BORIS Johnson is the overwhelming favourite to become the next prime minister among Conservative members, according to new research.

The YouGov study carried out for The Times reports that former foreign secretary is 39% of the membership’s favoured choice to replace Theresa May.

Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that the installation of Johnson as leader would push Scotland towards independence.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Scots Tories 'terrified' of Boris Johnson leadership bid

One third (31%) of Tory members, however, believe Johnson would be a “poor” party leader.

Asked at a business event on Thursday if he would be a candidate in the leadership contest, Johnson replied: “Of course I’m going to go for it.”

Meanwhile, following a meeting with senior Tory backbenchers, May finally agreed to set a date for her departure after a fourth attempt to get her withdrawal agreement through the Commons early next month.

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Dominic Raab is the next most popular potential contender to replace her.

The former Brexit secretary, who is widely considered to be preparing to launch a leadership bid, is the favourite among 13% of the Conservative membership.

If the two were to face-off in a contest, Johnson defeats Raab by 59 points to 41.

He also defeats every other candidate by an even wider margin.

Among Remain-voting Tory members, Johnson ranks behind Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt and Rory Stewart.

In London, where Johnson was formerly mayor, he is less popular than in the rest of the UK.

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Scotland’s First Minister, during an interview on BBC Radio 4 earlier on Thursday, suggested that Scots would be more likely to vote for independence if Johnson replace May as prime minister.

She added: "Boris Johnson, the guy who misled people in the Brexit vote, the guy who has only ever put his own interests first as far as I can see, is a complete and utter charlatan in my opinion.

"The prospect of him becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom is, I think, one that will horrify many people across Scotland.”