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The UK General Election of May 6th 2010

Page last edited: 26/12/2016

I have noticed in October 2014 that several links in this document to IPSOS MORI documents have been broken but have now repaired most of them. This is entirely due to negligence on my part and I apologise for any inconvenience caused!

New Links added June 2012

Click here here and  here for IPSOS MORI data on  long term and  the most recent trends in voting intention 2010-2014 . The recent data are of course regularly updated

Click here  and then follow the relevant links for YouGov data on long term and the most recent trends in voting intention: 2010-2012. The recent data are of course regularly updated

New Link added October  2012

Click here for YouGov article by Peter Kellner on Labour's Lost Votes 

New Link added November 2012

Click here for You Gov data on Social Class and Voting Behaviour in March 2012 and November 2012 indicating significant [although perhaps temporary ] changes since May 2010.

 

My Voting Behaviour documents have now been restructured, updated and revised. The original version of this document has been divided into two sections with little further revision but the original document on the 1970s to the 1990s has been divided into two sections and revised quite significantly in an effort to clarify the differences between the various models of voting behaviour developed from the 1970s to the 1990s. The third document on the General Elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 will remain unchanged for the time being and I have also written a  document on the 2010 General Election. which, as usual,  includes links to the excellent IPSOS MORI coverage. I have also collected a page of links on the 2015 General Election. Thus the new structure is as follows:

  1. Part A: The Analysis of Voting Behaviour in Great Britain: Electoral Stability, Party Identification and Social Class 1945-1970

  2. Part B: Non-Class Influences on Voting Behaviour 1945-2010

  1. Part A: Models of Voting Behaviour

  2. Part B: The UK General Elections of 1992 and 1997

 

  • Voting Behaviour in the UK : Document Four: The UK General Election of May 6th 2010 

 

 

 

 

Further Reading

  1. Explaining Cameron's Coalition: How it came about : an Analysis of the 2010 British General Election: Robert Worcester, Roger Mortimore, Paul Baines and Mark Gill 2010
  2. The British General Election of 2010: Dennis Kavanagh and Philip Cowley  2010
  3. Britain at the Polls 2010 : Nicholas Allen and John Bartle {Editors] 2010
  4. Britain Votes  2010 : Andrew Geddes and Jonathan Tonge [Editors] 2010
  5. Campaign 2010; The Making of the Prime Minister: Nicholas Jones 2010
  6. The Conservative Party from Thatcher to Cameron : Tim Bale 2010
  7. Back from the Brink: The Inside Story of the Tory Resurrection : Peter Snowdon 2011
  8. The End of the Party : The Rise and Fall of New Labour : Andrew Rawnsley2010
  9. Whatever it Takes: The Real Story of Gordon Brown and New Labour :Steve Richards 2010
  10. Back from the Brink: 1000 Days at Number 11 Alistair Darling 2011
  11. Peace , Reform and Liberation; A History of Liberal Politics in Britain 1679-2011 Robert Ingham and Duncan Black [Editors] 2011 [Chapter 10 covers 1988 -2011]

Useful Links

  1. Click here for BBC 2010 General Election homepage

  2. Click here for BBC on the career of Gordon Brown

  3. Click here for BBC on the career of David Cameron

  4. Click here for BBC Election Coverage: Key Moments....includes brief extracts from the TV debates.  Also on the Right of this page you will find a "Day at a Glance" facility which refers you to the BBC coverage of each day of the General Election Campaign.

  5. Click here for Guardian Video clip [9 minutes] of the highlights of the first TV debate

  6. Guardian Coverage of the General Election

  7. Guardian Interactive on unemployment trends 1984-2010

  8. Guardian Interactive on comparative National Debt and Deficit Trends 1960-2011

  9. Daily Telegraph Coverage of the General Election

  10. The Great Debate Election {Andrew Roberts for the Daily Telegraph]

  11. Independent Assessment of the General Election Result.  and Steve Richards on "The New Politics .[Look at the list of related articles and you can also use the Independent's Day in  a Page Article Archive facility  to find further very useful articles.  For example Click here for an assessment of Gordon Brown and here for the first day of the Coalition Government

  12. IPSOS MORI coverage of the 2010 General Election ...information on class, gender, age and voting behaviour, issue saliency, party leadership and much more.

  13. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election

  14. IPSOS MORI and Party Leadership ....post 2010 General Election   ***

  15.  Ipsos Mori: The Mass Media and Voting Behaviour t1992-2010

  16. Click here for Nick Robinson on the formation of the Coalition

  17. Guardian coverage of Lord Ashcroft's critique of Conservative Electoral Strategy

  18. Click here for the BES Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election.

  19. Click here for Labour former Cabinet Minister Liam Byrne's Analysis of the 2010 General Election.

  20. Click here for a Runnymede Trust/BES Slide Presentation on Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2010 General Election

  21. Click here for the index of Commons Library Parliamentary Briefings. Once you reach the index page search use the relevant search categories to choose politics, parliament and government and then general elections. Choose the year 2011 [since the briefing for the 2010 General Election was actually published in Feb 2011] . You will then need to download the PDF  file which will take about one minute. It is worth it though.

  22. Click here for the LSE Centre for Economic Performance analysis of key General Election issues and policies

  23. Click here for Lord Ashcroft's Publication [April 2012] on Ethnicity and Voting Behaviour

  24. Click here for The Conservative Dilemma by Jon Trickett [a Labour Party perspective on recent opinion poll trends]

  25. Click here for detailed, technical article on Issue Voting by  Samantha Laycock {Goldsmiths College, University of London] and John Bartle [University of Essex]

 

 

The UK General Election of May 6th 2010 [This document is rather long and I hope that students will find the following navigation links useful and that  the Summary will be helpful  for examination revision purposes]

 

Gordon Brown had waited for a long time  to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party but when he finally did so it was not under very auspicious circumstances.

