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Key Labour targets: raise support from over 65s, raise turnout of under 35s

ipsos.logoIpsos Mori have now published their findings on the recent election. However, it is I think worth highlighting some of these as they are of crucial importance in any consideration of Labour’s future electoral strategy. The information is broken down by gender, age, social class, housing tenure and ethnic group, by gender for age and social class, by turnout for all and by changes since 2010. The key facts are:

  • Labour only has a clear lead among those aged 18 – 34, the D/E social groups, BAME voters and renters.
  • UKIP increased its vote among all groups, but is strongest among older, white and working class voters.
  • Female voters are more likely to vote Labour and less likely to vote UKIP, but older women have become more Conservative.
  • The huge fall in the Lib-Dem vote included transfers to Labour (24%), Conservative (20%), Green (11%) and UKIP (7%).
  • Labour retained only 72% of its 2010 vote, losing to the Conservatives (8%), UKIP (6%), and by 5% to the SNP, Greens and Lib-Dems each.
  • The Conservatives retained 82% of their 2010 vote losing 13% to UKIP.

Turnout was highest among those groups who were most Conservative, and lowest among those groups that were most Labour.Thus voters aged 18 to 24 voted 47/23% Lab/Con, but had a 43% turnout. Voters aged over 65 ( 22% of the electorate) voted 27/43% Lab/Con, but with a 78% turnout. Likewise social class D/E voters voted 41/27% Lab/Con but with a 57% turnout, but A/B voters voted 26/45% Lab/Con but with a 75% turnout.

Those aged under 55 were more Labour than average, progressively so as they got younger. Those aged 55 to 64 were exactly in line with the overall vote, those over 65 much more Conservative with a swing to them of 5%.

A number of things stand out from this and indicate some of the steps that Labour must take. The most obvious are that because of their high turnout Labour should seek to significantly increase its vote among the over 65 age group, and because of their predominant vote for Labour it should seek to significantly increase its turnout among the under 35 age group and among social group D/E.

Neither of these are easy. The rise in house prices in the last 20 years means that many over 65 houseowners of otherwise modest means and incomes are sitting on what seems a fortune, in most cases no longer being paid for and increasingly realiseable through equity release, while the growth of occupational pensions, particularly in the public sector, has raised living standards considerably.

The increased cost of pension contributions and the end of many final salary schemes means that future pensioners will not be as well off, but this has not yet happened. At the lower end of the scale 40% of pensioners live in poverty, reflecting a basic state pension which is low by European standards, and which next year’s changes will do little to alleviate, while cuts in social services for the elderly have been harsh. Labour must be much more active in this area and not merely accept that people move politically rightwards as they grow older.

For younger people their position has worsened on so many fronts ( rents, house prices, tuition fees, job availability and security, pay and conditions etc.) that it is hardly surprising that support has grown here, but it is partly a question of tackling a culture in which voting and party membership is seen as’uncool’, although the approach to Brand, and the ( too late) response indicate what can perhaps be built on.

For the D/E social group it is a question of motivation, of greater numbers being convinced that Labour are serious about making changes that are in their interests.

For the ex Lib-Dems, while Labour received more of their vote than went to the Conservatives, but not by much, ( 24% to 20%), a revived and more leftish Lib-Dems under Farron could see these votes returning from Labour, while losses to the Greens could accelerate.

Clearly winning again will require all sorts of changes, but unless we can significantly improve Labour voting among the over 65s and turnout among the under 35s doing so will be much harder.


  1. this is vital stuff, and needs a workshop to discuss in detail. WHile this can be done by email, it needs a network to be set up. Up in North Staffordshire we are looking at the local situation and in the Stafford and Stoke areas, where local government boundaries allow comparisons with parliamentary constituencies, the information is being analysed. Its not good, and anyone who thinks in terms of the Labour vote needs to think again.

