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30 May 2023

Could millennials become Conservative voters after all?

New research suggests they don’t like the party but that their values aren’t so dissimilar.

By Freddie Hayward

Breaking news: young people don’t like the Conservative Party. That’s the story of a new report from the centre-right think tank Onward, called “Missing Millennials”. They found that millennials – which they define as aged 25-40 – back Labour over the Conservatives by two to one.

Are there any positives? Rishi Sunak comes out well – relatively. The generation prefers Sunak to his party by 25 points (imperfectly measured by comparing those with a favourable view of Sunak to their intention to vote Conservative). The party’s brand is tarnished, therefore their best chance of closing that gap rests with promoting Sunak. This is yet more evidence that a presidential strategy, which puts the Prime Minister at the forefront of all party messaging between now and the next election, is the Conservatives’ best shot.

What else could the party do to win over a generation that is 26 per cent of the adult population and the largest cohort in 51 per cent of constituencies? The polling suggests a rejuvenated policy offer would be key. We often talk about voters’ priorities in Morning Call. The economy and the NHS are the top priorities for millennials, just like their fellow citizens. But Onward’s research finds that housing and lower taxes are top-five issues for millennials unlike the population at large.

“Millennials are not necessarily voting for the Conservative Party in huge numbers, but they do hold conservative values,” the Tory MP Bim Afolami writes in the foreword. That’s the problem: the Conservatives haven’t been very conservative. They have led Britain to its highest tax burden since the war, and millennials’ level of home ownership is lower than previous generations at the same age. And there are few signs the government will make serious progress with housing or taxation before the next election.

Cue Labour. The FT and the Guardian report this morning that the party is drawing up plans to reduce what councils pay when purchasing land to build homes. At the moment, councils must pay more to reflect the value of the land if it had planning permission, a key difference that some estimates suggest increases the price on average by 275 times. Keir Starmer is setting himself up for a fight with landowners and green-belt activists. Not a bad idea if you want to keep millennials from turning Tory.

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This piece first appeared in the Morning Call newsletter; subscribe to it on Substack here.

[See also: How is anyone surprised that millennials aren’t turning Tory?]

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