  1. Commentators had documented evidence of the deep seated rivalries which existed between Tony Blair and Gordon  Brown even before the former came to be Leader of the Labour Party in 1994. As Tony Blair's tenure of the Premiership lengthened Gordon Brown increasingly came to believe that Blair had betrayed promises to step down in his favour and this exacerbated conflict between the two men  with clearly adverse consequences for overall government effectiveness.

  2. It was widely believed eventually that Gordon Brown and his supporters had actually forced Tony Blair to resign "not under circumstances of his own choosing" which meant that Brown took over a Labour Party which was now disunited and seen as such by many voters.

  3. It had appeared, that no other senior Labour Party politician would be able to defeat Brown in a Labour Leadership contest so that Brown was consequently elected unopposed as Labour Party leader and then automatically became Prime Minister without winning a general election. It has been fairly common for UK Prime Ministers to be replaced between general elections as exemplified most recently by the replacement of Harold Wilson by James Callaghan in 1976 and of Margaret Thatcher by John Major in 1990 but at least James Callaghan and John Major had faced elections to become leaders of their respective parties which Gordon Brown had not. Consequently there were initially fairly strong feelings among voters [especially among those not fully conversant with the workings of the UK Constitution] that Gordon Brown's position as Prime Minister was lacking in legitimacy and that he should ideally call a general election as soon as possible.

  4. Labour by 2007 had been in government for 10 years and although it had won "landslide" General Election victories in 1997 and 2001 its margin of victory in the 2005 General Election was much smaller and there was growing evidence of increasing voter disillusion with the New Labour project. Gordon Brown as Chancellor had sometimes attempted to distance himself from Blairism but since in many respects he had been the main architect of much of Labour's domestic policy both he and the Labour Party could be expected to suffer electorally as  a result of its declining popularity.

  5. Given that by 2010 Labour had been in office for 13 years it was clear that "Time for a Change " would be a major General Election theme. Therefore it would be essential for Gordon Brown as new Labour Prime Minister to offer the realistic prospect of "renewal" and "change"  within the Labour Government and to convince the electorate that he would craft a coherent future strategy appropriate to the needs and wishes of the British electorate . If he failed to do so he could expect to be punished at the next General Election as voters might turn instead to David Cameron who  would claim to have modernised the Conservative Party  or to the Liberal Democrats and  Nick Clegg who would criticise what he claimed were the tired solutions of "the two old parties" .

  6. Gordon Brown replaced Tony Blair as PM  on 27th June 2007 and it has been suggested that Gordon Brown hoped initially to spend about one year establishing himself as a credible leader of a changed, rejuvenated Labour Government before calling a General Election perhaps in May 2008.

  7. However Brown's apparently assured handling of two terrorist incidents and the problems associated with severe flooding and an out break of foot and mouth disease resulted in a surge in Labour's opinion poll ratings at the beginning of Brown's Premiership and the "Run" on branches of Northern Rock in September may also have encouraged voters to believe that any such financial difficulties would be handled more effectively by the experienced Gordon brown and the steady Alistair Darling rather than by the as yet untried David Cameron and George Osborne. Consequently speculation mounted that Brown might call an early General Election  which however  Brown chose not to do when opinion poll data from marginal constituencies indicated that Labour was far from certain to win an early General Election. The popularity of the Labour Government and of Gordon Brown then declined seriously , and despite some recovery at various times during the next three years a Labour victory never seemed likely although in the Spring of 2010 some narrowing of the polls suggested  that even if an outright Labour victory was unlikely Gordon Brown  might at least avoid outright defeat despite the many difficulties which he, his party  and the country had faced between 2007 and 2010.  And so it proved to be!  

  8. Students requiring detailed information on the Brown Premiership should consult the reading list above  but in summary the major difficulties faced by Gordon  Brown during the course of his premiership included the following. It should be noted that some of the issues listed were more significant than others but that all combined to damage Labour's electoral prospects.

Gordon Brown, therefore , had faced a difficult time as Prime Minister, and opinion poll data suggested that David Cameron was rated as potentially a far more effective Prime Minister, sometimes by significant margins. It could be suggested that Gordon Brown's low personal poll ratings helped to depress the poll ratings of the Labour Party as a whole yet, despite all the difficulties facing Gordon Brown and the Labour Party opinion poll data in the Spring of 2010 began to narrow. David Cameron was still preferred to Gordon Brown as a future Prime Minister and the Conservatives were still ahead of Labour in the polls but by margins suggesting that a Hung Parliament rather than an outright Conservative victory was the most likely outcome.  

 

In 2005 the Conservative Party went down to its 3rd consecutive General Election defeat albeit a narrower defeat than in 1997 and 2001. However in 2005 The Conservative Party was still perceived widely as the party of the privileged few rather than the many; as out of touch with ordinary people; as more preoccupied  with the interests of big business than with the interests of society as a whole; as unlikely to spend sufficient government money to defend public sector services and as generally critical of public sector workers; and as overly preoccupied with issues around law and order, taxation, the EU, immigration and asylum seekers; as outdated in its attitudes toward marriage and the family; and as unwilling to address sympathetically serious issues around national and international poverty , environment and development. With this catalogue of disadvantages it would be no simple matter to achieve victory in the next General Election and also although David Cameron might seek to reposition the Conservatives toward the Centre of British Politics he would also need to take account of  the more Right -wing views of many Conservative MPs, members and voters and within the Conservative press. David Cameron would find the management of Right-Wing opposition within his own party rather easier once the Conservatives established a clear opinion poll lead over Labour although criticism intensified again once the Conservatives' lead began to narrow in the Autumn of 2009. ,

David Cameron and his close advisers argued that if the Conservative Party was to win  the next General Election it would be necessary to "modernise" the Party. This would involve the renovation of Conservative doctrine or ideology [although many Conservatives still eschew the use of  this word]; the re-branding of the Conservative image and the modification of Conservative Party policies. With regard to ideology or doctrine Cameron's difficult task would be to distance the Party from Thatcherism in a manner which would appeal to centrist voters without alienating unduly the many Conservative MPs, members and voters  who still revered Lady Thatcher and her policies and also to differentiate a new and apparently more centrist Conservative Party from what David Cameron  [and many others] considered to be the now discredited ideology of New Labour.

