Polling doesn't show Penny Mordaunt is the only Conservative leadership candidate who can beat Keir Starmer

19 July 2022
What was claimed

Polling shows that Penny Mordaunt is the only Conservative leadership candidate capable of beating Labour’s Keir Starmer.

Our verdict

Ms Mordaunt hasn’t explained which polls her claim was based on. While one early poll showed her rated highly in Greater London compared to Mr Starmer and other Conservative candidates, a second poll asking the same question had a different result. None of the other polling we’ve seen supports her claim.

“The polling shows that I'm the only one that can beat Keir Starmer and take the fight to Labour. I beat him all over the country. I beat him in London, I'm polling best in Scotland, with young people, red wall, blue wall seats."

During the Conservative leadership debate broadcast on ITV, Penny Mordaunt told her fellow candidates that polling had shown her to be the only one of them capable of defeating Sir Keir Starmer. Other candidates immediately responded by saying this was untrue.

Ms Mordaunt made similar claims during an interview on Sky News on 15 July, saying: “In the polling that's been done, I beat all other candidates...but more critically, the polling shows that I also beat Keir Starmer in places like London, for example."

Ms Mordaunt hasn’t explained what polling her claim was based on—we have contacted her to ask but haven’t had a response. It appears she may have been referring to one early poll which showed her rated highly in Greater London compared to Mr Starmer and other candidates, though a second poll asking the same question had a different result. None of the other polling we’ve seen supports her claim.

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What does Ipsos polling show?

While we don’t know for sure what poll Ms Mordaunt was basing her claim on, it appears it may have been an Ipsos poll conducted on 7 July. Ms Mordaunt tweeted the results of part of this poll to her followers on 15 July, with a bar chart showing her being more highly rated than Mr Starmer.

This Ipsos poll did not ask voters who they would vote for in a general election, but rather: “To what extent, if at all, do you think each of the following would do a good job or bad job as Prime Minister?”

The options included various Conservative MPs and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Among those polled across Great Britain, 31% said Rishi Sunak would do a very or fairly good job, followed by Mr Starmer (30%), Sajid Javid (29%), Liz Truss and Ben Wallace and Dominic Raab (all 22%), Jeremy Hunt (21%), Priti Patel and Nadhim Zahawi (both 19%), Michael Gove (18%) and Penny Mordaunt (17%).

However, 40% of voters in Greater London said they thought Ms Mordaunt would do a very or fairly good job, compared to 36% for Mr Starmer, 28% for Mr Sunak and 27% for Ms Truss. These were the figures Ms Mordaunt tweeted. It’s worth noting these figures were based on a small sample size of just 103 people (unweighted) in Greater London.

A subsequent Ipsos poll conducted from 12 to 13 July asked the same question. Mr Starmer received 33%, once again putting him ahead of Ms Mordaunt (21%) nationally, though behind Mr Sunak on 37%. 

However, in this second poll, which had a broadly similar sample size, Mr Starmer also led in Greater London, scoring 47% compared to 41% for Ms Mordaunt. Mr Sunak was also ahead of Ms Mordaunt in the capital, scoring 42%, while Ms Truss and Mr Zahawi both tied with Ms Mordaunt on 41%.

What about other polling?

Other polling has also suggested that other candidates in the leadership race would be better placed to win a general election against Mr Starmer. 

A poll by JL Partners conducted between 7 and 8 July asked people to directly choose between Mr Starmer and several Conservative politicians. It suggested Mr Sunak was the only Conservative leadership contender preferred to Mr Starmer, and placed Ms Mordaunt behind Ms Truss and Mr Sunak. Kemi Badenoch and Tom Tugendhat, who were both leadership candidates in the ITV debate when Penny Mordaunt made her claim, but who have both since been eliminated from the contest, did not feature in the list of options. 

Ms Mordaunt has previously led polls against her leadership rivals among Conservative members, who will ultimately choose their party leader and the leader of the country from a final shortlist of two. However, a YouGov poll published on 19 July suggested she had lost this lead and was effectively tied with Ms Truss and Ms Badenoch if they were to go head to head in the final two.

We’ve written more about claims made by different candidates during the ITV leadership debate and the Channel 4 leadership debate .

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