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Theresa May’s bumpy ride in the polls

How the Prime Minister’s popularity rose and fell.

Theresa May in Downing Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Theresa May in Downing Street (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Theresa May’s time as prime minister has seen her party’s standing in the opinion polls both soar and slump, while her own approval ratings have been on a roller coaster ride.

For much of Mrs May’s first year in Downing Street, the Conservative Party enjoyed a healthy lead over Labour in the polls and a share of the vote averaging around 40%.

When the Prime Minister called a snap general election in April 2017, the Tories’ poll share jumped even higher, touching 47% in early May.

But as the election campaign went on, the party’s lead over Labour began to narrow and by polling day on June 8, Labour had closed the gap to a handful of percentage points.

In the election itself, the Tories polled 44% of the vote in Great Britain while Labour polled 41% – close enough to produce a hung parliament.

For the rest of 2017 and 2018, both parties remained virtually neck and neck in the polls, with neither able to pull ahead.

But in 2019 things changed. The Tories began the year averaging 40%, by April this was down to 30% and in May it was in the low twenties.

Labour were now ahead of the Tories, but only just.

Both the main parties took a hit, while the popularity of smaller parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and the Brexit Party increased.

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(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, Mrs May’s own approval rating, as measured by the polling company Opinium, had reached a new low.

On becoming Prime Minister in July 2016 she enjoyed a net approval rating of 31% (the total proportion of people who said they approved of her performance, subtracted by the total who said they disapproved).

At the start of the 2017 general election campaign her rating had slipped to 21%, but was still comfortably ahead of Jeremy Corbyn, who had a rating of minus 35%.

The election campaign saw the gap steadily narrow and by July, one month after polling day, the positions had been reversed, with Mrs May on minus 20% and Mr Corbyn on 4%.

Since then, Theresa May has never enjoyed a positive approval rating in Opinium’s regular polling bulletins, although she has often been scored as less unpopular than Jeremy Corbyn.

The very latest approval ratings from Opinium, from a survey taken between May 14 and 16, 2019, give the Prime Minister a net approval rating of minus 46%, the lowest of her entire premiership. The equivalent figure for Jeremy Corbyn is minus 43%.

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