The results of our July survey indicate that approval ratings for the Prime Minister have fallen yet again – with just under 60 per cent of respondents (out of 1,169) saying that Boris Johnson has dealt with Covid-19 well, and 56.80 per cent saying that the Government as a whole has dealt with Covid-19 well.
To put this in context, in March of this year, 92 per cent of ConservativeHome panel members said that they believed Johnson and the Government had dealt with Covid-19 well. Johnson’s rating then slipped to 84 per cent in April (82 per cent for the Government) and fell even further in June to 72 per cent (71 per cent for the Government).
When quizzed in July about the Prime Minister’s performance, over 30 per cent of our respondents said he had dealt with Coronavirus badly (21 per cent of respondents selected this in June), and 9.58 per cent didn’t know.
Rishi Sunak, too, has suffered a fall in ratings – though this has been much less drastic than the figures for the Prime Minister.
When ConservativeHome panelists were asked in March if they supported the Chancellor’s economic plans in response to the virus, 92 per cent said yes – that figure now stands at just over 80.98 per cent, with 13.71 per cent saying that they do not support his economic plans, and 5.31 per cent answering “don’t know”.
In regards to Johnson, what could the reasons be for this fall? Retaining popularity in a pandemic is, of course, not easy for any leader. But some of this is surely due to his recent policies on obesity. As I wrote a week ago for our site, the new measures – which include banning adverts for high fat, salt or sugar products on TV and online before 9pm, calorie labelling in restaurants, cafes and takeaways, as well as ending the promotion of “buy one get one free meals” – risked pleasing no one.
Those who are pro-intervention say the moves do not go far enough, and on the other side of the spectrum, many Conservatives will be feeling concerned about the state intervening in their dietary choices, not least because they previously believed Johnson was a “libertarian” on things like sin taxes.
This concern about state intervention is not limited to obesity, though. Indeed, as I wrote in the aforementioned article, “Coronavirus, in general, has challenged what people expected from the Conservatives; there have been huge levels of spending and, with the public now forced to wear face masks in shops, many voters will need assurances of a return to a small state.”
There’s also the fact that the Government is reportedly considering asking over 50s to stay home and shield. Perhaps it is the case that people want the Government to be more hawkish at this point in the crisis – and that is what will improve the ratings.
Not least because they will soon have to tackle school reopenings – a battle over which the unions arguably won previously, and businesses are also struggling to get things off the ground. One cafe owner recently told me that he couldn’t get enough supplies, as delivery companies had still furloughed many staff.
“We need the Government to be stricter”, were his words. While not a Conservative panel member, perhaps this view – that Johnson needs to be tougher on getting the economy back to normal, instead of monitoring snacks – is not so far away from our respondents’ sentiments.