Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 20.21.36Our next Party leader survey has been through three distinct phases since last May’s general election.

First, George Osborne got well in front – scooping over 30 per cent of the vote last September and holding his lead for the next three months.

Next, after the Chancellor’s tax credits clash and climbdown, and during the run-up to David Cameron’s EU renegotiation, Osborne’s rating dropped while those senior Conservatives known or believed to be sympathetic to Brexit rose.  Last month, just before the EU summit at which the Prime Minister agreed his deal, the single politician in the survey who was then out for Brexit topped it – Liam Fox, albeit with the joint lowest frontrunner share on record.

Now look at this month’s results.

  • Boris Johnson is feeling the Who Dares Wins factor: his share of the vote soars by over a third, from 19 per cent to 33 per cent.
  • And watch Michael Gove.  Last month, he was languishing on 8 per cent.  This month, he more than doubles his rating and leaps to 20 per cent.
  • Has the progress of either man damaged Liam Fox?  Not very much at all.  He is down from 21 per cent to 18 per cent.

Next, compare these three to the rest.

  • Theresa May’s backing has more than halved, falling from 21 per cent to 10 per cent.
  • Sajid Javid’s support also drops by more than half, from 14 per cent to 5 per cent.
  • And George Osborne’s support has slid from 15 per cent to 11 per cent.

The pattern is unmistakable.  As Stephan Shakespeare wrote about YouGov’s recent first future Tory leader poll – of which more in a moment – “support is strongly correlated with opinions about Brexit”.

Essentially, it looks as though Boris, Gove and Fox are sharing between them the backing of the 70 per cent or so of Party members who, according to our last survey, will either vote Leave or say that they are likely to do so.

The rest seem to be taking the remaining 30 per cent or so.  May and Javid, who were both previously believed by some to be possible or even likely supporters of Brexit, are paying a particularly heavy penalty.

That YouGov poll also casts light on the reliability of our survey.  The former gave Boris 43 per cent, Osborne 22 per cent and May 19 per cent – the same order as our survey, but very different totals.  However, it offered neither Gove nor Fox as a choice for respondents.

One way of comparing the two would be to view Gove and Fox as knocking ten per cent or so in our survey off that Boris 43 per cent YouGov total…and Osborne and May gaining extra support in the YouGov poll from pro-Brexit Party members who are none the less unwilling to support Boris, but were given no Fox or Gove or other pro-Leave candidate option.

Another way would be to compare the YouGov total for the pro-Remain candidates it named (Osborne, May, Javid and Morgan) to the single pro-Leave candidate it cited (Boris).  Added together, the four Remain candidates totalled 49 per cent and Boris, as we have seen, 43 per cent.  Such a calculation would suggest that our survey may well be considerably over-stating the support of Party members for Brexit – and therefore also of the pro-Brexit possible future leadership candidates.

However, another YouGov finding in the same poll is important in this context.  It asked those Party members whether they intend to vote Leave and Remain.  We have asked a similar question in our last two surveys.  (YouGov include a don’t know category; we ask respondents whether whether they intend definitely to vote for either, and if not which option they are leaning towards.)

We will publish our latest results tomorrow, but the long and short of it is that, although I would not for a moment compare a poll to a survey, the YouGov results suggest, when both our findings and theirs are read together, that our survey is unlikely to be to the right of the centre of party opinion (so to speak) by all that much.  Many readers will also have seen another straw in the wind – namely, yesterday’s Daily Telegraph survey of Association Chairman, which found 42 per cent of respondents backing Leave and 24 per cent supporting Remain.

This monthly survey drew almost 2400 responses overall, the highest total response for a monthly survey that I can find in this site’s archives.  Over 850 Party members answered the future Party leader question.  129 others refused to do so, some doubtless believing it premature.  We have undertaken the usual clean-up of responses.  I will refrain from naming the candidate whose Party constituency office voted for him twice from the same e-mail address (at least for the moment).