UCL Policy Lab


New poll shows Conservatives now lag behind Labour on patriotism

15 June 2024

New research from the UCL Policy Lab and More in Common finds the importance voters put on the patriotism of their political leaders in the lead up to the general election.

KS One

Labour currently lead the Conservatives as the party most likely to say they are proud to be British. Two in five (40 per cent) say that Starmer’s Labour Party is proud to be British, compared to less than a quarter (24 per cent) who hold the same view about Sunak’s Conservatives. Starmer’s Labour also comes ahead of Nigel Farages’s Reform UK Party on being proud to be British.

The personal patriotism scores of party leaders paint a similar picture. Starmer’s net patriotism score (calculated by those who think Starmer is patriotic minus those who think he is not) is +36, twice as high as the score for Boris Johnson (+18), and higher again for the Rishi Sunak score which is in the negative territory of minus 11. The margin between Jeremy Corbyn’s patriotism score (-18) and Starmer’s (+36) is 54 points. Starmer is also ahead of Farage on how patriotic the public sees him. 

A graph showing political leaders of the present and the past and how patriotic they are perceived.

Marc Stears, Director of the UCL Policy Lab spoke of the seismic nature of the change for the Conservative Party. 

"Patriotism has been at the very core of Conservative Party electoral appeal since the nineteenth century. But in this election the Party appears to have spectacularly lost its historic patriotism advantage. Keir Starmer now has a significant lead over Rishi Sunak when people are asked who is the most patriotic of the political leaders, and also surpasses Nigel Farage."

"This is in spite of considerable efforts by the Conservatives to retain the patriotic mantle, including through their commitment to extending defence spending, controversial policies like the Rwanda scheme and frequent attacks on their rivals as unpatriotic. In an already difficult week for Conservative strategists, these findings will come as another blow, signifying, as they do, a potentially tectonic shift in British politics.”

Key findings from the latest polling with More in Common

Changed Labour Party on patriotism 

Starmer’s embrace of patriotic symbols such as the Union Jack has been criticized by some within his party and within the wider Labour movement. This research suggests that this criticism has had little cut through with the electorate, who see it as a signal that Labour has changed since Corbyn and that Starmer’s Labour embraces patriotism. Corbyn’s Labour Party is almost three times more likely to say it is ‘embarrassed to be British’ than Starmer’s Labour (33 per cent under Corbyn’s Labour, 13% under Starmer’s Labour).

A graph showing whether those surveyed perceive political parties under different leaders to be proud or embarrassed to be British (Source: More in Common, June 2024)

Political leaders are less patriotic these days

The public are also twice as likely to say that political leaders are less patriotic than they used to be (49 per cent) than those who say they are no more or no less patriotic than they used to be (25 per cent). The highest patriotism score recorded in the research was Winston Churchill (+71 points) - almost twice as high as the patriotism score for any serving political leader.

Almost half of people polled think political leaders are less patriotic than they used to be (Source: More in Common, June 2024)

Political leaders' patriotism matters to voters 

Eight in ten (79 per cent) say it is important for a political leader to be patriotic. Three in five red wall voters (Loyal Nationals) say a political leader being patriotic is ‘very important’ to them, versus 43% average. 

Some 80 per cent of people surveyed think it is important for a political leader to be patriotic (Source: More in Common, June2024)


What would make politicians become more patriotic? 

Respect for the public, respect for tradition and dedication to veterans are the key things that would make political leaders ‘seem more patriotic’. 

Graph showing what things make political leaders seem more patriotic (source: More in Common, June 2024)