In this report, we use large sample polling conducted throughout November and December 2019 to understand the new electorate. We identify the role of the election campaign, understand the composition and stickiness of the coalitions it left behind, and explore what it means for the main parties and their policies in this Parliament. What becomes visible is a restructuring of the electorate that is currently febrile and temporary but could shortly become resilient and permanent.
We find that it is a mistake to think the Conservatives are ideologically split between “Southern” conservatism on the one hand and “Red Wall” conservatism on the other. The Conservatives no longer represent the kind of metropolitan values characterised by the Notting Hill set, but their new coalition is highly homogeneous in terms of values – leaning marginally to the left on the economy and right on socio-cultural issues.
The Tories’ old and new voters are united in wanting politicians to be tough on crime and immigration and to invest in and support communities and local economies. They are far from economically liberal: a majority support tax rises to pay for more NHS and public spending and want a government that regulates more rather than less, focuses more on economic inequality, and pushes businesses to do more to retrain workers. Statistically 62% of Conservative voters are closely aligned with each other on economic values and 51% are aligned on social values.
The Labour Party, by contrast, is heavily split between moderate centre-left voters and a group of voters who are radically left-wing on the economy and liberal on social issues. More than one in four (27%) of Labour voters in 2019 are defined by having strongly left wing views on both social and economic axes. As a result, just 40% Labour voters are closely aligned with each other on social or economic issues, while around 1 in 4 hold radically different values from the average Labour voter. of the electorate.
This reflects the changing demographics and geography of both main parties, as Labour has become more of a young, metropolitan and liberal party and the Conservatives have become older, more provincial and more rooted in a set of values favouring economic order and cultural attachment. Onward finds that, following the 2019 General Election:
1.Brexit and other factors have completely changed the fundamentals of the electorate from when David Cameron was first elected in 2010.
In total, over a quarter (26%) of Conservative 2019 voters had not supported the party at a previous election and one in five (20%) Labour voters were new to the party. This realignment has been happening for some time, visible in Ed Balls’ defeat in Morley in 2015 and Ben Bradley’s win in Mansfield two years later, but it accelerated in 2019.
2.The Conservatives hold a greater share of seats in the North and Midlands than at any point since 1935, holding 57% of seats.
They also won two in five of the original Northern Rugby League towns. In contrast, 37 of the 50 safest Labour seats are now within the boundaries of Britain’s four largest cities: London, Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool. Despite suffering their worst defeat for several decades, Labour recorded the equal highest number of seats in London and the South East since the 1997 landslide.
4.We identify the tribes that underpin the new electorate and explore what this means for Labour and the Conservatives.
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