The 2019 GE: Individual’s, their opinions & how they voted
The 2019 election witnessed a deepening of the social and political divides the two main parties represent. This blog post outlines how Labour and the Conservative Party secured contrasting voters by outlining the social profiles of each party’s base, and then displaying the distribution of opinions on key issues for each of these bases. This blog post highlights how Labour’s base became more reliant on younger, higher educated, Remain, pro migrant and anti-Brexit voters. In constant, the Conservative Party’s base became more comprised of older, less educated, Leave, pro-Brexit and anti-immigration voters. Therefore, the article concludes that British politics in the coming years will likely be framed around debates that represent this divide.
Age and Education:
Table 1 - Voting Intention by age, British Election Study 2019 data.
The 2019 election brought a clear generational divide with younger cohorts stating they were likely to vote Labour at a much greater rate than the average response. Younger voters also were much less likely to indicate Conservative support throughout the 2019 election campaign. Conversely, older voters on average expressed much greater levels of commitment towards voting for the Conservative Party, giving Labour considerably less support throughout the campaign. Moreover, this trend deepened from voting patterns in 2017 where there was also a clear generational divide.
The qualification divide was also quite clearly present in the 2019 election. Those with fewer qualifications on average were much more likely to think of voting for the Conservative Party. Few voters with low level qualifications said they were likely to vote Labour. Alternatively, voters with higher levels of qualifications were considerably more likely to think of voting Labour than compared to the Conservative Party. This trend occurred in the 2017 election also, indicating that there has been increasing sociological divisions in voting patterns post-Brexit. These divisions also appear to have deepened across the two years between the 2017 and 2019 election. This again highlights how the parties support bases have altered post-Brexit.
Voting intention and the Remain/Leave divide:
The 2017 election brought clear Brexit divides amongst voters and the 2019 election strengthened this pattern. The issue of Brexit made the 2017-‘19 parliament impotent and as the stalemate lingered divides around Brexit grew.
Voting intention across the campaign displayed a heavy divide amongst people who had voted in the 2016 EU referendum. Those who had voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum clearly were considerably more likely to back Labour, or another left/liberal party, than compared to the Conservatives throughout the election campaign. Meanwhile, those who had voted to Leave the EU were overwhelmingly more likely to indicate they were intending to vote Conservative throughout the election. Both these trends did not fluctuate that much during the campaign, indicating that these are deep divides and the election campaign made little impact. If anything, the divide deepened through the election with Leave voters flocking to the Conservatives, and the Remain vote moving to back Labour, as Labour more clearly stated they would hold a 2nd referendum. Interestingly, this trend was stronger than it was in 2017 where the pattern was also visible.
The future of Brexit:
A key divide surrounding Brexit was how to proceed with the EU referendum result itself. This spanned across a quite broad spectrum of options, ranging from cancelling Brexit, a 2nd referendum and ending the negotiations with a No Deal Brexit. Views on this spectrum clearly divided the voters into distinct party allegiances with those relaxed about the idea of cancelling Brexit altogether much more likely to vote for Labour and the Lib-Dems. Those opposed to this option backed the Conservatives or the Brexit Party. On the other end of the spectrum, those thinking a No deal Brexit should be a way forward overwhelmingly backed the Conservative’s and much less so Labour and the Lib-Dems. Meanwhile, the position of opting for a 2nd referendum correlated much higher with Labour and Liberal voting intentions, much more so than with Conservative support. Conversely, accepting the deal the UK had, Johnson’s renegotiated deal, was much preferred amongst Conservative supporters than Liberal and Labour support.
Crucially, all this indicates that positions voters took on what could be an acceptable, or unacceptable, way forward from the Brexit deadlock does appear to feed into voting intentions throughout the 2019 election, and from this cause the two main parties to have very different support bases.
Crucially, this trend was not limited to views on what Brexit outcomes would be acceptable, but also extended to voters’ most preferred Brexit policy. A majority of Labour voters most favoured a 2nd referendum, or cancelling Brexit altogether. Alternatively, when analysing Conservative voters the vast majority wanted to Leave, either with or without a deal. Most did want to Leave with Johnson’s deal, but did not want a referendum on this option. This again clearly shows how different views on Brexit encouraged voters into two separate camps that translated into a voting pattern that has altered traditional patterns of party support.
Boris Negotiated deal was key:
Johnson’s deal greatly divided the electorate. Those who favoured the deal, or felt that it made no major difference to the country, backed the Conservative Party throughout the entire campaign. Meanwhile, those who felt the deal was poor mostly backed Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Vitally, my thesis’ regression analysis shows that in all probability perceptions around the credibility and quality of Boris’ Johnson’s deal greatly encouraged these the electorate to divide into either Conservative or Labour/Lib-Dem camps in the 2019 election. Therefore, this again shows how divisions around such issues approaching and during the 2019 election helped shift the parties bases of support.
EU Negotiation Priority by 2019 voting intention:
Table 2 - Percentage of voters who prioritised keeping EU Market Access vs those who preferred to secure migration controls. Table 2 shows a roughly even amount of voters had these differing prioritises.
When asking voters what their main priorities were concerning the outcome of the Brexit negotiations responses were evenly distributed, with roughly equal amounts of voters thinking gaining market access and migration controls to be important. However, this distribution becomes very uneven when breaking down views by party support. There is a heavy skew towards the Conservative Party concerning voters who prioritised gaining migration controls from the EU negotiations. Meanwhile, voters who felt that keeping economic access to EU markets should be the highest priority during the negotiations were more likely to back Labour. This again highlights how a consistent set of views over the Brexit debate helped to shape the two main parties' voting bases during the 2019 election.
