Three-way: May vs Corbyn vs Smith

Three-way: May vs Corbyn vs Smith

BMG have released a couple of personal ratings polls over the last couple of days – one for the Evening Standard focusing on Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith, and another for the Independent focusing on the Prime Minister, Labour leader and his challenger.  While they both show that Owen Smith is generally viewed better than his boss, it is evident that at this stage, the juggernaut-like popularity of Theresa May means that both potential Labour leaders have a steep hill to climb.

Against Corbyn, Owen Smith is seen as best Labour leader and PM

The poll conducted on behalf of the Evening Standard asks respondents who they think would make the best leader of the Labour Party.  58% said it was Owen Smith, while 42% contended that Jeremy Corbyn would make the best Labour leader.  When the sample was cut down to those who voted for Labour in the 2015 election, Owen’s lead shrunk hugely (from 16 to 4) – he received 52%, with the incumbent getting 48%.  Respondents were also asked who they thought would make the best Prime Minister for the Labour Party, and Owen Smith increased his original lead – when this question was asked, Owen Smith received 62% of votes, with Jeremy Corbyn getting only 38%, giving the challenger a lead of 24 points.  The difference in replies when people are asked about who would make the best leader and who would make the best PM is interesting; it suggests that there are some voters who think that Jeremy Corbyn would make a better leader of the Labour Party despite being a worse candidate for Prime Minister.  Perhaps this hints at the divide in the party between those who see Labour’s primary motive as one to win power and those who see the party as a mass-membership social movement where political power is seen as less important.

Let’s break down the responses to the second question – who would make the best Labour Prime Minister – by age group:

Age

Owen Smith

Jeremy Corbyn

Who wins?

18 to 24

43

57

Corbyn: 14

25 to 34

50

50

Draw

35 to 44

51

49

Smith: 1

45 to 54

65

35

Smith: 30

55 to 64

71

29

Smith: 42

65 and older

79

21

Smith: 58

This is quite unsurprising.  Jeremy Corbyn retains his lead among the youngest age group – those between 18 and 24 years-old.  But that relatively tame lead of 14 points evaporates quickly as respondents become older.  The two contenders notch up a draw in the 25 to 34 age category, before Smith wins the 35+ categories with increasing leads – finishing with a lead of 58 points in the 65 and older age group.

People would be more likely to vote Labour if Smith were leader instead of Corbyn

Below are the responses to the question: ‘If Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party, would you be more or less likely to vote Labour at the next General Election?’

Total

More likely

19%

Less likely

30%

2015 Labour voters

More likely

34%

Less likely

28%

England

More likely

20%

Less likely

32%

Scotland

More likely

13%

Less likely

23%

And below are the responses to the same question, but with Owen Smith this time:

Total

More likely

22%

Less likely

17%

2015 Labour voters

More likely

34%

Less likely

16%

England

More likely

20%

Less likely

18%

Scotland

More likely

13%

Less likely

13%

Comparing the two, the ‘more likely’ figures for the two are actually roughly similar, with Owen Smith only beating Jeremy Corbyn by 3 points in the ‘total’ category.  In the other categories – namely Labour 2015 voters, English voters, and Scottish voters – the two candidates’ ‘more likely’ percentages are the same.  The interesting difference between the two is only really on the downside; while Corbyn makes 30% of voters and 23% of Scottish voters less likely to vote Labour at the next election, the same ‘less likely’ responses for Owen Smith are only 17% and 13%, respectively.  What can we conclude from this?  That while Owen Smith doesn’t really inspire more people to vote Labour than Jeremy Corbyn, he certainly doesn’t put as many voters off than Corbyn does.

Putting the two against Theresa May – the results aren’t pretty for either candidate

Granted, we are almost definitely still in Theresa May’s honeymoon period.  But the results from the BMG/Independent poll throw up two points: first, that Theresa May’s personal lead is vast, and second, that neither Labour leadership candidate does better than the other.  In a contest between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, 71% would rather the Conservative leader be PM compared with only 29% for the Labour leader.  And, as already noted, the results are exactly the same for Owen Smith against Theresa May – 29% versus 71%, respectively.  Drilling down into the details for a second, it is clear, though, that Owen Smith’s support comes from a slightly broader age-range than Jeremy Corbyn’s support does. 

In their totality, then, these two BMG polls undeniably point to the fact that Owen Smith would be a better candidate than Jeremy Corbyn.  However, there is also a great deal for Owen Smith to worry about; his relative success in the ‘who would you rather’ polls suggests that his support seems to be anti-Corbyn more than it is pro-Smith.  This could well mean that, were he to be elected leader of his party, he would be subject to the same dire polling as Jeremy Corbyn.

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