Survey: Kemi Badenoch Tops Tory Poll, Party Split on Farage Merge

Queen Mary University of London

The survey, fielded for the project by YouGov between 5th and 9th of July, contains responses from 725 grassroots members of the party, with the sample weighted to be representative of the membership as a whole.

Badenoch emerges as the clear frontrunner by some distance even if her support is not yet overwhelming. Once the 13% who said 'none of these and the 6% who said 'don't know' are removed from the figures (something done with all the leadership figures quoted below), Badenoch's support currently stands at 31% – effectively twice that of Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat, who are on 16% and 15% respectively.

Perhaps surprisingly, Priti Patel, talked up recently as a possible alternative to Badenoch and Braverman, attracts only 6% support. Robert Jenrick, who has been on the manoeuvres for months now, only scores 7%, while Victoria Atkins (who, like Tugendhat, is seen as representing the self-styled One Nation strain in the Conservative Party) is on just 2%. James Cleverly, seen by some as a potential 'unity candidate' is on 10%.

Jeremy Hunt, who has now ruled himself out of the contest, is on 12%. Where those who supported him will now go will be interesting to watch – especially for the 'moderates' like Tugendhat, Atkins and Cleverly.

The majority of Tory members voted Leave and there is a clear Leave/Remain divide between the support for particular candidates. Leave supporters among the membership are twice as likely (20 vs 9) as Remain supporters to back Suella Braverman for the leadership. Badenoch, too, attracts more support from Leavers, even if the difference in her case (33 vs 28) isn't quite so pronounced. Tom Tugendhat, on the other hand, is significantly more likely to find favour with Remainers (18 vs11).

Braverman is also more likely to win support from 'working-class' Tories (the C2DEs) than their 'middle-class' (ABC1) counterparts (26 vs 15). The reverse is true for Badenoch (32 vs 20) and Tugendhat (16 vs 9).

Those who backed Truss over Sunak in the 2022 leadership contest are far more likely to back Badenoch (37 vs 22) and Braverman (24 vs 4), whereas those who backed Sunak are far more likely to back Tugendhat (29 vs 7).

Badenoch attracts support from across the age range, whereas Braverman is twice as likely to be favoured by those over 50 (21 vs 10) and Tugendhat twice as likely (21 vs 10 again) to be favoured by those under 50.

But if we throw two men into the mix who can't actually stand – Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage – things change. Badenoch's support drops by 13 points to 18% and Braverman's by 6 points to 10%, whereas Tugendhat's is barely affected. Johnson attracts the support of 20% of Tory members – twice as much as Nigel Farage on 10%. Presumably this will encourage Johnson (as if encouragement were needed) to think that, at some point, he might make a comeback. Who knows: the two populists may eventually end up facing off against each other either as leaders of their respective parties or else vying for the Tory crown?

Before members were presented with a list of candidates, we asked them to write in their suggestions. Unprompted, Badenoch goes down to 20%, followed by Braverman 11, Tugendhat 8, Hunt 6, Cleverly 5, Jenrick 5, Patel 4, and Atkins 1. Johnson scores 11%, Farage 2%. Ex-MP Penny Mordaunt was still picked by 8%!

As for a potential merger between the Conservatives and Reform, the membership is split down the middle, with 47% in favour and 48% against, with the remainder unsure. Perhaps predictably Leavers are more than twice as likely to support a merger than Remainers (59 vs 25). Support for the idea also increases as one moves up the age ranges, with support for a merger stronger among the over-50s and opposition stronger among the under-50s. Support for a merger is also stronger among 'working class' Tories (the C2DEs) than their 'middle class' (ABC1) counterparts, as well as among those who backed Truss over Sunak in 2022 (59 vs 27).

Party Members Project_YouGov_Table [PDF 112KB]

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