No Conservative candidate looks like an election winner

20 July 2022

Pollster Find Out Now and election experts Electoral Calculus have run a poll asking people how they would vote in a hypothetical general election contested by each of the Conservative leadership candidates.

The poll asked GB residents which party they would vote, if there were an immediate general election, and given particular possibilities for the new Conservative leader – Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt, Liz Truss.

In summary:

Voting Intention

We asked 1,261 people three questions, one for each leadership candidate, “Assuming that [Rishi Sunak/Penny Mordaunt/Liz Truss] were leader of the Conservative party, and there were a General Election tomorrow, which party, if any, would you vote for?”

We also asked a question on general likelihood to vote at general elections, to exclude those respondents who are unlikely to vote.

PartySunakMordauntTruss
CON25%27%25%
LAB37%36%37%
LIB15%15%16%
Reform4%3%3%
Green10%9%9%

The table excludes those unlikely to vote, who refused to answer, or who didn't know.

Our poll shows that Labour has a lead over the Conservatives of at least 9pc whichever candidate is chosen.

Estimated general election results

The number of seats won at a general election by each party is estimated in this table

PartySunakMordauntTruss
CON191215185
LAB348326347

Labour are likely to have an overall majority in the House of Commons whichever candidate is chosen. In all cases, Labour could govern as a majority government without the need for support from the SNP or smaller parties.

Penny Mordaunt does slightly better than the other two candidates with the voting public, but not by a significant amount. Labour's majority would be the smallest (only 2 seats) is she was leader, though the actual result could be a bit better or worse than that.

Political Summary

Boris Johnson was a proven election winner when the Conservatives chose him as leader in 2019, and they chose him mostly for that reason. And his own party have ditched him because they fear he is no longer an electoral asset. But his potential successors do not seem to have much electoral magnetism of their own, so the situation for the Conservatives may not improve much even with a new leader.

This looks like good news for Keir Starmer and the Labour party, as the electoral odds are now shifting in their favour.

Hypothetical Polling

This poll contains a hypothesis ("assuming that [CANDIDATE] were leader of the Conservative party, ..."). Hypothetical polls can give an exaggerated picture of how respondents might actually behave in practice. So how do we know that this poll might be realistic. There are two reasons.

Firstly, Electoral Calculus worked on something similar during the previous Conservative leadership contest in 2019. That poll showed that Boris Johnson was popular with the public and would win a general election with a big majority, and that no other candidate would. That prediction, despite some scepticism at the time, turned out broadly correct.

Secondly, the potential problem with hypothetical polls is that respondents can be overly sensitive and maybe over-dramatic with their responses. That does not seem to be a practical problem with this poll because respondents are notably underwhelmed by the current candidates, and their stated voting patterns are very similar to current national (non-hypothetical) voting intention polls. There is simply not much scope for exaggeration, because there is almost no visible signal. The public are not enthused by these candidates.

Quotes

Chris Holbrook, CEO of Find Out Now: "The Conservatives are talking among themselves about which candidate is best placed to beat Keir Starmer. Our poll suggests at the moment all three candidates lose to Labour, and by a long way."

Martin Baxter, CEO of Electoral Calculus: "The Conservatives ditched Boris Johnson because they feared he was now an electoral liability, but without thinking much about whether they had an election winner to replace him. The public are not very keen on voting for a Conservative party led by any of the leading candidates, which opens the way to Downing Street for Keir Starmer at the next election."

Technical Details

Find Out Now polled 1,261 GB adults online on 18-19 July 2022. The sample was weighted to be representative by gender, age, social grade, other demographics and past voting patterns.

Find Out Now and Electoral Calculus are both members of the British Polling Council and abide by its rules.

Full tables can be downloaded here.