The Conservative had made some limited attempts initially during  the leadership of William Hague and subsequently of Iain Duncan Smith to promote so-called Compassionate Conservatism which emphasised Conservative concerns to alleviate poverty, inequality and social deprivation. This theme was given even greater emphasis by David Cameron  who quickly set up six policy development groups [Economic Competitiveness, National and International Security, Overseas Aid, Globalisation and Global Poverty, Public Service Reform, Quality of Life and Social Justice  ]and appointed Iain Duncan Smith as chairman of the Social Justice Policy group which published reports entitled Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain in 2006 and 2007. On the basis of these reports David Cameron stressed that it would be necessary for the Conservatives to fix our" Broken Society" but that this would not be achieved solely via increased intervention from the central state. Instead although the state would provide some  guidance our Broken Society" was to be fixed primarily via the development of "The Big Society."  

Click here for  a rather critical assessment of the Conservatives' approach  to the eradication of poverty. Of course Conservatives would reject such criticisms.

Much of David Cameron's new strategy appeared to be encapsulated in the now well known phrase  that "There is such a thing as society but it is just not the same thing as the state." In this single phrase  Cameron could signal that he wished to distance the Conservative Party from what centrist voters might see as the excessive individualism associated with Thatcherism as exemplified in her statement that "There is no such thing as society", a statement which has, however been subject to much misinterpretation, and to distance the Conservative Party also from what he saw as the excessive top- down centralism and bureaucratic regulation associated with the New Labour State. In Cameron's view in the new post-bureaucratic era  excessive state power could be reined in and replaced by the development of the Big Society.

Essentially the notion of  the Big Society suggested that the inefficiencies of excessive state control could be overcome via the reform of the public sector involving the growth of so-called quasi -markets within the public sector which would increase competition and consumer choice , the increased devolution of decision-making from Central to Local Government, the increased reliance on the Third Sector for the provision of services and the increased involvement of individual citizens .

 Of course there is more to The Big Society than this . Its critics have claimed that it underestimates the crucial role of the central state in the provision of public services and amounts only to a fig leaf designed to hide Cameron's true aim which is to shrink the central state and promote the expansion of the private sector for ideological reasons, claims which of course David Cameron and his supporters deny.  However  one significant problem which David Cameron did face was that although The Big Society was much emphasised in the 2010 Conservative Manifesto it was not an idea that canvassers found helpful on the doorsteps as many potential voters apparently found the concept quite difficult to grasp and were unenthused by it. Then once "Cleggmania "reared its head  especially during and after the first TV Debate it may be that  Conservative strategists felt it was more important to focus on the dangers of a Hung Parliament [!} and the potential introduction of Proportional Representation which tended reduce the time available for clarification of the nature of the Big Society.  Nevertheless the concept does apparently continue to influence the development of Coalition Government policy. 

See also  David Cameron's Big Idea  : A three  part Radio 4 Series presented by Steve Richards and  The Political Ideology of The Cameron-Clegg Coalition Government by Kevin Hickson  and click here for a critical perspective on the Big Society from Peter Beresford Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University. Of course supporters of The Big Society idea would reject the Professor's criticisms. 

David Cameron's strategy would eventually contain the following main elements.

  1. He would aim firstly to address the negative image of the Conservative Party which was widely seen as so "nasty" or "toxic" that many voters had simply written off the party as a credible alternative government and in many cases had ceased to listen to the Conservatives even if and when they articulated plausible policies. In this respect much has been made of the findings that respondents  might initially support particular policies but would reject the same policies if they were first told that they were actually Conservative policies.

  2. Cameron therefore hoped first to improve the overall image of the party in the hope that  it would then at least receive what he considered to be a fairer hearing from the electorate. To this end he emphasised that the Conservatives recognised that the funding and organisation of the NHS and State Education services were important issues for the vast majority of the electorate and that the Conservatives would both fund these services adequately  and devise new policies  which would be more effective than what he described as Labour's centralist, top-down , over-bureaucratised approach.

  3. Consequently the Conservatives under Cameron would be prepared to fight the next General Election on what were likely to be among the most salient issues of the Campaign [Health and Education] which previous Conservative campaigns had downplayed for fear that these were "Labour's issues" any coverage of which would be likely to increase Labour's support. This also helped to explain why the Conservatives in the 2001 and 2005 General Elections had concentrated especially on issues of law and order, taxation, the EU , immigration and asylum which, although, salient to many Conservative voters,  were less salient to the electorate as a whole and , in particular, less salient to the voters whom the Conservatives needed to attract if they were to win. Cameron, would of course, also emphasise these issues but as part of a much more balanced strategy which also emphasised voters' core concerns in relation to public services., the environment and civil liberties.

  4. The Conservatives would also focus much more than in the past on environmental issues and civil liberties and  adopt a more "liberal" approach to law and order  To emphasise his commitment to the environment  a new Conservative logo was designed and David Cameron was filmed variously cycling to work or driving a team of huskies in the Artic [each of which unsurprisingly attracted criticisms of "spin rather than substance"]  while the Conservatives now opposed ID cards and the proposed introduction of stricter government regulation on detention without trial of terrorism suspects. Furthermore David Cameron did also initially signal a rather softer approach to juvenile crime which gave more attention to the underlying social causes of youth crime although the speech was reported dismissively in some sections of the media under the headline, "Hug a Hoodie". While such policy shifts may well have been indicative of David Cameron's own beliefs it is also true that the policies could be expected to attract wavering Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives.

