Jeremy Corbyn seems set to win the Labour leadership race with even more support than he garnered when he was elected in 2015, according to a poll by YouGov released on Wednesday, August 31st. This is the first poll of those who are qualified to vote in the election and the figures show Corbyn leading his opponent Owen Smith by 62% (up from his 59% last year) to 38%. Considering the fierce debate that has surrounded claims that Corbyn supporters have been frozen out of the voting, such a disparity between the vote shares can only be seen as deeply alarming for Labour moderates.
Most of Corbyn’s voting base comes from Labour party member who joined before the 2015 election (to the extent where if they were excluded Smith would certainly win), but he has the support of 70% of the registered members (those who paid the controversial £25 fee for voting privileges) and commands the support of 54% of union members who can vote as affiliates, the third group of voters in the contest. According to the survey Corbyn’s main strength is that party members perceive him as “principled”, with 76% of those questioned agreeing with this description whilst also being trusted for “honesty” (64%) and for “shares my political outlook” (58%). It’s not all good news for the beleaguered party leader however as only 33% of those questioned said he would be able to lead the party to electoral victory, and a paltry 35% described him as “competent”.
Owen Smith’s main selling point has always been the idea of his competency versus Corbyn’s, but the poll places him with an even lower 30%, with a further 45% finding him “untrustworthy” and only an incredibly low 12% of those polled thinking that he could win a general election. Other surprising figures that have emerged is that Corbyn’s support is not as closely linked to the youth vote in the party as is widely assumed with his figures remaining broadly similar across various age ranges within Labour voters, standing at 61% amongst 18 to 24-year-olds, 64% amongst 25 to 39-year-olds, 63% amongst 40 to 59-year-olds and 57% amongst over-60s.
The so-called ‘Traingate’ incident that has embroiled the party has seemed to have had a negative effect on views on Corbyn but to a relatively limited extent with 20% of those voting in the contest said they had a more negative view of him as a result of it, against 10% who said they had a more positive view of him as a result. Almost 70% said it had no effect on their thinking.
If the poll serves as an accurate predictor it seems that the Labour party’s travails in the face of Corbyn’s uncertain premiership look set to continue far beyond the leadership contest. The question of whether or not the Labour party as it currently stands will be able to survive the gulf between its membership and the party itself looks set to dominate the discourse in the winter of 2016.