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Opinion poll shows Rishi Sunak leading in North and many Red Wall seats

An opinion poll on effective communication skills shows Rishi Sunak leading the Tory pack in key regions including the North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber; while his main rival Boris Johnson has a substantial lead in the Midlands and Wales and the West with a slight advantage in the South East.

A poll published by The Story Network, a new communications firm, shows that UK voters believe former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his former Chancellor Rishi Sunak are far and away the best communicators in The Conservative ranks. The poll was carried out by the polling firm Kantar Profiles.

While the two contenders are practically neck and neck nationwide (22% for Boris Johnson versus 21% for Rishi Sunak) this hides major regional differences between the two candidates.

In the North, which has many ‘Red Wall’ seats, Rishi Sunak has a substantial lead over his main potential rival, 10 points ahead in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, 3 points ahead in the North West, while North of the border, Sunak is some 21 points ahead of Boris Johnson.

The findings are offset by the former Prime Minister’s popularity in the Midlands, which also has a number of 'Red Wall' seats where he is favoured by 29% to 16% over his former Chancellor.

Overall Regional Breakdowns

  • Scotland - Johnson 12% Sunak 33%

  • North East/Yorks/Humberside - Johnson 17% Sunak 27%

  • North West - Johnson 22% Sunak 25%

  • East & West Midlands - Johnson 29% Sunak 16%

  • South East & East England - Johnson 22% Sunak 20%

  • Greater London - Johnson 17% Sunak 18%

  • Wales and West - Johnson 30% Sunak 23%

  • Northern Ireland - Johnson 27% Sunak 23%

Other possible leadership candidates scored poorly with Penny Mordaunt (6%), Ben Wallace (4%), Sajid Javid (3%), Suella Braverman (2%) and Kemi Badenoch (1%) trailing far behind the two frontrunners. The third candidate seen as most effective was Jeremy Hunt on 8% who has ruled himself out of the race.

With both candidates considering whether to throw their names into the ring for the upcoming leadership contest, the poll is likely to be viewed with interest by Tory MPs and party members.

The polling shows that Johnson is more clearly backed by male voters (25% male to 20% female) while Rishi Sunak is more popular as a communicator with women (17% to 26%).

1,276 people aged 18 and above were interviewed via an online poll carried out by Kantar on behalf of The Story Network between 18th and 20th October 2022.

Alex Bigham, co-founder of The Story Network, a new communications organisation being launched this autumn, said:

“Many Tory MPs in seats in the Red Wall will be considering who can best save their careers. It’s perhaps counter-intuitive that Rishi Sunak is seen as such an effective communicator with voters in the North.

“Overall, the polling shows clearly that there are really only two Tory politicians who have made any impact with voters and most of the other possible leadership candidates are trailing in their wake.

“Tory MPs will need to think seriously about which of potential leadership candidates is best able to set out a convincing story to the public about the future direction of their party if they are to have any chance of restoring its shattered brand.”

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