Corbyn's unpopularity plumbs new depths
Jeremy Corbyn is an unpopular politician. Elected twice to the Labour leadership, his popularity within the Labour selectorate is very high indeed; but outside – in the real world – voters just don’t see the Labour leader in the same way his supporters do.
And things are getting worse. Brexit has split the Labour base – often described as a coalition of Hampstead and Hull – in two. While the ‘Hampstead’-dwellers are progressive in cultural terms and typically voted to keep Britain inside the European Union, voters in Northern Labour heartlands tend to be more culturally conservative and were more likely to vote Leave. To keep both sides within the Labour fold is an unenviable task, but Jeremy Corbyn’s position of officially backing Remain but pushing ahead with the Government’s unamended Brexit Bill has left both sides irritated. Instead of collecting the ‘middle way’ voters, his strategy of standing in the middle of the road leaves him at risk of being run over.
This has been reflected in his personal polling. Since 23rd June, there has been a dramatic move away from him by his typical supporters, and a fall in his personal polling among other parts of the electorate, too. In this piece, we’ll be concentrating on YouGov’s last poll, conducted between 2nd and 3rd February, and comparing it with a poll taken in mid-August 2016, the first favourability poll since the referendum.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. In the last six months or so, the Labour leader’s net favourability ratings have fallen 15 points. In August 2016, they stood at a fairly terrible -25, but YouGov’s latest poll puts Corbyn's rating at -40. The percentage of voters who say they hold a favourable view of the Labour leader has fallen from 29% to 22%; meanwhile, the percentage who hold the opposite view has increased from 54% to 62%. Incidentally, Theresa May’s ratings have fallen from +12 to +6, but her lead over her rival has increased from 37 points to 46 points.
2. Remainers have moved from being essentially indifferent to the Labour leader to being pretty opposed. YouGov’s August 2016 poll put Jeremy Corbyn’s net favourability rating among Remainers at -2. Of course, it’s not great for a Labour leader to be polling south of zero among a naturally friendly group, but in the wider context of Corbyn’s national popularity – minus 25 by that point – it clearly showed that the pro-EU crowd was far more open to the Labour leader than other voter groups. Although Remainers are still less opposed to Jeremy Corbyn than the nation as a whole, there has been a strong move away from him: his -2 rating in August has become -24. This is, both in percentage and arithmetic terms, a much greater fall in support than among the nation as a whole.
3. While 2015 Conservative voters see him in the same way as they did 6 months ago, other voters have changed their views. In August, Jeremy Corbyn’s support among 2015 Labour voters was lukewarm to say the least – his net favourability rating stood at +7. This has fallen 9 points to -2. This makes him the only party leader with a net negative rating among the party’s 2015 voters. In another sign of his losing the Remain vote, the Liberal Democrat opposition to him has hardened: six months ago, 2015 Lib Dem voters gave him a rating of -12 (compared with +7 among Labour voters, -73 among Conservatives, and -44 among UKIPers); this has fallen sharply to -50.
4. Young voters used to feel positively about Jeremy Corbyn: now, they’re not so sure. Back in August, the Leader of the Opposition’s net favourability rating among voters aged between 18 and 24 was +10 – 35 points higher than his -25 national rating. YouGov’s February poll, however, has the Labour leader polling at -1 in this voter group. This fall of 11 points is, in arithmetic terms, actually smaller than the nationwide shift of 15 points. However, it should be a source of great concern that one of the only reliably pro-Corbyn voter groups now sees him in slightly unfavourable terms.
5. In regional terms, the Labour leader’s ratings have fallen everywhere. In London, from -20 to -37; in the South, from -33 to -44; in the Midlands and Wales, from -19 to -40; and in the North, from -26 to -35. One statistic jumps out, however: Corbyn’s net favourability rating in Scotland has fallen from -6 in August 2016 to -36 at the start of this month. That’s a fall of 30 points, the largest fall in his ratings among any voter group apart from 2015 Lib Dem voters. There are many possible explanations for this: Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of clear opposition to Brexit in a nation where 62% voted to Remain could be one of them. No matter which explanation fits, though, it is quite clear that Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to help Labour’s fightback north of the border.
This latest poll is crushing for the Labour leader, and there’s no way to dress it up. Six months ago, the Labour leader polled above zero in only two voter groups – previous Labour voters and young voters. As of earlier this month, not one category of voter holds a favourable view of Jeremy Corbyn.
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