  5.  Cameron's Conservatives also signalled a change in attitudes to family life. While traditional family life was still to be valued so too was the viability of family diversity: cohabitation, lone parenthood and single sex relationships would be supported by Cameron's Conservatives rather than criticised as they typically had been by proponents of neo-Conservatism.

  6. Cameron aimed to exercise greater centralised control over the selection of new prospective parliamentary candidates hoping to ensure that more women and British Minority Ethnic candidates would be chosen. However this initiative did occasionally result in acrimonious disputes between the Party leadership and the local constituencies over candidate selection.

  7. Cameron's  Conservatives were able to spend much more than Labour in on the long run up to the election campaign and during the campaign itself. They were helped considerably in this respect by Lord Ashcroft who channelled considerable amounts of his own money into Conservative marginals although Cameron and former Conservative Party leader did attract considerable criticism once it was realised that Lord Ashcroft was not registered as domiciled in the UK for tax purposes  despite his long standing promise that he intended to regularise his tax situation.

  8. The Conservatives recognised that at some point Gordon Brown was likely to replace Tony Blair as Prime Minister. By 2006 Brown's reputation as a highly successful Chancellor was still intact: his apparently effective management of the UK economy since 1997 had contributed significantly to Labour's second "landslide" victory in 2001 and to its third, albeit narrower victory in 2005 when most other aspects of the New Labour project were becoming increasingly unpopular [although still more popular than most of what was on offer from the Conservatives.] Consequently the Conservatives would need  to embark upon a systematic campaign to undermine the record of Gordon Brown as Chancellor  as a means of undermining his credibility as Prime Minister. The arrival of the credit crunch in 2007 and the economic recession in 2008 [ combined with Brown's  additional problems as outlined above] seemed to have give the Conservatives ample  opportunities  to destabilise Brown and at times Cameron did enjoy a substantial lead over Brown as the preferred next Prime Minister. However Brown and Darling continued to claim that they rather than Cameron and Osborne had the experience necessary to run the economy efficiently and the Conservatives' emphasis on the need for financial austerity may also have damaged them in the polls such that by May 2010 Cameron enjoyed only a narrow lead over Brown as preferred  Prime Minister and the Conservatives' lead over Labour on the management of the economy was also small.  

  9. Although there were significant changes in Conservative strategy under David Cameron's leadership this certainly did not mean that the Conservatives neglected traditional Conservative themes. Indeed David Cameron and his supporters believed that once they had "detoxified" the Conservative Party and "rebranded" it  as a more centrist, caring, compassionate, environmentally friendly and liberal party they would  then be able re-emphasise traditional Conservative themes of immigration, asylum, law and order, taxation and Europe  but using language and tone which would not antagonise more centrist voters as had occurred in 2001 and 2005. It had come to be recognised that many voters combine slightly left of centre vies on the economy and public services  with rather authoritarian views on law and order and immigration and asylum and that l immigration and asylum and, perhaps to a lesser extent law and order, were increasingly salient issues in the 2005 and 2010 General Election. Thus the Conservative Party would practise the so-called "Politics of AND", a term originally devised during the ill-fated leadership of Iain Duncan Smith:  Cameron's Conservative Party would be the Party of the NHS and  of law and order; the Party of State Education  and of stricter immigration controls  and in order to implement this strategy David Cameron did ,for example , make rather more authoritarian statements on immigration and crime in 2009 and 2010 than in the earlier years of his leadership.

  10. It could be argued that an electoral strategy based upon the Politics of AND had greater potential than the strategies deployed by the Conservatives in 2001 and 2005  but it was also the case that the Labour Party throughout the Blair Brown era had itself been alive to the potential electoral advantages of such a strategy and Brown was himself keen to demonstrate both his toughness on law and order and  national security and his desire to provide "British jobs for British workers."

  11. As will be illustrated below David Cameron did succeed in increasing his leadership credibility, the Conservatives, overall image did improve, the Conservatives were preferred to Labour as the Party best able to manage the economy and also preferred to Labour on asylum and immigration, taxation, law and order  and even , in some polls on education . However on leadership, party image and party policies these Conservative improvements were insufficient to secure outright victory not least because the UK electoral system certainly worked to the disadvantage of the Conservatives in 2010.Many voters may well have believed that it was time for a change but they were not quite sure that David Cameron and the Conservatives were offering the kind of change which they wanted.

  12. Click here for several links on the Ideology of the Conservative Party under David Cameron

Click here and here for BBC coverage of recent Liberal Democrat politics

Between 2005 and 2010 the Liberal Democrats were led by Charles Kennedy [1999- 7thJan 2006] , Sir Menzies Campbell [ 7th Jan 2006- 2March 2006 as interim leader and 2 March 2006-15th Oct 2007 as elected leader], Vince Cable [15th Oct 2007-18 Dec 2007 interim leader]  and Nick Clegg [18Dec 2007--]. Charles Kennedy was obliged to resign as a result of concerns within the Party surrounding his alcohol consumption levels and perceptions that he was insufficiently proactive in relation to future policy development. He was replaced by Sir Menzies Campbell [who had defeated Chris Huhne in the Party leadership contest] but although Campbell was widely respected for his knowledge of foreign policy and in particular for his effective presentation of the case against UK involvement in the invasion of Iraq he did not take well to the leadership role and once it became clear that there would be no General Election in late 2007  pressure built up within the party for Sir Menzies Campbell to resign in favour of a younger man which he soon did . In a close leadership election contest Nick Clegg narrowly defeated Chris Huhne for the Party leadership.

Click here for the resignation of Charles Kennedy and the Election of Sir Menzies Campbell.

