Within hours of Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprise decision to opt for an early General Election, ICM had won the mini-race to produce the first poll of the campaign. It confirmed the enormous advantage the Conservatives will take into the 8 June vote – a lead of 21 points over Labour, by 46 per cent to 25 per cent.
The instant survey also gave a ringing endorsement to May’s choice to go to the country: 58 per cent of voters agreed she was ‘right to call an early General Election because her government needs a strong mandate in light of Brexit negotiations’, while just 17 per cent felt she was ‘wrong to call an early General Election because she already has a majority and could have negotiated Brexit in an already secure position’ (25 per cent were ‘Don’t Knows’). Interestingly this backing for an election runs across supporters of all parties: Conservatives 68 per cent, Labour 61, Lib Dem 57 and UKIP 65. It is also common ground between both ‘Remain’ and ‘Leave’ voters in the EU Referendum (61 and 58 per cent respectively).
ICM’s 1,000-strong sample anticipate a clear Conservative victory, with 53 per cent expecting a Tory overall majority, compared to 13 per cent some other outcome (eg coalitions or minority governments) and 33 per cent saying ‘Don’t Know’. It is a sign of Labour’s difficulties that 44 per cent of their supporters expect a Conservative win.
Despite Theresa May’s justification for her decision, 67 per cent respondents say they will approach the campaign as a ‘normal General Election’ and only 17 per cent will treat it as a ‘second referendum on Brexit’. That may not be good news for the confident Liberal Democrats who intend to make opposition to a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ the centrepiece of their push. It is also likely to challenge the UK Independence Party (UKIP), who interestingly score just 8 per cent in this poll, their lowest of 2017 with ICM.
As UK General Elections have become progressively more ‘Presidential’ over time, much focus will be on the leadership qualities of May and her rivals. Like all other recent surveys, May enjoys an enormous lead over Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in this poll, with a net +33 feeling she has ‘done a good job’, compared to Corbyn’s net -48 (including -1 among his own voters). The Lib Dems’ Tim Farron and new UKIP head Paul Nuttall also suffer from strongly negative personal ratings. Finally on the critical question of economic competence, May and Chancellor Philip Hammond lead Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell by a staggering 51 to 12 per cent.
Taking this poll and other surveys of the last few weeks, it is hard to recall a Westminster contest that has opened with such one-sided figures on every level.
Voting intentions in per cent:
- Conservatives 46
- Labour 25
- Liberal Democrats 11
- UKIP 8
- Greens 4
- SNP/PC 4
- Other 1
Fieldwork: 18.04.2017. Release date: 18.04.2017. Participants: 1000. Method: Online with weightings for past votes, turnout and political interest and adjustments for Don’t Know and Won’t Say responses. Media partner: The Guardian. Full tables on the ICM website here.
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