David Davis favourite to succeed Theresa May, finds survey of Conservative members

The Brexit Secretary David Davis is the narrow favourite among party members to succeed Theresa May, according to a major survey led by academics at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

24 July 2017

Just over 1,000 Conservative Party members were asked for their views about the leadership and whether or not Theresa May should continue as Prime Minister.  The results of the survey show Davis as the preferred choice of 21 per cent of members, while the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was favoured by 17 per cent.

Around forty names were suggested by members as potential party leaders. The third most popular choice was backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, favoured by six per cent of members. But more than one in four (26 per cent) said they did not know or opted not to choose any candidate.

Many of the Cabinet’s best-known names performed poorly in the survey. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond had five per cent support; Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary was on four per cent, while Andrea Leadsom – a leadership candidate in 2016 – received less than one per cent.

The survey was carried out as part of the ESRC-funded Party Members Project, co-directed by Professor Tim Bale from QMUL’s School of Politics and International Relations.

Professor Bale said: “A quarter of grassroots Tories don’t know who they want yet and around a third picked someone who – unless something incredibly dramatic happens – probably has no chance. So, for both Johnson and Davis, and just possibly for a very dark horse, too, there really is all to play for.”

The findings reveal that many members are reluctant to see another contest – 71 per cent want Theresa May to stay while just 22 per cent think she should quit.

On Brexit the survey found that members are more supportive of leaving the European Union than the population at large. More than 80 per cent of the members who backed Davis or Johnson said they voted Leave in the referendum. About half of all Tory members (49 per cent) are certain that the UK should leave the single market, while just 10 per cent are convinced that the UK should continue to take advantage of it.

The fieldwork was carried out by YouGov between 21 June and 11 July 2017. The survey was designed and its results compiled by Professor Tim Bale and Dr Monica Poletti of Queen Mary University of London and Professor Paul Webb of the University of Sussex.

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