Click here for the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell

Click here for Vince Cable's brief tenure as acting Leader

Click here for the election of Nick Clegg

Click here for 21 items on the Liberal Democrats from the Guardian's "The Election Day by Day " archive

It has been argued that from 2005 onwards there have been important signs of the ideological repositioning of the Liberal Democratic Party as a result of the increasing influence in the higher echelons of the party of Liberal Democrat MPs closely associated with so-called "Orange Book Liberalism" which implied a rather greater support for the economic principles of free market liberalism than had existed in the Liberal Democrat party under the leadership of Charles Kennedy, who , after all, had been a member of the Social Democratic Party [SDP] and espoused greater support for the kind of social liberalism which supported the active intervention  of the state in the organisation of the economy. The nature  of Orange Book Liberalism is analysed in detail in the following  sources and it is likely that the Increasing commitment of senior Liberal Democrats to these principles would have facilitated the negotiation of the eventual post-election Coalition Agreement with the Conservatives . However we may only speculate as to what proportion of eventual Liberal Democrat voters were familiar with the details of the ideological differences between Orange Book Liberals and Social Liberals which exist within the Liberal Democrats  

  Click here for BBC's Analysis on The Orange Book and the Liberal Democrats and here for a critique of the programme from a well informed Liberal Democrat supporter.

Click here for a very useful article by Richard Grayson: The Liberal Democrats: Journey to a Lib-Con Coalition and Where Else.

Opinion poll data during the leadership of Nick Clegg suggest that although his own personal ratings as leader did improve gradually in 2008 and 2009 [as did those of Liberal Democrats' Economics spokesperson Vince Cable] these higher personal poll ratings  did not translate into significantly improved poll ratings for the Liberal Democrats as a whole  and as the General Election approached the polls suggested that the Liberal Democrats were unlikely to improve upon the level of support which they had gained in the 2005 General Election and they may well have been fearful that in what was likely to be a close General Election their  vote might be squeezed even further .

Nick Clegg and the Leadership Debates

However Nick Clegg's effective performance  especially in the first of the three televised leadership debates seemed for a few days as if it might lead to a significant increase in Liberal Democrat support which would transform the result of the General Election. At this point in the General Election campaign several separate opinion polls were published almost every day and you may click on the UK Polling Report data below to see the results of all of the opinion polls during the campaign.

They show that the First Debate led to a substantial increase in the poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats which if anything increased in the following few days such that whereas one poll on April 15th had the party ratings as 37 [Con], 31 [Lab] and 22 [Lib Dem] a poll on April 16th had the ratings as 33 [Con], 28 [Lab] and 30 [Lib Dem] and a poll on April 20th had the ratings as 31 [Con}, 26 {Lab] and 34 [Lib Dem]. The Lib Dem Poll ratings did then begin to decline slowly although they remained consistently ahead of Labour until 27th April and their poll rating reached 30 for the last time on May 1st .

Nick Clegg's individual poll ratings had similarly increased as a result of his strong performance in the first debate  and the success of Nick Clegg  and the resultant transformation of the polls alarmed both of the main parties and led to the orchestration in the Conservative Press of a series of anti- Liberal Democrat editorials [often targeted particularly on the dangers of a Hung Parliament and the threats of electoral reform] as well as articles personally critical of Nick Clegg. Furthermore the Conservative Party itself organised a "Spoof" party Political Broadcast designed to emphasise the weaknesses[ according to Conservatives] of Proportional Representation

The Poll ratings of the Liberal Democrats and of Nick Clegg, although they remained at historically high levels, did decline gradually as Election day approached. and  further disappointments for the Liberal Democrats arose as their actual electoral support fell below their ratings in final eve of election polls . Nevertheless relative to the lack lustre ratings of the Liberal Democrats in 2008 and 2009 the 2010 General Election result could be rated as more of a success.   

  1. Click here for BBC Coverage of the TV Debates

  2. Click here for IPSOS MORI data which show the impact of the first debate upon party poll ratings

  3. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to Slides 14-16 and 21-25

  4. Click here for UK Polling Report data on the political parties' ratings 2005-2010

  5. Click here for UK Polling Report data on party leadership ratings 2005-2010

Additional detailed information on the TV Debates  can be found in Campaign 2010: The Making of the Prime Minister: Nicholas Jones 2010

Who Voted Liberal Democrat in 2010?

In the 2010 General Election 23% of UK  voters and 24% of the voters of Great Britain voted for the Liberal Democrats. There were , however some variations in Liberal Democrat support as between different social groups. The information in the following table is taken from Ipsos Mori data based upon combined samples of 10,000 voters in Great Britain. [24 % of C1 voters voted Liberal Democrat : the same as the national % Liberal Democrat vote : this figure is not included in the table!]

 

 Social Groups containing above 24% voting support for Lib Dems Social groups containing below 24% voting support for Lib Dems
All women =26 All men =22
Women 18-24=34  
Women 25-34 =27 Women 55+= 21
Women 35-54= 29  
Men 18-24 =27 Men 35-54= 23
Men 25-34=30 Men 55+ =16
All AB= 29  
AB Women=31  
AB Men =27 C1 men =21
C1Women =31 All C2=22
C2 women =25 C2 Men= 19
  All DE= 17
  DE Men =13
  DE Women =19

I hope  to add further information in the future on aspects of Liberal Democrat politics .

 

  1. Click here for "A Journalist's  Guide to Opinion Polls" written for the British Polling Council by Peter Kellner

  2. Click here for BBC information on the construction of its own Poll Tracker and on the polling techniques of several main polling organisations.

