distant relationship with the EU was the preferred choice for only 13% of voters in the constituency, and only 26% of voters wanted to keep the UK’s relationship with the EU as it is today.

The significant shift towards a rapprochement with the EU with Keir Starmer as Prime Minister suggests that not only does Labour have ample political space to forge closer ties with the EU, but that the public expects Keir Starmer to do so if he wins the next general election, and appear happy to vote for him on that basis.

The data further suggests there has been a significant political shift in some of the totemic seats the Conservative Party won for the first time in the 2019 General Election, and also voted heavily to leave the European Union.

In Bishop Auckland, which voted 60.9% to leave in 2016, four times as many voters would prefer a Labour Government led by Keir Starmer to seek a closer relationship with Europe than a more distant one (40% to 10%).Previous Labour strongholds that voted strongly for leave and went blue in 2019 like Stoke-on-Trent North and Burnley tell a similar story. 

Aside from those seats that Labour is looking to ‘win-back’ from the Conservatives in 2024, there are other constituencies that may be of interest. In marginal Kensington and Bayswater, for example, almost five times as many voters back Sir Keir Starmer seeking a closer relationship with Europe than a more distant one (51% to 11%).

Or, in Rutherglen, where Labour picked up their second seat in Scotland in an October by-election. Here, almost ten times as many voters back a Labour Government seeking a closer relationship with Europe than a more distant one (55% to 6%).


But what if Sunak’s Conservatives won the next election? 

The pattern repeats when people are asked the same question, but presented with the scenario of Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives going on to win the next election. 

In this case, 38% of voters say that the current Prime Minister should seek a closer relationship with the European Union, compared to 1 in 4 (24%) who say a Conservative government should keep the relationship the same, with only 13% saying Sunak should seek a more distant relationship. 

Mapping these results onto each of the new GB parliamentary constituencies revealed that seeking a closer relationship with the EU was the preferred option in 610 seats, including in the constituencies of both Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman. Only two preferred the relationship to stay the same (Boston and Skegness and South Holland and the Deepings). In twenty constituencies in England, the preferred option was ‘Don’t Know’. There were no seats in which a more distant relationship was the preferred option. 

Irrespective of who wins the next election, it is clear that the electorate’s ’ preferred option is for the next government to seek a closer relationship with the EU. Voters do not want, or support a more distant relationship with the EU. 

However, that people are more likely to say that Keir Starmer (45%) over Rishi Sunak (38%) should seek a closer relationship with the EU, reinforces the suggestion voters trust, and expect, Keir Starmer to do so if he wins the next general election - and are happy to vote for him on that basis as the most popular choice to become Prime Minister from the same group.

Most voters now understand that Brexit is having a tangible and adverse impact

While most people now holding a negative opinion of Brexit is not new, we wanted to know what lay behind these negative attitudes and so we asked the 10,006 respondents to what extent they thought Brexit had improved or worsened their circumstances across a range of topics regularly cited as top concerns for voters.

Most feel it has; increased the cost of their weekly shop (76%), reduced the availability of goods and services (60%), made the small boats issue worse (58%) and stunted economic growth (63%). Half said it has restricted their ability to see a doctor (50%).

While findings were more mixed on whether closer ties with the EU would improve this, a sizable group from all respondents felt that it could make a positive difference to their daily lives. Almost a third of  respondents (32%) thought a closer relationship with the EU would improve the price of their weekly shop, while around 2 in 5 (40%) thought closer ties would improve the availability of goods and services and improve growth in the UK economy (39%). 

However, considering most political debate surrounding UK-EU relations has focussed on highlighting the failures of Brexit and not the benefits of a closer UK/EU relationship, it is less surprising that one does not follow the other. 

However, looking at the voters who are still undecided about who to vote for at the next election and are also planning to vote tactically to force a change of government, the results show this group is more fervently in favour of closer UK-EU ties.


The undecided tactical voter motivated by the impact of Brexit

From the findings above we have identified the existence of a crucial new group of undecided voters, who appear motivated to support whichever party will offer closer ties with the EU at the next election. 

This group of voters is mainly made up of women (just under 7 in 10, or 69%) and are slightly more likely to have voted Conservative than Labour at the last general election, with over a quarter having voted for the Conservatives and just over 1 in 5 (22%) having voted Labour in 2019. 

For 3 in 5 (60%) of them the main earner in the household works in either higher or intermediate managerial roles, such as a doctor, or in administrative/professional roles, such as an office worker, while just under 1 in 5 (19%) are retired. Three quarters live in a house, rather than a flat, and they are more likely to own their home as opposed to renting it. 

When it comes to Brexit, they are only slightly more likely to have voted to stay in the EU (approximately 2 in 5, or 39%) in the 2016 referendum while 1 in 3 (33%) voted to leave the bloc. 1 in 5, or 20% either didn’t or were unable to vote. 

Importantly, this new group of voters has a far more negative view of the impact Brexit is having on their everyday lives compared to the wider population. 9 in 10 (90%) think Brexit has made the cost of their weekly shop worse, approximately 3 in 4 think leaving has hurt UK economic growth (77%) and the availability of goods and services (75%), and a majority of think that Brexit has worsened everything from the amount of taxes they pay, to their ability to see a doctor, and the safety of the UK.

When it comes to what tactical voters want a future Labour government to do about the UK’s relationship with Europe, a majority (55%) think Keir Starmer should seek a closer relationship, with only 4% saying he should seek a more distant relationship and 19% saying he should keep the relationship the same.


Conclusion

In summary, Best for Britain’s latest megapoll has discovered that while Britain is united in wanting an early election and that most will vote tactically to get the result they want when it comes, the country is much more divided on who they want to lead the UK until the closing years of this decade. 

Despite many other polls suggesting that Labour holds a seemingly unassailable lead and even this poll spelling possible oblivion for the Tories, the high number of undecided voters may yet be the difference between a unprecedented landslide and a slim majority for Starmer, or from the Conservative point of view, a respectable defeat and electoral armageddon for Sunak. Courting these voters will therefore be crucial for both men as we enter an election year. 

This poll shows that voters are now feeling, and recognising, the effects of Brexit. It’s impact is disproportionately important to a significant cohort of undecided voters, who want Starmer to seek a closer relationship with the EU. And this is reflected in the wider electorate; More than twice as many want a closer relationship with our largest market and closest allies compared to those who want the status quo and four times as many as want greater divergence.


The poll

Poll of 10,006 GB adults by Focaldata commissioned by Best for Britain Limited conducted between 22 November 2023 and 29 November 2023.

Data tables for the poll are available here.

Data tables which include a cross-break for the 'undecided tactical voter motivated by the impact of Brexit' here.

Data tables for the MRP analysis are here:

Some of the numbers in the text above, and the tables/graphs on show may display numbers slightly different to data in the tables. This is as a result of rounding.


What is MRP?

Multilevel regression and poststratification (MRP) is a statistical technique for estimating public opinion in small geographic areas or sub-groups using national opinion surveys. The MRP technique has two main elements. The first is to use a survey to build a multi-level regression model that predicts opinion (or any quantity of interest) from certain variables, normally demographics. The second is to weight (post-stratify) your results by the relevant population frequency, to get population level (or constituency level) estimates. At the end of this process, you yield more accurate, more granular (thus more actionable) estimates of public opinion than traditional polling.

Our poll included respondents from GB only, so Northern Ireland has not been mapped.