The latest BMG polling has found that, apart from new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, the public is generally confident in the abilities of each of Theresa May’s new cabinet members despite being relatively unknown. There is particular support for David Davis, the new Brexit Secretary and one-time party leadership contender.
Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson, by far the most recognisable figure, proves also to be the most divisive character in the cabinet, with 47% of respondents saying that they are not confident that he will perform well in his role as Foreign Secretary, compared to 44% who feel that he will (valid figures). However, when the results are broken down along party lines, the poll finds that more than three in five (61%) people who voted Conservative in 2015 expressed some confidence in the former London Mayor.
Looking now beyond party lines, Brexit remains the big issue dividing Britons, and it appears that this is also true when it comes to Mr Johnson. Boris’ appointment is very popular among Leave voters, with almost 7 in 10 (69%) expressing confidence in him, whereas Remain voters are much more pessimistic, with 26% saying that they are not very confident in Johnson’s ability to be successful as Foreign Secretary and a further 50% responding that they are not at all confident (valid figures).
Of the 13 cabinet ministers that respondents were asked to give an opinion on, 5 had campaigned to leave the European Union. However, Leaver voters are much more likely to show confidence in the new cabinet in general. Interestingly, only Sajid Javid receives more support from Remainers than Leavers. Just under one third (32%) of Remainers expressed some level of confidence in the new Local Government Secretary, compared to three in ten (30%) Leavers.
Though it’s likely that Leave voters are more likely to be Conservative, so we would expect a higher base-level of support for new Tory government ministers, it could also represent a small backlash on the part of many Remainers who were against the outcome of the EU referendum.
The poll also finds that many of Mrs May’s new cabinet are relatively unknown outside of Westminster. At least one fifth of respondents indicated that they didn’t know who each of the MPs are, the only exception being Boris Johnson who was recognised by 99% of those completing the survey.
The new Culture Secretary Karen Bradley and new Business Secretary Greg Clark prove to be the most obscure appointments, with 34% of respondents saying that they ‘don’t know’ who they are. Three out of ten (30%) gave the same answer for Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green, as did more than a quarter for Home Secretary Amber Rudd (28%). Clearly these figures may change in the coming weeks and months.
David Davis, the Secretary for the newly formed Brexit Department, is surprisingly popular given his Westminster bubble status within the public sphere (26% of respondents indicated that they did not know who he is, compared to just 1% that did not recognise hereJohnson). More than 4 in every 10 respondents (42% – valid only) said that they feel confident that he will perform well in his role. Perhaps more importantly, he has support from both Leavers and Remainers (61% and 34% respectively – valid). Most of his support comes from within his party, with 70% of respondents intending to vote Conservative expressing confidence, although there is also substantial support from those intending to vote for UKIP or Plaid Cymru (55% and 53% respectively – valid).
Data tables containing a breakdown of these results can be found here.
Fieldwork information and methodology can be found here.
For any other results from our polling series, please feel free to get in touch with BMG by email or phone.
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Jemma Conner – Junior Research Executive – BMG Research