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  1. Election 2024
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8 August 2023

Most voters can’t tell if Rishi Sunak is right wing

They can’t tell if Keir Starmer is left wing either.

By Anoosh Chakelian

As the two biggest parties in Westminster narrow their political offer before the next election, voters appear to be finding it hard to tell the ideology of either leader.

When asked to place the two main party leaders on an ideological scale, most of the British public opted for “don’t know”, according to exclusive polling for the New Statesman by Redfield & Wilton Strategies.

Charts by Ben Walker

For Rishi Sunak, 28 per cent “don’t know”, 22 per cent say “centre right”, 22 per cent “right wing”, 18 per cent “centrist”, 5 per cent “centre left” and 4 per cent “left wing”.

For Keir Starmer, 27 per cent “don’t know”, 21 per cent say “centre left”, 18 per cent “left wing”, 18 per cent “centrist”, 9 per cent “centre right” and 7 per cent “right wing”.

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Most Brits describe their own political views as “centrist” at 31 per cent, compared with 21 per cent who “don’t know”, 17 per cent who are “centre right”, 12 per cent “right wing”, 11 per cent “centre left” and 9 per cent “left wing”.

While some lefties label Britain “rainy, fascist island” and the populist right would have us believe we live in a woke-captured state, the public's actual positions are more nuanced. Most say Britain is a “centrist” country on the ideological spectrum, according to the same poll.

Thirty per cent of respondents describe Britain as “centrist”, followed by 25 per cent who “don’t know”. Twenty per cent say “centre right”, 12 per cent “right wing”, 8 per cent “centre left” and 4 per cent “left wing”.

More than anything else, these results may be a symptom of how unhelpful the public finds these political labels anyway. Most respondents (42 per cent) say they don’t find these terms useful, compared with 39 per cent who do (19 per cent don’t know).

Yet the findings may carry a lesson for a prime minister snatching at a culture war from the jaws of defeat. It just doesn’t ring true with the public that Britain is a country in the clutches of the left.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies polled a weighted sample of 1,500 eligible voters in Great Britain on 2 August 2023 for the New Statesman.

[See also: Brits don't believe Rishi Sunak is serious about fighting climate change]

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