Rishi Sunak must focus on the economy if he is going to win another term in power, polling suggests. A third of those questioned said it was the main issue that would determine how they would vote in the general election.
In second place was health, named by nearly one in four. Other issues came far lower, such as immigration (9 percent) and education (8 percent).
The Redfield & Wilton Strategies polling comes just days before Thursday’s local elections, seen as the first key test of Mr Sunak’s premiership.
Voters will decide who fills more than 8,000 seats in 230 English councils, with senior Conservative insiders saying they could lose around 1,000 seats.
An electoral drubbing will heighten the pressure on the PM to deliver improvements in living standards before the next Westminster election.
He has made halving inflation, growing the economy and bringing down debt three of his top five priorities in Government.
READ MORE: Rishi Sunak puts pressure on Labour as the gap between the parties closes
Just two percent of voters said issues such as crime, housing, pensions or the environment would decide their vote.
The polling lays bare the impact of inflation on people’s lives. Just four percent of people said the cost-of-living crisis had not mattered to them in the past month, and 43 percent said they did not intend to travel for a holiday in the next three months.
Former First Secretary of State Damian Green said the polling showed why Mr Sunak had put inflation and restoring growth among his top priorities. He was reminded of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign mantra – “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Tom Clougherty, research director at the Centre for Policy Studies, said: “If the Tories hope to win the next election the focus must be on growing the economy by controlling inflation and bringing down the record tax burden.”
The polling also highlights the difficulties people are having with the NHS as it struggles with long waiting lists and the legacy of the pandemic. Of the one in five people (21 percent) who had made use of private healthcare in the past year, 88 percent said their decision had been influenced in some way by NHS waiting lists.
Despite the challenges facing the Government, only a third (34 percent) of people think a Labour majority government is the most likely outcome if an election is held in the next six months.
One in five (19 percent) think the Tories will again win a majority, 14 percent expect a Tory-led minority government, with just 11 percent expecting a Labour-led one.
The resignation of former deputy PM Dominic Raab following bullying complaints is unlikely to swing votes. More than half of those polled (51 percent) said the issue mattered “not at all” to them.
Matthew Lesh, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, stressed the economy will be crucial to the final result, saying: “The next election will be defined by who can persuade the British people that they have a plan to boost our prosperity.”
Separate polling by Omnisis in postcodes where local elections are taking place this week found 37 percent of respondents plan to vote Labour with 26 percent voting Conservative, 17 percent voting Liberal Democrat, 9 percent voting Green, 6 percent voting for independent candidates and four percent voting for Reform UK.
Conservative chairman Greg Hands urged voters to reject Labour and the Liberal Democrats this week.
He told the Sunday Express: “Whether it’s a failure to fix potholes, failure to collect bins or a failure to keep your streets safe and clean – Labour and Lib Dem-run councils give you worse services and charge you more for them. It’s only hard-working Conservative councillors who can be trusted to deliver the excellent local services that people rely on every day – all while keeping council tax low.”
YouGov polling suggests councils including Rugby and Swindon could fall out of Tory hands. A key battleground is Stoke, once a Labour stronghold but now represented by Conservative MPs with a Tory-led council. Darlington is seen as a bellwether for the crucial Tees Valley area.
A prominent grassroots activist said the Tories should be hoping to win seats given the 2019 local elections saw the party perform badly under Theresa May. They said: “It was before we sorted out Brexit and got Boris in.”
But an ex-Cabinet minister said voters were unhappy with the ousting of the former PM, saying: “There’s a lot of disillusionment about what has happened regarding Boris.”