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Metro mayors are the most recognisable local political figures in their area, polling finds

Metro mayors were more recognisable than local authority leaders and MPs in almost every place that has one, according to new public polling. 

Press release published on 25 March 2024

  • New polling shows awareness of metro mayors is high 
  • Those polled back decision-making powers being devolved to a more local level 
  • But lack of awareness of mayoral elections in May 2024 is a problem particularly in newly established combined authorities in East Midlands and the North East 

Metro mayors were more recognisable than local authority leaders and MPs in almost every place that has one, according to new public polling from Centre for Cities and Focaldata published as mayoral election campaigns begin in several parts of England. 

On average, 74 per cent of people were able to name their directly-elected mayor compared to 20 per cent who could identify their local authority leader and 43 per cent who could identify their MP.  

More people could correctly identify their mayor in Greater London (88 per cent) than anywhere else. In Greater Manchester, 83 per cent correctly identified Andy Burnham as their Mayor and across the combined authorities (which excludes the Greater London Authority), an average of 65 per cent of people could correctly name their mayor. 

Polling also found: 

  • When people come to vote, the individual candidate matters more at mayoral elections than at a general election. A higher proportion (51 per cent) say they will vote based on the individual candidate than at a general election, where 34 per cent vote for the individual candidate and 66 per cent place their vote based on political party. 
  • Mayors’ transport policies have attracted the public’s attention the most. Where people could name one of their mayor’s policies, by far the most common were transport policies such as ULEZ and fare freezes in Greater London, the Bee Network in Greater Manchester, and £2 bus fare caps in Liverpool City Region, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. Transport is also the policy area where the public most expected mayors to act: Transport was chosen by 28 per cent, followed by business support and crime (both 18 per cent).  
  • People in mayoral areas are in favour of more devolution. Across policy issues, there is an appetite to see decisions made at the local level, whether it is by metro mayors or the local authority.  Most respondents believe that local leaders should have more responsibility over housing, transport, and homelessness in particular. 
  • However, polling also draws attention to low awareness of the upcoming elections. A high proportion in Greater London are aware of the mayoral elections (58 per cent) and nearly three quarters say that they intend to vote (73 per cent), but the figures are lower elsewhere. Less than half of people polled in newly-created combined authorities said they intend to vote – 45 per cent in East Midlands and 48 per cent in the North East – compared with an average of 61 per cent across all areas polled.  42 per cent of those saying they won’t vote gave lack of knowledge as a reason, and 34 per cent cited distrust in politicians. 

Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, said: 

“The level of recognition for mayors show they are fulfilling the purpose their role was created for – establishing a visible and accountable leader for their place. The fact that people are more likely to vote for the individual candidate rather than the political party they represent emphasises this. People want local leaders to put place before politics.  

“But the findings also show there is still work to do, particularly in the new combined authorities in the North East and the East Midlands, to draw attention to the upcoming mayoral elections. 

“A challenge for all of us is to continue to build awareness of and raise the profile of metro mayors. Local news sources, and trusted institutions and individuals have important roles in raising the prominence of mayoral elections and supporting discussions about what issues matter most locally. And in return, mayors must deliver on them. 

“The fact that the public wants powers to be held at a local level is good news, and shows a strong appetite for devolution to move further and faster. Places are demanding more of a say over the decisions that make a difference to their lives – housing and transport in particular. Westminster and Whitehall need to respond.” 

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