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Rishi Sunak remains the most popular potential Tory leader among the public, but most other candidates lack “name recognition”, a poll has found.
Some 37% of the public told pollster Ipsos that the former chancellor would do a good job as prime minister, making him the only leadership candidate with a higher rating than Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer on 33%.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt - who was knocked out of the race after the first ballot of Tory MPs on Wednesday - came joint second on 24%, although Mr Hunt had the highest number of people saying he would do a bad job, at one in three.
Current Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi - who also fell out of the contest in the first vote - and trade minister Penny Mordaunt were almost level on 22% and 21% respectively, followed by Tom Tugendhat on 19%, Suella Braverman on 16% and Kemi Badenoch on 15%.
An Ipsos poll of 2019 Conservative voters also found a significant lead for Mr Sunak, with 55% backing him to be a good prime minister, followed by Ms Truss on 39% and Ms Mordaunt on 33%.
But the survey of 1,000 British adults, carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday, found Mr Sunak was by far the most well known of the candidates. Some 60% said they knew a great deal or a fair amount about him, and 56% correctly identified him as the former chancellor.
Mr Hunt was the second most well known on 40%, followed by Ms Truss on 33% and Mr Zahawi on 28%.
Ms Mordaunt was known by 20% of people and Mr Tugendhat by 15%, while Ms Badenoch and Ms Braverman were on just 14%.
However, 12% of people told Ipsos that they knew either a great deal or a fair amount about Stewart Lewis, a fake candidate created by the pollster.
Some 6% even said they knew “a great deal” about the non-existent Mr Lewis, more than the 5% who said the same thing about Ms Braverman, the Attorney General, and the same proportion as for Ms Badenoch and Mr Tugendhat.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos, said Mr Sunak’s support “at least partly reflects his greater name recognition”.
He added: “The large numbers of people who are unfamiliar with the candidates means that there is still scope for public attitudes to change, which lends some unpredictability as Conservative MPs and then members think about who they would vote for.”
Almost two-thirds of people claimed they were following the leadership contest closely, while 82% said the same about stories on the weather and 87% about stories on the cost of living.
Mr Skinner added: “Even though most people say they are following the contest, this research also reminds us that the issue that is really grabbing public attention at the moment is the cost-of-living crisis – addressing this is going to be crucial for whoever does become our next prime minister.”