by Chris Curtis
Thursday, 17
October 2019
Explainer
16:51

Not so fast. Boris Johnson will have an uphill battle with voters

Whilst it’s still too early to say how the deal will go down, the Conservative Party leader certainly faces a challenge...
by Chris Curtis

Besides the challenges it faces in Parliament, Boris Johnson will be keeping an eye on how his deal lands amongst the wider general public – particularly if it’s going to be a key part of his General Election campaign.

And whilst it’s still too early to say how the deal will go down, the Conservative Party leader certainly faces a challenge.

The first difficulty is that voters have moved to the extremes over Brexit in recent years, meaning there isn’t a very large pool of voters who sit in the middle ground who may be inclined to support the deal. This was one of the main reasons that Theresa May’s deal struggled to win the public over, and just 15% supported it when it first came back.

In YouGov’s most recent polling on the issue, the majority of Remain voters (65%) said their first preference was to stay in the EU, whilst the plurality of Leave voters (44%) said their first preference was to leave without a deal. 

This left just a minority (31%) selecting one of the three compromise options presented.

Whilst Boris may be hoping that his deal will be different, it will be a challenge when up against an uncompromising public that is dramatically divided.

Secondly, unlike the keenest of politicos, the public are not going to be reading the long document detailing the negotiated arrangement. Instead they will be relying on cues from key political actors.

And the first indications do not bode well. Every other major political party, including the DUP and the Brexit Party, have so far opposed the deal.

Crucially, Nigel Farage has opposed the deal in strong terms, which is particularly problematic for the Prime Minister because of his levels of popularity amongst his own voters. In our most recent poll, a majority (57%) of them had a favourable view of Farage.

In earlier polls this year Farage’s Brexit party has been syphoning off many of the Tories’ 2017 voters by arguing that the deal that was then negotiated wasn’t a “proper Brexit”. At its peak, the Brexit party was even topping the polls, with the Conservatives falling into fourth place.

Mr Farage is already saying that Boris Johnson’s deal is “not Brexit”. He will be hoping he can repeat this trick again, and with Leave voters generally inclined to prefer no deal to a deal, this could have fatal effects on the Conservative’s chances of a majority in a general election.

The prime minister’s best hope is that “Brexit fatigue” will push enough members of the public who may not see this as the ideal, but are happy to accept in order to move on.

Chris is Political Research Manager at pollsters YouGov

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