According to the exclusive Ipsos MORI survey for The Standard, 33 per cent of the public think the Chancellor has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister - a jump of four points since the last survey in November.
That’s 10 points more than Mr Johnson whose satisfaction ratings with the general public have slumped to a record low as he faces calls to resign amid allegations of lockdown busting parties in Downing St and criticism of his No10 operation.
It also puts the Chancellor level with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer who is on 32 per cent and has been enjoying a bounce in the polls as the Prime Minister battles problems on multiple fronts.
Among Conservative voters, Mr Sunak enjoys even greater support with half saying he would make a good Prime Minister - although the Prime Minister still enjoys a clear lead among Tory backers with two thirds still saying he has what it takes to lead the country.
The poll comes as the Chancellor is still facing calls from some Conservative MPs and opposition parties to rethink plans to introduce a 1.25 percentage point increase to National Insurance in April. On Sunday, Mr Sunak used a joint article with the Prime Minister in the Sunday Times to insist “we must go ahead with the health and social care levy”.
Some Tory MPs have also been urging the Chancellor to do more to help struggling households with the cost of living crisis with inflation already soaring and energy bills set to rise sharply in April when the energy price cap is increased.
But Mr Sunak has previously said that the country’s public finances need to be put back on a sustainable footing after the Treasury provided over £400 billion to support workers and companies during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his joint article, Mr Sunak said: “We are Thatcherites, in the sense that we believe in sound money. There is no magic money tree.”
According to the Ipsos MORI poll, Mr Sunak has a clear lead over his rivals for the top job with a near 10 point gap opening up between him and Health Secretary Sajid Javid, whose own ratings are up by three points to 23 per cent since the last Ipsos MORI measure in 2019.
Jeremy Hunt, the former Foreign Secretary who made it to the final two in the last Tory leadership contest won by Mr Johnson in July 2019, sits in third place with 16 per cent of the public saying he would make a good Prime Minister.
Tory grassroots favourite and current Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is on 13 per cent, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi is on 12 per cent and Michael Gove is on nine per cent.
It’s a similar picture among Conservative voters with Ms Truss on 21 per cent - four points behind Mr Hunt - and Mr Javid on 36 per cent.
Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI said: “As Boris Johnson hits his lowest score as PM, the public sees Rishi Sunak as the Conservative alternative with the most potential.
“Although the Prime Minister still leads among current Conservative supporters, in terms of appealing to all their past 2019 voters the Chancellor at least matches him. Meanwhile Liz Truss has yet to translate her reputation among party members (who of course have the final say) to the wider public, where Sajid Javid actually has a higher profile.”
Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,059 adults aged 18+ between January 19 and 25. Data are weighted.