Revealed: The voter groups Labour must win over again to take power

11th August, 2017 8:39 am

Labour must win over a fresh cohort of socially conservative “settler” voters if it is to win a majority, according to a new analysis from a campaigning expert and former top Labour official.

Jeremy Corbyn’s party has strong backing from the “Glastonbury set”, seen as liberal and idealistic voters, but needs to bolster its popularity among two other groups – individualistic types driven by personal success and those voters worried about change, research published today on LabourList shows.

The study was based on two surveys of 2,000 people – carried out before the Labour surge and then after the vote – and aims to explain how Labour lost the heartland seat of Middlesborough South and East Cleveland, but scored a shock victory in the formerly true blue seat of Kensington, through Emma Dent Coad, top right.

It sets out how Labour delivered a significant increase in its support among all three groups: altruistic Pioneers, driven by ethics and inner-fulfilment, aspirational Prospectors, driven by image and individual success, and socially conservative Settlers driven by safety and anxiety about change.

With the last of the three groups, Settlers, Labour moved from 18 per cent in late April to 35 per cent on polling day, writes David Evans, a former assistant general secretary of the Labour Party who now runs The Campaign Company. But he adds that, while Labour weren’t as “toxic” with this group, they were still well beaten by the Tories – who secured 49 per cent of Settlers.

“Labour’s exceptional campaign saw Corbyn claw back numbers from all three groupings. But the final result still shows an electorate divided by values. Pioneers, who tend to be educated, affluent and urbane, rejected Theresa May’s social conservativism… But Labour is now the definitive Pioneer party…and the Conservatives the principal Settler one.”

Corbyn performed better than expected among Prospectors but this group of voters is “politically skittish” and can easily become non-voters or shy Tories, as they did in 2015, Evans added.

“This time around [in 2017], they were perhaps motivated by Labour’s retail policies and sense of optimism – especially when faced with a Conservative Party which didn’t discuss the economy or indeed offer much at all for the aspirational pragmatist. The challenge for Labour will be to keep hold of them as circumstances change.”

The analysis also underlines how Brexit has divided the nation and the apparent contradiction that working class ex-Labour supporters voted for a Brexit which could leave them poorer.

“The Remain vote looks remarkably like Labour’s 2017 vote, and the Leave vote rather like the current Tory base,” Evans writes.

David Evans: Head or heart? New polling analysis shows Brexit may be changing how people vote

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