The Prime Minister is now the second most unpopular Cabinet minister among the party’s grassroots, according to a survey by the ConservativeHome website.
It gave her a net satisfaction rating of -26.1 – an extraordinary decline from +89.1 just a few weeks ago, before her general election disaster.
ConservativeHome described the results as a record fall in support – even larger than that experienced by Chancellor Philip Hammond, after his Budget U-turn earlier this year.The calculation is reached by subtracting the far larger number of respondents who believe Ms May is doing a bad job from those who still back her performance.
The survey laid bare Tory members’ support for hardline Brexiteers, making Brexit Secretary David Davis (+78.4) and Michael Gove, now back as Environment Secretary (+57.7) the most popular Cabinet ministers.
But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has dropped to 13th place, only just ahead of Andrea Leadsom, who pulled out of last year’s leadership race.
It is the second ConservativeHome survey to find Tory members turning against the Prime Minister after she destroyed her Commons majority.
Immediately after the election, almost 60 per cent of grassroots said Ms May must fall on her sword.
However, the latest research found that most Conservative members (56 per cent) believe the Prime Minister should go before the next election, rather than immediately (15 per cent).
Paul Goodman, the editor’s website, wrote: “May falls from first and a score of 89.1 into negative territory: -26.1. Party members want her out as leader – though not yet.”
That verdict appears to mirror the view taken by Conservative MPs, who have stepped back from mounting an immediate leadership challenge.
The consensus, for the time being, is that the Prime Minister should stay on, perhaps until Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019.
Tory MPs are desperate to avoid another general election, fearing Jeremy Corbyn would win it, and suspect a change of leader would make that more likely.
Ms May appears to have steadied the ship – at Westminster, at least – since striking the controversial £1bn deal for the Democratic Unionist Party to prop her up in power.
However, she is seen as being at the mercy of events – in particular, a Commons revolts if she continues to pursue a hard Brexit.
The other hugely popular Conservative is Ruth Davidson, the Scottish leader, who enjoys a satisfaction rating of +84.5.
However, Ms Davidson – probably to the Prime Minister’s relief – has shown no interest in seeking a seat at Westminster.
“She outperforms every member of the Cabinet, and clearly would be very competitive for a leadership election were she in the Commons,” Mr Goodman added.
Only party chairman Patrick McLoughlin (-29.3) is more unpopular than the Prime Minister, apparently sharing the blame for the election gamble backfiring.