  3. Click here for Guardian ICM Poll Data providing information on several key events

  4. Click here for BBC Tracker providing information on several key events

  5. Click here Guardian Coverage: The Election Day by Day  [236 photographs and articles]

  6. Click here for The Guardian: General Election 2010: Ten datasets that shaped the campaign

 

Share of UK Vote and Number of Parliamentary Seats Won

  Con Lab Lib/ Alliance/Lib Dem SNP and PC Northern Irish Political Parties' Seats Other Seats: Minor Parties, Independents, and Speaker Vote Share of N.Irish parties,  Greens, Minor Parties, Independents and Speaker UK Turnout %
1997 30.7  [165] 43.2  [418] 16.8  [46] 2.5   [6 SNP; 4PC] 18 2 6.8  71.5
2001 31.7  [166] 40.7  [412] 18.3  [52] 2.5 [5SNP: 4PC ] 18 2 6..9  59.4
2005 32.4.  [198] 35.2  [355] 22.1  [62] 2.2  [6 SNP; 3PC] 18 4 8.2  61.2

2010

 36.1  [306]

 29.0  [258]

 23.0  [57]

2.2 [6 SNP; 3 PC]

18

2

 9.7 

65.1

2010 % of seats won

46.9 39,7 8.8          

Note. In 2010 the combined % share of the vote of  the SNP, PC, N.Irish Parties, Minor Parties, Independents and the Speaker was11.9% and their  combined % seat share was 4.6%

Click here for more detailed results of the 2010 General Election from the BBC which includes detailed information  on votes cast for the minor parties.

  1. The above statistics have been collated from House of Commons Research Papers on the 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 General Elections. They treat the Speaker as separate from the political party to which s/he actually belongs .

  2. The Butler swing from Labour to Conservative is defined as the average of the % Conservative gain  and the % Labour loss between two General Elections and it was estimated that the  Conservatives would require a uniform nation swing of 7% between 2005 and 2010 for them to secure an overall Parliamentary  in 2010 General Election  although they could still win with a smaller national swing if they nevertheless achieved  7% swings in sufficient marginal constituencies  to bring them overall victory. It has been rare in UK post- war General Elections for any party to achieve a national swing as great as 7% and in 2010  the national swing to the Conservatives was 5.0% and they did not perform well enough in marginal seats to win an overall  Parliamentary majority.

  3. Thus 2010 the Conservatives polled the largest number of votes and gained the largest number of seat but not enough seats to form a single party majority government. Consequently a Coalition Government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats was formed.

  4. Once again the lack of proportionality of the First Past the Post electoral system was abundantly clear: the system discriminated especially against the Liberal Democrats.

  5. However the system also harmed the Conservative Party in the sense that whereas in 2005 Labour had secured a workable House of Commons majority with 35.2%of the votes cast the Conservatives were unable to do so in 2010 despite gaining 36.1% of the votes cast.

  6. Further information  on important aspects of the 2010 General Election result can be found in  Electoral Reform Society publications .

  7. Click here for a Radio 4 programme on bias in the UK electoral system.

  8. Labour's vote share at 29% indicated that this was clearly a very poor result for them [only 1.4% better than in 1983] but the operation of the electoral system helped them  to retain 258 seats : many more than the Conservatives retained in 1997 and 2001 despite gaining 31.5% and 31.7% respectively of the votes cast.

  9. Labour's share of the vote was its second lowest since 1918 [only 1983 was lower] and so clearly Labour has much to do if it is to recover the share of the vote which it achieved in 1997.

  10. You may click on the following links for BBC coverage of the General Election results in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively. You may also click here for a concise  BBC item comparing voting trends  in England, Scotland and Wales and here for some further analysis from the BBC  of the General Election in Wales .

  11. Measured as a proportion of the total Great Britain vote  the UK Independence Party vote share increased from 2.3% to 3.2% between 2005 and 2010; the BNP vote share increased from 0.7% to 1.9%; and the Green vote fell from1.1% to 1% although the Greens did win one seat , Brighton Pavilion, where Caroline Lucas, the leader of the Green party, was victorious. UKIP, the BNP and the Greens gained  much smaller shares of the vote in the 2010 General Election than in the European Parliament Elections of 2009 when the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal was at its height. However it is important to try to assess the extent to which UKIP votes may have led to reduced  Conservative support. I shall include some information on this in the near future.

  12.  You may  click here for BBC coverage of the June 2009 European Parliament  Election Results 

Click here for Guardian coverage of estimates of outcomes of the 2010 General Election under alternative electoral systems

I hope to provide information on Tactical Voting in the near future. Meanwhile I hope that you will find the following links useful

Click here and  here and  here for BBC items on tactical voting

Click here for long term trends in tactical voting from Ipsos MoriXXX

I am extremely grateful to IPSOS MORI for permission to use the following data. IPSOS MORI are not  responsible in any way for the conclusions which I have drawn from the data.

Click here for IPSOS MORI data on Social Influences on Voting Behaviour 1974 [Oct]- 2010

  Oct  1974 1979 1983 1987 1992 1997 2001  2005 2010
Middle class (ABC1)
Conservative 56 59 55 54 54 39 38 37 39
Labour 19 24 16 18 22 34 34 30 27
Lib / Alliance / LD 21 15 28 26 21 20 22 26 26
Con lead +37 +35 +39 +36 +32 +5 +4 +6 +12
Skilled working class (C2)
Conservative 26 41 40 40 39 27 29 33 37
Labour 49 41 32 36 40 50 49 40 29
Lib / Alliance / LD 20 15 26 22 17 16 15 19 22
Con lead -23 0 +8 +4 -1 -23 -20 -7 +8
Semi / unskilled working class (DE)
Conservative 22 34 33 30 31 21 24 25 31
Labour 57 49 41 48 49 59 55 48 40
Lib / Alliance / LD 16 13 24 20 16 13 13 18 17
Con lead -35 -15 -8 -18 -18 -38 -31 -23 -9

 

 

 

 

Click here for IPSOS MORI data on the Social Influences on voting behaviour in 2010

Click here for YouGov 2010 Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 2nd-3rd May] and Click here for a YouGov  2010  Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 4th -5th May]

Students should consult the original poll data for very detailed information on voting intentions in the 2010 General Election. For obvious reasons we should not expect the results from these polls to be identical but they do each illustrate the continuing weakening of the relationships between voting behaviour and social class .

