Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Thatcher's popularity: 1980s and today

In this post, I attempt to evaluate Thatcher's popularity, both in the 1980s and today. The graph below displays vote shares in UK elections since 1945. It confirms that Ken Livingstone is correct in pointing out that Thatcher's landslide victory in 1983 was not so much due to her being extremely popular, as to Labour being extremely unpopular. However, Livingstone's claim that "[the Conservatives'] long-term decline continued under Thatcher" is quite misleading. Arguably, both Labour and the Conservatives have been in decline relative to other parties since the February 1974 election.

What do people think of her today? Since her death last week, at least two major polls have been carried out in an attempt to answer this question: one by YouGov in partnership with The Sun (just under 2000 respondents), and one by ICM in partnership with The Guardian (just under 1000 respondents). Results from the two polls are highly similar. The YouGov poll documented that 52% of people believe she was a good or great Prime Minister, while 30% believe she was a bad or terrible Prime Minister. And The ICM poll found that 50% of people believe she was a fairly good or very good Prime Minister, while 34% believe she was a fairly bad or very bad Prime Minister.

How does Thatcher fare in comparison with other British Prime Ministers? In 2008, Newsnight asked the British public to vote for the greatest post-war Prime Minister, a request to which 27,000 people responded. Thatcher ended up in 3rd place, behind Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee. In 2007, Daily Politics asked its viewes to vote for their faveourite Prime Minister among a selection of ten (excluding Churchill). Thatcher came in 1st place with 49% of the vote; Clement Attlee came in 2nd with 32% of the vote. Finally, the 2013 YouGov poll asked respondents to name the greatest Prime Minister since 1945, and Thatcher finished in 1st place with 28% of the vote. 

Overall then, Thatcher appears to be quite popular with the British public. Of course, opinion on her is still rather polarised.

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