    The key issue is the Labour is no longer a credible majority party unless it can get the turnout up. with a third of the electorate not voting, that is the big issue.

    but a workshop of election results which can drill into local government results is what is now needed.

    trevor fisher.

  2. Robert says:

    It will depend on who the new leader is and which direction they intend to move, whether it’s progress chasing the middle class and swing voters or the left.

    Labour lost so many voters and so many did not bother voting it will take giants steps to get people to come back or the right leader of course.

  3. swatantra says:

    Even if these 65 year olds are sitting on a profitable nest egg without having actually earned that bonus of a nest egg, but just sat on an increasing property asset; the downside for them is that they have at the most only about 20 years to enjoy it! And knowing most of them, they won’t spend it, but save and pass it on to their impoverished sons and daughters, who just have to wait a little bit longer to come into a fortune, the family home. The Tories have carefully nurtured the silver vote, and it will be difficult to take it away from them. And getting young people to vote and take politics seriously is an impossible task.

  4. J.P. Craig-Weston says:

    Whist the analysis above tells people the, “what,” of what happened it doesn’t really explain, “why,” labor lost so many votes, for instance; I can’t, (not for one moment,) imagine why the local Labor party in Stafford might be having trouble mustering support, although I would take a wild guess and suggest that the local parties In Rotherham, Rochdale and Sheffield, (for example,) might also be experiencing similar lack of enthusiasm from their traditional voters.

    Baffling really isn’t it?

  5. why Stafford? If Craig Weston has any useful information that would be worth having, as the result in Stafford where I live mirrors the overall pattern, and one feature from the local council election results on the same day is that the turnout in labour wards was lower than that in tory wards, In a town where unusually there are no real third parties, only a couple of independents.

    The Tory propaganda machine was very effective, and in marginal was employing the Salmond picking the pockets poster. Did not bother in Stafford this was a seat they knew they would hold. As Stafford had gone Labour in 1997 and was not lost till 2010 – but was following the national pattern through 1992 to 2010 its a bell wether seat. Here was where New Labour won then lost.

    It would be sensible to focus on town like this. The other more traditional working class towns are less important. Labour did very badly in lower middle class dominated areas

    trevor fisher.

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  7. David Pavett says:

    The election analysis summarised by Peter Rowlands is interesting. However, I would caution against the line of approach which looks at these results and then ponders on such questions as “what do we need to do to attract the votes of the over 65s” or any other group come to that. Is there not a danger that such thinking contributes to the problems rather than solving them since it is uncomfortably close to the idea that each group needs its own specific offers to make Labour attractive. This in turn reinforces the assumption that people only vote for reasons of self interest.

    Of course, many do vote on perceived self-interest but very large numbers do not and have wider ideas about what is in the interests of society as a whole or in the interests of the most vulnerable. I think that there is a significant proportion of the over 65s who think that way but who have become cynical about politics and politicians. Appealing to such people by trying to offer them something just for them could well end up alienating them even further.

    Before Labour is in a position to think about how to present its programme to different groups in society it needs a decent programme based on solid analysis of our social problems and the solutions that are required to resolve them. That surely is the missing piece and detailed psephological considerations, interesting and important though they will distract from clear political thinking if they are not based on getting the social analysis and the programme based on it right.

    It is the lack of such analysis and a decent programme that reduces people to thinking only along “what’s in it for me?” lines.

  8. Peter Rowlands says:

    I didnt actually say, as David implies, that a programme should be tailored to a particular age or social group. I did say that turnout by younger voters and Tory voting by older voters were problems that Labour had to tackle.Trevor is quite right – we must understand what went wrong, and we are discussing how to do that.

    1. David Pavett says:

      Peter, if I seemed to imply that you propose tailoring Labour’s programme to the perceived self-interests of particular social groups that was not my intention. I think that the data you summarise is important and that your summary us very helpful. My point was only that if this material is taken in isolation from a critique of Labour’s politics then it will inevitably encourage the approach that limits Labour objectives to current prejudices.

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