Grim poll reveals what people really think of Rishi Sunak

The prime minister has tried to regain the confidence of voters with a slew of policy announcements.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks on stage at Britain's Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester, Britain, October 4, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Prime minister Rishi Sunak speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. (Reuters)

Rishi Sunak has set out his stall to voters in what could be his last conference speech before the next general election.

The prime minister – and the Conservative Party in general - has endured a tough time recently and are well behind in the polls. However, in a bid to regain voters' confidence, Sunak has been pressing the reset button and presenting himself as capable of making “long-term decisions for a brighter future” (at least, that's according to the latest Tory slogan).

He has announced a slew of policies that he hopes will boost his popularity, including watering down net zero commitments, pledging a number of supposed pro-driving policies and gradually banning smoking. His decision to scrap the northern leg of HS2 is also eye-catching.

It's easy to see why he has shifted gear. According to a new survey by polling company Savanta UK, the British public don't have too many good words to say about him.

The political research firm asked 2,000 people to give them one word to describe the prime minister and the responses were not kind.

Opinions of Rishi Sunak were fairly negative. (Savanta)
Opinions of Rishi Sunak were fairly negative. (Savanta)

Many people had negative opinions about Sunak and used words like "incompetent", "useless", "rubbish" and "weak" to describe him.

Savanta devised a word cloud of the responses, where the bigger the term the more frequency it was used by those surveyed. Other negative terms used for Sunak included "fake", "liar", "clueless" and "boring".

It wasn’t all bad, with some positive responses for the prime minister, including "good", "great" and "honest".

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Another notable element of his speech on Wednesday was his repeated references to his family and background.

Sunak shared that he often reflects on how his life would have been different if his grandparents had not left India and East Africa.

His wife, Akshata Murty, introduced the prime minister prior to his speech and he later added he was “proud to be the first British-Asian prime minister”.

‌Sunak said: “Never let anyone tell you that this is a racist country. It is not.

“My story is a British story. A story about how a family can go from arriving here with little to Downing Street in three generations.

“What does the Conservative Party offer a family of immigrants? The chance to become energy secretary, business secretary, home secretary, foreign secretary, even the chance to become prime minister.”

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty stand on stage, at Britain's Conservative Party's annual conference in Manchester, Britain, October 4, 2023. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty stand on stage at the Tory conference. (Reuters)


The polling by Savanta follows a similar survey done in October 2022 - back when Sunak was unsuccessfully campaigning against Liz Truss to be the next Tory leader.

Twelve months ago, the clearest trait associated with Sunak was his vast wealth - the prime minister and his wife have an estimated net worth of £529m.

The responses were slightly more favourable this time last year. (Savanta)
The responses were slightly more favourable this time last year. (Savanta)

Other words included "liar", "corrupt", "slimy" and "snake".

More positive suggestions were "good", "clever" and "capable", but negative labels of "untrustworthy", "greedy" and "selfish" featured prominently.

Shown a similar word cloud on BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme that also highlighted his wealth, Sunak pointed to his decisions on easing the shift away from gas boilers and petrol and diesel cars as signs he understood the cost pressures facing people.

Watch: Rishi Sunak kickstarts election campaign with promise of 'change'

Concerning poll for Sunak

A recent Opinium poll conducted for The Observer showed the scale of challenges facing the Conservative Party.

The poll surveyed more than 3,000 voters, including more than 900 people who voted Conservative in the 2019 election.

The survey indicates the coalition of traditional Tories and Labour deserters, which supported the Conservatives in the 2019 election, is beginning to fracture.

In total, 34% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 reported that they intend to vote for other parties in the next general election.

Within this group, 12% plan to switch to Labour, 13% to the Reform party, 5% to the Liberal Democrats and 3% to the Green Party.