A consistent Brexit divide:
The EU divide was repeated across many variables. For example, individuals who identified as more European than British were more likely to back Labour and those seeing themselves as British were more likely to back the Tories. Further, when a voter perceived Brexit to bring a negative effect to the NHS, British economy, future trade and UK influence they tended to be much more probable to back Labour, or another left-liberal party, over the Tories. Alternatively, when a voter felt optimistic about the future of Brexit they backed the Conservative’s often over any other alternatives, especially Labour and the Lib-Dems.
Those who felt that immigration has made a positive impact on UK culture were more likely to think about voting for Labour, or another Left/Liberal Party, such as the Lib-Dems. Meanwhile, those who were most likely to pledge support to the Conservatives tended to agree with the view that immigration was either bad for UK culture, or had no clear positive affect. Voters who considered voting for the Brexit Party mostly comprised of negative views towards immigration and its cultural impact. Therefore, there is a clear trend of the immigration issue divide separating voters into distinct voting blocs. This divide is also more distinct than that of the pattern found in the 2017 election, indicating a growing significance of the divide. The 2019 election also saw a division between views on the economic impact of migration and voting intention. Voters who felt immigration was likely to be something that harmed the economy intended to vote for the Conservatives and the Brexit Party. Those who felt that immigration was beneficial to UK economic output sided mostly with Liberal and left wing parties, such as Labour & the Lib-Dems. Therefore, there is some evidence that diverging views on new important issues may have altered the main parties’ support bases.
Reducing migration levels views:
Table 3 - Reducing migration numbers by voting intention, BES 2019.
People who favoured reducing net migration the most tended to indicate support for the Brexit and Conservative Party throughout the campaign. This is probably because these were the two parties most rated in their ability to perform on the migration issue in terms of being able to get numbers down. Meanwhile, those less concerned with reducing migration tended to back Labour at a higher rate than the average vote share they received in the election. Although many voters did not trust Labour to be able to handle the issue it appears these voters did not prioritise reducing migrant numbers and indicated a strong likelihood of voting Labour throughout the campaign. Therefore, it appears those who are more culturally conservative on the question of migration numbers tended to opt for the Conservative Party, whilst those on the liberal side backed Labour. Crucially, it can again be said that wide-spread and deep divides shaped the blocs of voters who formed the main parties voting bases.
Voter’s Immigration priorities:
The theory that voters who did not prioritise immigration were more likely to vote Labour is strengthened as few voters who expressed support for Labour, and the Lib-Dems also, stated they themselves thought the issue of immigration should be a priority. Equally few of these voters felt the Labour Party in government would prioritise the issue, indicating that Labour not taking a tough stance on migration may have helped them win certain types of voters.
The Conservatives gained support from voters who personally felt the immigration issue should be a priority for any UK government, and that the Conservatives would prioritise the issue. This was also the case for Brexit Party voters. This indicates again those who took a more cautious approach to immigration were mostly divided into right authoritarian parties, whilst those more relaxed about the current state of migration tended to opt for left Liberal parties. This indicates that views on these new important issues have created a new ideological divide that has translated into distinct voting patterns which have altered the two main parties support bases and their chances of winning general elections.
Cultural Liberalism vs Cultural Conservativism:
Throughout this blog post there has been the assertion that the socio-political divides discussed throughout have created a new ideological divide that has re-shaped the two main parties’ support bases. This divide in academia is broadly described as the cultural liberal-conservative divide. Creating a measurement for this variable and analysing how these different camps voted for the two main parties it can be said that the parties did represent this new divide quite strongly. A large proportion of Labour’s secured vote could be described as culturally liberal. In contrast, the Conservative Party’s base could be characterised as culturally conservative. Therefore, this new social and political divide can be argued to have reshaped the parties voting bases in the 2019 election, and therefore helped to alter British politics.
The two main parties’ voting bases clearly came from quite different sections of the electorate. The Labour and Conservative Party’s social bases of support have become quite different, with younger individuals with higher-level qualifications tending to back Labour throughout the 2019 election and older voters with fewer qualifications instead supporting the Tories. Moreover, the political divide between Labour and Conservative Party voters in 2019 was deep on two key issues, Brexit and immigration. Those fearful of Brexit’s impact and thought that Boris’ deal was not worth the cost of leaving the EU mostly backed Labour and the Lib-Dems, whilst the Conservative Party relied heavily upon voters who were optimistic Brexit voters and backed Boris’, or no, Brexit deal. Further, those who most wanted migration reduced and felt that current migration flows was harming the UK’s economy and culture supported the Tories, whilst those less anxious about migration flows tended to bolster Labour’s vote share. Finally, these divides were consistent through a number of questions that related to the EU and migration issues, suggesting that a wider ideological divide existed between Labour and the Conservative Party’s bases. This new divide can be described as cultural liberalism vs cultural conservativism and when this blog placed voters on this divide Labour can be said to dominate culturally liberal voters, whilst in contrast the Tories commanded culturally conservative voters’ loyalty. As a result, the blog concludes that the two main parties gained support from very different sections of the electorate who clearly were divided social, politically and especially on Brexit’s future.