Back in April (oh how long ago that seems) I highlighted the key weak spot in how the public viewed the Conservatives over Brexit:
Even when the Conservatives are riding high in the polls and Theresa May’s personal ratings are strong, the public’s view of how the government is handling Brexit is, at best, mixed for the Conservatives.
Which makes this a major vulnerability for the government. Being seen as competent is an important part of not only Theresa May’s appeal but also for political parties in general. When that goes, the fortunes of a party can disappear down into repeated defeat for years to come – witness past Conservative and Labour experiences.
That was pre-general election and based on YouGov data. But there’s a similar picture if we both look more recently and at another pollster. Opinium’s data shows a continuing fall in the government’s competence on Brexit in the eyes of voters:
An important caveat is that how the talks are going is a process issue. It’s outcomes that usually move voters much more than processes. That’s in part an explanation for the disappointing Lib Dem general election result. Too much of the campaign was about processes (referendums, 1p on income tax) rather than outcomes.
But how the talks are going is also a matter of general competence, and that does matter to voters.
The worse people think Conservatives are handling Brexit, the easier it is to win more people over to an anti-Brexit position. ‘I’d like Brexit but gee this route just isn’t working’ would be the first step in that conversion for many. The worse the government is seen at handling the talks, the easier that first step becomes.
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