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Sir Keir Starmer’s popularity holds up despite tricky period for Labour – poll

Sir Keir Starmer remains more popular with the public than Rishi Sunak and continues to be seen as having a better understanding of the problems facing the country, a poll has shown.

Despite a difficult few weeks for the Opposition leader, during which he faced a rebellion over Gaza, the suspension of two parliamentary candidates over perceived antisemitism and claims he applied pressure on the House of Commons Speaker ahead of a key debate, Sir Keir’s favourability with voters appears to have improved slightly.

The latest poll by Ipsos shows 30% of voters view the Labour leader favourably, a two-point increase since January, while his unfavourable rating remained unchanged at 41%.

Rochdale by-election
Labour pulled its support for Azhar Ali (centre) after reports that he had blamed ‘people in the media from certain Jewish quarters’ for the suspension of a pro-Palestinian MP (Peter Byrne/PA)

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s favourability has dropped four points to 20% and 54% see him unfavourably.

When asked about various character traits, Sir Keir Starmer was well ahead of the Prime Minister on understanding the problems facing Britain, with 47% saying this is the case for the leader of the Opposition and 27% saying the same for Rishi Sunak.

Sir Keir also maintained similar leads over the Prime Minister when voters were asked who is in touch with ordinary people, who has a plan to improve the country, and also when they were questioned on leadership qualities.

The gap between the two party leaders are closest when voters were asked whether each had “a lot of personality” or are “good in a crisis”, with Sir Keir scoring just one percentage point higher than Rishi Sunak on both questions.

Voters are also split on whether they are clear about what the two men stand for.

Rishi Sunak visit to Yorkshire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak remains less favourable to voters than Sir Keir Starmer, according to a poll (Paul Ellis/PA)

Responses for Rishi Sunak showed 46% of voters are very or fairly clear what he stands for, a drop of six points from August, while 45% said they are not very clear of not clear at all – an increase of seven points.

On Keir Starmer, 43% are clear what he stands for, a three-point drop, and 48% are not – a rise of four percentage points.

Labour remains the most popular party, with 37% viewing it favourably and 38% unfavourably.

This net rating of minus one compares to a score of minus 34 for the Conservative Party, which is viewed favourably by 20% and unfavourably by 54%.

Reform UK is viewed favourably by 19% of those polled, placing the party behind the Greens (26%) and Liberal Democrats (20%).

Reform UK is unfavourable to 42% of voters, a lower percentage than the Conservatives.

Popular Conservatism movement launch
Tory voters in 2019 would see Reform UK more favourably under Nigel Farage’s leadership, a poll suggests (Victoria Jones/PA)

However, views on Reform UK shifted when voters were asked to consider the party with Nigel Farage as leader.

Overall, 25% of all respondents said they are favourable and 45% unfavourable, moving the net score for Reform UK from minus 23 to minus 20.

But responses to Mr Farage as leader from Conservative voters in 2019 show a move from net neutral to net positive favourability for the party.

Without Mr Farage in charge, 31% of these voters are favourable to Reform UK and 32% are unfavourable.

With Mr Farage as the leader, 43% are favourable and 30% unfavourable, moving the net score from minus one to plus 13.

Keiran Pedley, director of politics at Ipsos, said: “After a few weeks of pressure, we have seen no significant movement in Keir Starmer’s personal favourability ratings and he also continues to lead Rishi Sunak on several key leadership traits.

“Meanwhile, after their by-election performance in Wellingborough and Kingswood, there has been no significant movement in Reform UK’s numbers.

“Though it is notable that the favourable numbers improve in a hypothetical scenario where Nigel Farage becomes leader.”

The polling was based on a representative sample of 1,105 adults aged over 18 across the UK between the February 16 and 19.