Conservative conference lookahead | 05 October 2011

The who, when and where of the Conservative conference.

Look out for:

Prime Minister David Cameron will address the Tory conference at 14:30. He will talk about the "anxious time", in which we find ourselves at present, but try to encourage voters by saying that the economy can still be lifted out of its current state.

Despite the job losses, high housing prices and austerity measures, he will say that British people should not be weighted down by "gloom and fear". Taking India and China as an example, Cameron will talk of finding the "Spirit of Britain", a home-grown formula for economic success.
"I am here to tell you that is not true. If we correct the mistakes and take on the vested interests of the past, I know we can turn this ship around," he will say.

The prime minister will speak of the need to deal with the European crisis and then dealing with the reduction of Britain's own deficit. As reported by the BBC, he will address the issue of the UK's deficit reduction by saying:

"This was no normal recession; we're in a debt crisis. It was caused by too much borrowing, by individuals, businesses, banks and - most of all - governments.

"The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households - all of us - paying off the credit card and store card bills."

In an uplifting note to end the party conference, Cameron will argue that the government will provide the people with strong leadership and that they continue their work to stabilise the country's economy. "Slowly, but surely", he will say, "we're laying the foundations for a better future".

Signs of Trouble

Cameron's speech will be an acknowledgement that the UK has not seen the end of the economic crisis. The instability in the Euro area requires the immediate attention of the European governments, as Greece's bailout is still being discussed and Italy's downgrading by the credit rating agency Moody's, has created further turmoil. The question that lies on everybody's lips is whether the Eurozone will survive in its current form and what knock-on effects there will be on the UK.

The prime minister's speech will also be overshadowed by a ComRes poll for ITV, shows that over half the voters described Cameron's leadership in economic matters and in his role in the Euro crisis as "fairly" or "very poor". Voter did however grade him positively on his statesman-like manner and his handling of the riots this summer.

Conference Timetable

10.00 - Policy forum
11.15 - Debate on defence and foreign policy with a speech by Defence Secretary Liam Fox
14.30 - Speech by Prime Minister David Cameron

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Forget the flat caps - this is what Labour voters really look like

Young, educated women are more typical than older, working-class men. 

In announcing the snap election, Theresa May set out her desire to create a “more united” country in the aftermath of last year’s referendum. But as the campaign begins, new YouGov analysis of over 12,000 people shows the demographic dividing lines of British voters.

Although every voter is an individual, this data shows how demographics relate to electoral behaviour. These divides will shape the next few weeks – from the seats the parties target to the key messages they use. Over the course of the campaign we will not just be monitoring the “headline” voting intention numbers, but also the many different types of voters that make up the electorate. 

Class: No longer a good predictor of voting behaviour

“Class” used to be central to understanding British politics. The Conservatives, to all intents and purposes, were the party of the middle class and Labour that of the workers. The dividing lines were so notable that you could predict, with a reasonable degree of accuracy, how someone would vote just by knowing their social grade. For example at the 1992 election the Conservatives led Labour amongst ABC1 (middle class) voters by around 30 percentage points, whilst Labour was leading amongst C2DE (working class) voters by around 10 points.

But today, class would tell you little more about a person’s voting intention that looking at their horoscope or reading their palms. As this campaign starts, the Conservatives hold a 22 per cent lead amongst middle class voters and a 17 per cent lead amongst working class ones.

Age: The new dividing line in British politics

In electoral terms, age is the new class. The starkest way to show this is to note that Labour is 19 per cent ahead when it comes to 18-24 year-olds, and the Conservatives are ahead by 49 per cent among the over 65s. Our analysis suggest that the current tipping point – which is to say the age where voters are more likely to favour the Conservatives over Labour – is 34.

In fact, for every 10 years older a voter is, their chance of voting Tory increases by around 8 per cent and the chance of them voting Labour decreases by 6 per cent. This age divide could create further problems for Labour on 8 June. Age is also a big driver of turnout, with older people being far more likely to vote than young people. It’s currently too early to tell the exact impact this could have on the final result.

Gender: The Conservative’s non-existent “women problem”

Before the last election David Cameron was sometimes described as having a “woman problem”. Our research at the time showed this narrative wasn’t quite accurate. While it was true that the Conservativexs were doing slightly better amongst young men than young women, they were also doing slightly better among older women than older men.

However, these two things cancelled each other out meaning that ultimately the Conservatives polled about the same amongst both men and women. Going into the 2017 election women are, if anything, slightly more (three percentage points) likely overall to vote Tory.

Labour has a large gender gap among younger voters. The party receives 42 per cent of the under-40 women’s vote compared to just 32 per cent amongst men of the same age – a gap of nine points. However among older voters this almost disappears completely. When you just look at the over-40s, the gap is just two points – with 21 per cent of women and 19 per cent of men of that age saying they will vote Labour.

With both of the two main now parties performing better amongst women overall, it’s the other parties who are balancing this out by polling better amongst men. Ukip have the support of 2 per cent more men than women, whilst the gender gap is 3 per cent for the Lib Dems. 

Education: The higher the qualification, the higher Labour’s vote share

Alongside age, education has become one of the key electoral demographic dividing lines. We saw it was a huge factor in the EU referendum campaign and, after the last general election, we made sure we accounted for qualifications in our methodology. This election will be no different. While the Conservatives lead amongst all educational groupings, their vote share decrease for every extra qualification a voter has, whilst the Labour and Lib Dem vote share increases.

Amongst those with no formal qualifications, the Conservative lead by 35 per cent. But when it comes to those with a degree, the Tory lead falls to 8 per cent. Education also shapes other parties’ vote shares. Ukip also struggles amongst highly educated voters, polling four times higher amongst those with no formal qualifications compared to those with a degree.

Income: Labour’s tax increase won’t affect many Labour voters

John McDonnell, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has already made income part of this campaign by labelling those who earn above £70,000 a year as “rich” and hinting they may face tax rises. One of the reasons for the policy might be that the party has very few votes to lose amongst those in this tax bracket.

Amongst those earning over £70,000 a year, Labour is in third place with just 11 per cent support. The Conservatives pick up 60 per cent of this group’s support and the Lib Dems also perform well, getting almost a fifth (19 per cent) of their votes.

But while the Conservatives are still the party of the rich, Labour is no longer the party of the poor. They are 13 per cent behind amongst those with a personal income of under £20,000 a year, although it is worth noting that this group will also include many retired people who will be poor in terms of income but rich in terms of assets.

Chris Curtis is a politics researcher at YouGov. 

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