Into the wilderness, and beyond

Into the wilderness, and beyond

This morning, Ian Warren's Election Data website released a set of polling conducted on its behalf by YouGov.  The poll looks at the Labour membership (note, not Labour voters as a whole), and their attitudes to everything from key national issues to what Jeremy Corbyn should do if Labour loses the next election.  The tables can be found here.  In this piece, we'd like to take you through a quick-ish roundup of the key things you should take away from this poll.

1.   Jeremy Corbyn still has a comfortably positive net approval rating among Labour members.  But this figure has fallen quite dramatically over the past year.  When YouGov polled Labour members in February of last year, a huge 72% approved of Jeremy Corbyn, with only 17% disapproving.  One year (and a bit) later, just over a majority (54%) of Labour members still approve of their leader, with the percentage disapproving rising 20 points to 37%.

2.     Labour members don’t have exactly the same priorities as the wider electorate.  Below is a table showing the percentage respondents who put certain issues in their ‘top three’ issues, using YouGov polls of both Labour members and all British voters.  For voters as a whole, Brexit comes up top, polling at 62%, with the NHS coming second at 46%, immigration third at 38%, and so on.  While Labour members agree that Brexit is the top issue facing the country, they put much more emphasis on the NHS – so much so that it ties with Brexit at 66% for the top spot.  Immigration is a key difference between Labour members and voters as a whole: while 38% of the wider electorate think immigration is a key issue, only 8% of Labour members agree.  The contrast is even starker between regular voters and Labour members who say they would definitely vote for Corbyn in a leadership contest.  For these voters, the NHS is by far the biggest issue of the day, with 70% of them putting it as one of their top three issues.  Other issues which Corbyn’s supporters find more important than other voters include housing (38% vs 20% for regular voters), the environment (22% vs 10%), and the welfare system (28% vs 16%).  The biggest divide in attitudes between Corbyn supporters and the wider electorate is to be found on the issue of immigration: while 38% of voters think it is one of the biggest issues of the day, only 7% of Corbyn’s supporters do.

Total voters

Labour members

Labour members who would definitely vote for JC

Brexit

62

66

51

Health

46

66

70

Housing

20

38

38

Economy

31

31

24

Education

13

23

22

Environment

10

18

22

Welfare and benefits

16

18

28

Immigration & asylum

38

8

7

3.      60% of Labour members don’t think Jeremy Corbyn will ever become Prime Minister, while only 31% think he will.  And in further evidence of Corbyn supporters’ lack of interest in winning power, of the Labour members who would probably vote for Jeremy Corbyn in a leadership contest, only 25% think he will actually become Prime Minister, with 58% disagreeing.  Labour members, however, have become more bearish on their party’s chances with Corbyn over the last year or so: in mid-February last year, YouGov asked Labour members how likely they thought a Labour victory at the next election would be under Jeremy Corbyn.  Back then, 47% thought it likely, with 41% thinking it unlikely; fast forward one year, and only 35% of Labour members think Corbyn will lead their party to victory, with 56% disagreeing.  It’s interesting to note, however, that while Labour members are pessimistic about the party’s chances with Corbyn as leader, it may not be because of Corbyn.  47% of those members polled think that the party would be unlikely to win the next election even if Corbyn were replaced as leader, with only 36% thinking it is likely: while members clearly think unseating Corbyn would improve their prospects at the next election, they don’t think it would be a magic bullet. 

5. Half of Labour members want Jeremy Corbyn gone before the next election.  36% of the party's membership think the Labour leader should step down now, while an extra 14% think he should carry on for the time being but quit before the next general election.  This 50% compares with 44% who want Corbyn to fight the next election.

6. Jeremy Corbyn would still win a leadership election comfortably.  Faced with a list of possible Labour leadership contestants, 38% Labour members plumped for Corbyn - far more than any of the others.  Chuka Umunna, Clive Lewis, and Yvette Cooper all poll at 8%, with Keir Starmer and Hilary Benn on 7%.  Of course, this is all down to interpretation, but we think the Corbyn-y names get around 51% (Corbyn, Lewis, McDonnell, Long-Bailey, Rayner) while the collective percentage accrued by people on the not-Corbyn wing of the party is about 36% (Umunna, Cooper, Starmer, Benn, Jarvis).

7. Labour members don't really think it's that important for the Labour leader to know how to win an election.  In this poll, YouGov asked Labour members to rank things the Labour leader needs to be good at.  55% said that being in touch with the concerns of ordinary members is very important, while only 28% think that the most important thing for the Labour leader to do is know how to win an election.  This is even more exaggerated among Labour members who would definitely vote for Jeremy Corbyn in another leadership election.  Only 6% of them said that knowing how to win is important in a leader.  72% of them said that being in touch with the concerns of ordinary voters is most important; it is interesting to remember, then, how out of touch this group is with the concerns of the wider electorate (see 2).

What’s important in the next Labour leader?

Would definitely vote for Jeremy Corbyn in a leadership election

Would definitely not vote for Jeremy Corbyn in a leadership election

Labour members

Is in touch with the concerns of ordinary people

72

38

55

Provides an effective opposition to the Conservatives

35

59

48

Unites the Labour party

20

36

32

Understands what it takes to win an election

6

54

28

Is a strong leader

14

33

24

Takes on powerful interests

34

5

21

Moves the party to the left

37

2

19

Is intelligent

21

10

14

Can make tough decisions

17

9

11

Is a good media performer

3

19

11

Understands the economy

16

7

11

Moves the party to the centre

0

17

6

Something else

3

0

2

Don’t know

2

0

1

8. We compared the data points for Labour members who joined the party before the 2015 general election and those who joined it during the 2015 leadership election.  And there's a clear 'activity-gap' between old and new members.  While 24% of these older members have delivered leaflets for the party, for example, only 11% of the 2015 leadership campaign joiners have done the same.  Meanwhile, while only 30% of the older member have shared campaign material on social media, 45% of the newer entrants have done so.  Likewise with attendance at party meetings, donations, knocking on doors, and phone banking, members who joined in the summer of 2015 aren't as active as members who joined the party prior to the 2015 general election.

9. Corbyn's closest supporters think that he is to thank for Labour's win in Stoke, but not to blame for the party's defeat in Copeland.  62% of Labour members who would definitely vote to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn think that the leader is responsible for the party's holding of Stoke.  Only 5%, meanwhile, think that Corbyn is responsible for the result in Copeland.  In another marvellous display of cognitive dissonance, Tony Blair's speech is seen as a very important factor in the party's loss in Copeland (40%), but not so much in Stoke (1%).  By the way, this is not confined to the Corbyn wing of the Labour party: of those Labour members who say they would definitely not vote for Jeremy Corbyn in a leadership contest, only 2% said that he was responsible for the win in Stoke, while 88% pinned the party's loss in Copeland on him. 

10. Corbyn's closest supporters think he should go on no matter what.  The picture below shows the responses given by Labour members who say they would definitely vote for Jeremy Corbyn, were there to be another leadership contest.  The standout figure from this is that 51% of them think that Corbyn should carry on even if Labour loses the next election.  Interestingly, Labour members as a whole are less supportive: in fact, the only scenario in which the membership would want Corbyn to carry on would be if Tom Watson declares his lack of confidence in the Labour leader.

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