The survey reveals Boris Johnson has benefitted from the sunnier mood, taking the Conservatives to a seven-point lead over Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party. The Conservatives have put on three points since February and are on a high 45 per cent, with Labour unchanged on 38, the Liberal Democrats down a point to six, and the Greens down three points to five per cent.
Sir Keir’s ratings have dipped sharply in the past month, turning negative for the first time since he became leader last April. More people are unhappy with his performance than are happy with it.
Woundingly, only 53 per cent of Labour supporters now say he “has what it takes to be a good PM”, down from 60 per cent a month ago.
Key findings in the gripping data include:
* Britain has jumped from deep gloom to net optimism about the economy in just a month, almost certainly because of the vaccine programme. The proportion of people who think things will get better in the next 12 months has jumped from 29 per cent to 43 per cent. At the same time, the proportion who think things will get worse has dropped from 60 per cent to 41. Ipsos MORI, which has tracked economic optimism every month since 1978, said the 16.5-point swing was the biggest upwards surge in a month it had seen, only exceeded by the downwards fall when the pandemic was declared last year. Men are more optimistic than women (50 per cent v 36 per cent), while older people, better-off people and Conservative supporters are also more optimistic than younger people, poorer social groups and Labour backers.
* A thumping 88 per cent think the Government has done a good job getting the public vaccinated as soon as possible, up from 78 last month. Even 85 per cent of Labour supporters agree.
* Boris Johnson is ahead of Sir Keir Starmer as the “most capable PM” by 47 per cent to 37 per cent – an improvement from 43 – 38 in June last year.
* Asked if Johnson had what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, 43 per cent agreed, (up one point since February), and 45 per cent disagreed.
* Asked if Sir Keir has what it takes to be a good PM, 30 per cent agreed (down six points) and 35 per cent disagreed (up 10 points). It is the first time that this rating has been negative for Starmer.
* Sir Keir’s satisfaction rating is also negative for the first time: Among the public, 33 per cent are satisfied (-7), while 42 per cent are dissatisfied (+7). While Starmer’s worst score, it is better than Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn achieved a year in, and comparable with David Cameron who went on to become Prime Minister.
* Boris Johnson’s satisfaction score remains negative overall. Some 44 per cent are happy with his performance while 49 per cent are unhappy.
* Johnson is far more popular with Tories than Sir Keir is among Labour backers. Some 83 per cent of Conservatives (+4) are happy with him, compared with just 52 per cent of Labour supporters (-6) who are happy with Sir Keir.
* Johnson’s ratings for handling the pandemic remain negative overall, but have improved recently. Some 43 per cent say he has done well, and 46 per cent badly. Sir Keir’s score is 26 per cent well and 26 per cent badly.
* Chancellor Rishi Sunak has higher ratings for handling the pandemic, with 55 per cent saying he has done well, and just 20 per cent badly. Health Secretary Matt Hancock trails him with 38 “well” and 42 “badly”.
* Asked if Sunak has the makings of a good PM, 33 per cent said yes (+1) and 29 per cent said no (+3).
* Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey is struggling to gain approval, with just 15 per cent satisfied and 27 per cent dissatisfied with his performance.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “Although we shouldn’t be complacent that the pandemic is beaten yet, there are clear signs that the public is becoming more optimistic that Britain’s economy can bounce back from the hit it has taken over the last year, fuelled by very positive ratings about the vaccine rollout which have increased even further this month.
“Ipsos MORI has been tracking Britain’s economic optimism for over 40 years, and never have we seen a bigger drop than at the start of the pandemic, nor a bigger rise than we see now one year on (admittedly from a low base), highlighting the huge impact the virus has had on the country.
“Even so, there are some groups – women, working age adults, social grades DE and in the north of the country – who are not as optimistic as others, and the recovery will need to deliver for them too.”
* Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,009 adults across GB by phone, March 5 to 12. Data are weighted. Details at www.ipsos-mori.com