Firstly let us consider the Ipsos Mori  estimates of the relationships between social class and voting behaviour where separate data are provided for   Social Classes AB, C1, C2 and DE

Social Class and Voting Behaviour 2010 {Percentage changes since 2005 are  in brackets] : Ipsos Mori Data]

Social Class Conservative % Labour% Liberal Democrat% Other%
AB 39   [+2} 26   [-2] 29  [ 0] 7   [ +5]
C1 39   [+2} 28   [-4] 24  [+1] 9    [+4]
C2 37   [+4] 29  [-11] 22  [ +3] 12    [0]
DE 31   [+6] 40   [-8] 17   [-1] 12   [+3]

 

On the basis of these data  we may note the following points in relation to relationships between social class and voting behaviour in 2010.

  1. Between 2005 and 2010 the swing to from Labour to Conservative was much smaller among AB and C1 voters than among C2 and DE voters.

  2. Whereas Labour lost 2% of its AB support ad 4% of its C1 support  it lost 11% of its C2 support and 8%  of its DE support.

  3. Correspondingly the increase in Conservative support was smaller among AB voters [2%] and C1 voters [2%] than among C2 voters [4%] and DE voters [6%].war General Elections.

  4. Among Social Classes AB, C1 and C2 patterns of voting behaviour were very similar  .That is: among social classes AB, C1 and C2 class voting virtually disappeared in 2010 and  the well known statement from  Peter Pulzer in the 1960s that "Class is the basis of British Politics: all else is embellishment and detail." which had become decreasingly accurate since the 1970s certainly does not describe the patterns of voting behaviour which occurred in 2010.

  5. However DE voters were still 9% more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative  and this means that although the relationship between social class and voting behaviour did weaken considerably between 2005 and 2010  working class voters as a whole were still slightly more likely to vote Labour and less likely to vote Conservative than were middle class voters . However this was a very far cry from the high point of class voting in the early 1950s.

Let us now turn to the findings of two  You Gov surveys: Click here for YouGov 2010 Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 2nd-3rd May] and Click here for a YouGov  2010  Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 4th -5th May]

]Social Class and Voting Behaviour 2010 {Data for 2nd-3rd May = Black: Data for 4th-5th May  = Blue You Gov Data]. Differences in the two sets of data as expected are very small

   Conservative  Labour  Liberal Democrat  Other
All voters [taking account of intention to vote] 35   35 28  28   28  28  
 ABC1="Middle class" ]  37  37  27   26   27  29  7  8
         
 C2DE [="Working Class"]  33    32    29  31  27  26  11 11
         
  1. Data from YouGov surveys differ from Ipsos Mori data in that YouGov data distinguish only between classes ABC1 [="the middle class] and C2DE [=the working class] .

  2. These data indicate that social class differences in voting behaviour in 2010 were very small: thus taking the data for the 4th-5th May ABC1 voters were 5% more likely than C2DE voters to vote Conservative and that C2DE voters were 5% more likely than ABC1 voters to vote Labour. To reiterate : these are very small social class differences in voting behaviour.

As is pointed out in  both "Explaining Cameron's Coalition[2011]  by R. Worcester, R. Mortimore, P. Baines and M .Gill [pp 280-282] and by Peter Kellner in his article* in Reassessing New Labour [2011 edited by Patrick Diamond and Michael Kenny  it is especially important to note also that as a result of the combined effects of changes in the UK class structure which resulted in increased and reduced  relative sizes of the middle class and working class respectively,  social class differences in turnout [AB and C1 individuals are more likely to vote than C2 and DE individuals] and the significant decline in C2 and DE support for Labour the Labour Party actually received more middle class votes than working class votes. in 2010 . This is a very important point which students should  emphasise in any  answers to questions on the changing relationships between social class and voting behaviour . [Peter Kellner's article is entitled "The Death of Class-Based Politics." Click here for a Guardian  article by Peter Kellner in which he analyses the relationship between social class and support for the Labour Party.]

Addendum March and November 2012

 Social class differences in voting intention were clearly small at the 2010 General Election but parties' overall opinion poll ratings and relationships between social class and voting behaviour are also often volatile between General Elections. In the following  table the above  YouGov data [in Black and BLUE] from two May 2010 surveys are repeated  but the RED data refer to the findings of a You Gov survey based on fieldwork March 27-28 2012  [following the March 2012 Budget and controversy around Conservative Party funding] for the the Sun Newspaper  and the PURPLE data refer to findings of a You Gov survey based on fieldwork 19th-20th November. Of course these  large Labour leads in the more recent polls may be temporary

 Click here for the  You Gov Survey based on fieldwork March 27-28 2012 for the the Sun Newspaper . Data from this survey appear in RED. Click here   for the  You Gov Survey based on fieldwork 19th-20th November for the Sun Newspaper . Data from this survey appear in PURPLE

   Conservative  Labour  Liberal Democrat  Other
All voters [taking into account intention to vote]  35    35   34  33     28   28   44 42    28   28  10  10      9    9 12  15   
 ABC1="Middle class" ] 37    37  38 37  27   26  40 38  27  29  11 11  7  8  11 14
         
 C2DE [="Working Class"]   33    32   28  28   29  31  50 48  27  26   7 7  11 11  14 17
         

On the basis of these  survey:

Addendum January 2013

Students will be aware that researchers involved in successive British Election Studies have preferred to analyse relationships between social class and voting behaviour using their  own social class schema rather than the schema used in both Ipsos Mori and You Gov surveys. In their study Elections and Voters in Britain [2012] David Denver, Christopher Carman and Robert Johns present data on relationships between voting behaviour social class in recent General Elections as well as long term trends in class dealignment calculated from BES survey data. Since differing measures of social class are adopted some differences in findings as between the Ipsos Mori and You Gov data and the BES data are clearly to be expected although clear evidence of class dealignment is provided in each case. You may consult Elections and Voters in Britain [2012] for more detailed information on the BES survey data.

