Sunak v Starmer: Who does the public actually prefer?

FILE PHOTO (EDITORS NOTE: COMPOSITE OF IMAGES - Image numbers 1235573852, 1241854307 - GRADIENT ADDED) In this composite image a comparison has been made between the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and the leader of the opposition and Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer. ***LEFT IMAGE*** BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29: Labour party leader, Sir Keir Starmer delivers his keynote speech on September 29, 2021 in Brighton, England. This is Keir Starmer's first in-person conference as Labour leader, a role he assumed in April 2020 after the party's resounding defeat in the prior year's general election. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) ***RIGHT IMAGE*** LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Rishi Sunak makes a speech to launch his bid to be leader of the Conservative Party on July 12, 2022 in London, England. The former Chancellor was the second high-profile minister to resign from Boris Johnson's cabinet last week setting in motion the events that saw Johnson step down as Conservative Party Leader. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
New polling shows Rishi Sunak is ahead of Keir Starmer in a number of key areas. (Getty Images)

In the aftermath of the turmoil and scandal of Boris Johnson's and Liz Truss's premierships, the Labour party is enjoying a historic lead over the Conservatives.

A poll by YouGov last week revealed 51% of voters say they would vote for Labour in a general election, with just 23% of people saying they would vote Tory.

However, while Labour has an overwhelming lead on every major poll as a party, the popularity battle between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer is far tighter.

Starmer leads Sunak by just 4 points on the question of who would make the best prime minister, according to the latest YouGov polling.

And when it comes to key policy areas and core qualities, in many instances Sunak is ahead.

Read more: Sunak's austerity could be much more damaging than Osborne's - here's how you could be affected

On the economy, polling by YouGov shows the public trust Sunak significantly more than Starmer - with the new prime minister enjoying an 11-point lead on the issue. Some 50% of people said they trust Sunak with the economy, with 39% reporting the same about Starmer.

However, Starmer is most trusted with the cost-of-living crisis, with 44% of people reporting they think he is best to tackle the challenge compared to 37% for Sunak.

A further 43% think the Labour leader is the best to tackle soaring energy costs with Sunak scoring 38%.

Rishi Sunak is trusted more than Keir Starmer to manage the economy, but Keir Starmer is more trusted with the cost of living. (YouGov)

Voters are significantly more likely to believe Starmer is more in touch with the average person – 42% of people reported they believe Starmer understands the challenges of day-to-day life versus Sunak’s 24%.

Read more: PM could curb pension tax relief to help plug budget black hole, says senior economist

When it comes to personality traits, the picture is mixed.

Over half (53%) of people reported seeing Sunak decisive, with 50% of people reporting they believe he is competent and 39% seeing him as strong.

Britons think that Rishi Sunak does not understand the challenges of day to day life for people like them; Keir Starmer performs much better on this question, although opinion is still split. (YouGov)

In contrast, just 34% of respondents said they see Starmer as decisive - but he is close behind Sunak on competence and strength at 46% and 34% respectively.

On the issue of honesty, Starmer leads Sunak by 10 points at 45% versus Sunak's 35%.

The figures pose difficulties for both politicians: Starmer does not enjoy the popularity his party does - and Sunak does not suffer the unpopularity of his.

Read more: Sunak refuses to commit to lifting benefits and pensions in line with inflation

On Wednesday, Professor Sir John Curtice, the UK's leading polling expert, said Sunak's popularity is "a remarkable testament to his own reputation.”

"You can already see how there is an incredible gap between Sunak’s personal popularity and the proportion of people who are going to vote for his party," said Curtice.

However, despite this, the pollster said it would still be "very, very difficult" for Sunak to lead his party to victory at the next general election, especially given the economic turmoil facing the UK.

Watch: Sunak and Starmer clash on migrant policy at PMQs