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Economics trumps identity or immigration, election study finds

29 September 2017


Waving: the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (left) and members of his Shadow Cabinet receive applause at the party’s annual conference in Brighton, on Tuesday

Waving: the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn (left) and members of his Shadow Cabinet receive applause at the party’s annual conference in Bri...

PEOPLE on low incomes were more concerned about their economic circumstances than issues of identity and immigration in the last General Election, research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) suggests.

The research, by Professor Matthew Goodwin at the University of Kent and Professor Oliver Heath at the Royal Holloway London, commissioned by JRF, draws on data from the British Election Study (BES). They found that, “while the Conservative party’s message on Brexit attracted some low-income voters, Labour’s message on the economy attracted them much more.

“Other things being equal, support for Labour among people on low incomes with left-wing economic views was 66 per cent compared to just 23 per cent for the Conservatives. By contrast, support for Labour among people on low incomes but who are pro-Brexit was 32 per cent compared to 54 per cent for the Conservatives.”

The report states that, “some of the most substantial advances by the Conservative party came in struggling non-metropolitan, pro-Brexit and Labour-held areas, but the Conservative party did not make sufficient progress in these areas to push seats from the red into the blue column.

“Of an estimated 140 Labour seats in England that had given majority support to Brexit, the average Conservative vote increased by 8.3 percentage points, compared to an average of 4.6 points across England as a whole. Yet Labour contained this advance, even capturing more than a dozen seats from the Conservatives that are estimated to have voted for Brexit.”

People on low incomes were more likely to vote for the Labour party than the Conservatives (42 per cent and 37 per cent respectively), but both parties increased their support among this group by about eight percentage points. High-income voters remained much more likely to vote Conservative than Labour: 53 per cent compared with 24 per cent. JRF believes that the analysis shows “how the new battleground at the next General Election will be among low-income voters if the main parties are to secure a majority”.

“Gone are the days when people on low incomes and working-class voters gave unconditional support to Labour,” Professor Heath said. “These groups are now up for grabs — and in the next election could swing either way. Political parties would be well advised to take their concerns seriously.”

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