  I have modified this section of the notes to take account of differences in the definition and measurement of the gender gap and to include some information on the effects of inter-relationships between gender, age and social class on voting behaviour. In this latest revision of this section I now rely primarily on the IPSOS MORI data on gender and voting behaviour which can be found on the IPSOS MORI site and also in successive IPSOS MORI studies of the General Elections of 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010.

The measurement of the gender gap can present some problems but students may find the  IPSOS MORI summary presentation of the data especially useful especially for examination purposes.

You may also  for click here for BBC Analysis Programme [about 25 minutes] on Gender and Voting Behaviour.

  1. The Basic Trends in the Relationships between Gender and Voting Behaviour 1974 [Oct] -2010.

  2. Data on Gender and Voting Behaviour 1974 [Oct] - 2001

  3. Data on Gender and Voting Behaviour in 2005 and 2010.

  4. Some Further Information [via external links ] on Gender and Voting Behaviour in 2010. 

 

  1. The gender Gap may be calculated in two different ways; The Female- Male- Gender Gap in Conservative Voting and the Male -Female Gender gap in Conservative voting. These gaps have the same values but with different signs. This seems clear enough but by analogy if you imagine two individuals X and Y who weigh 15  stone and 11stone respectively the X-Y "weight gap"  is 4 stone and the Y-X "weight gap" is -4stone. [In principle similar gender gaps in Labour voting could also be calculated]

  2. The Female-Male Gender gap is calculated as [% Female Con Vote- % Female Lab Vote] minus [% Male Con Vote -% Male Lab Vote].

  3. The Male-Female Gender Gap is Calculated as [% Male Con Vote- % Male Lab Vote] minus [% Female Con Vote- % Female Lab Vote].

  4. On the basis of the IPSOS MORI data [see below]  the Female-Male Gender Gap changed from +12 to -5 between 1974[Oct] and 2010 illustrating that between these dates women became decreasingly pro-Conservative/increasingly pro-Labour by comparison with men.

  5. Analogously the Male-Female Gender Gap changed from -12 to +5 indicating that between these dates men became increasingly pro-Conservative/ decreasingly pro-Labour by comparison with men.

  6. However IPSOS MORI present these data slightly differently  noting that there was a positive Female-Male Gender Gap between 1974 [Oct] and 2001 and a positive Male-Female Gender Gap in 2005 and 2010 [See Below].

  7. There are also important interconnections between gender, age and voting behaviour. Between 1974[Oct ] and 2001 even though the overall positive gender gap indicated that women overall were relatively pro-Conservative/ anti Labour by comparison with men negative Female-Male Gender Gaps among younger voters indicated that young women  were less pro- Conservative/more pro-Labour than young men.

  8. As noted in point 6 IPSOS MORI present the 2005 and 2010 data as indicating a Positive Male-Female Gap .

  9. This positive Male-Female gender gap was even greater among voters 18-24 and 25-34 in 2005 and among voters 25-34 [but not 18-24] in 2010 indicating that male voters in these age groups at these times were specially pro-Conservative /anti-Labour by comparison with female voters in these age groups. 

  10. There are also important interconnections between gender, social class and voting behaviour. These are illustrated below.

 

 The Full IPSOS MORI Data are presented below. However calculations of the male-female and female-male gender gaps do not appear in the original IPSOS MORI Table and I have calculated these below Essentially the following RED figures illustrate trends in the male-female gap in voting behaviour and the following BLUE figures illustrate trends in the female -male gap in voting behaviour . It is numerically inevitable that for each year the figures for the two types of gender gap are identical but with different signs.

 

 
  OCT 1974 1979 1983 1987 1992 1997 2001 2005 2010
MEN                  
Conservative 32 43 42 43 41 31 32 34 38
Labour 43 40 30 32 37 45 42 34 28
Lib / Alliance / LD 18 13 25 23 18 17 18 22 22
Con lead -11 +3 +12 +11 +4 -14 -10 0
 
+10
Women
Conservative 39 47 46 43 44 32 33 32 36
Labour 38 35 26 32 34 44 42 38 31
Lib / Alliance / LD 20 15 27 23 18 18 19 23 26
Con lead +1 +12 +20 +11 +10 -12 -9 -6 +4
Male- Female GENDER GAP -12    -9  -8   0 -6  -2  -1 +6  +5 
Female-Male GENDER GAP +12 +9 +8 0 +6 +2 +1 -6 -5

 

You may also note a slight discrepancy in the data for 2010. IPSOS MORI give  a Conservative lead over Labour among women of 4 points despite 36% and 31% of women voting Conservative and Labour respectively. Using the Con Lead among women of 4 points the gender gaps would be -6  respectively but as we shall see IPSOS MORI  calculate the Male Female gap as gender gaps as -+5 which means that by analogy the Female-Male gap is -5. These discrepancies are due to rounding of the data.

With regard to  the data on the Female-Male Gender Gap we see that this has usually been positive from OCT 1974 to 2001 [although zero in   1987] and that it has been negative in 2005 and 2010. Thus the initially positive Female-Male Gender Gap is a measure of women's traditional relative Pro-Conservatism/ anti-Labourism and the more recent negative Female -Male Gender Gap illustrates Females recent relative Pro-Labourism/anti-Conservatism.

Analogously the Male-Female Gender Gap trend from negative to positive illustrates a shift from relative Male anti-Conservatism/Pro-Labourism  to relative Male pro-Conservatism/anti-Labourism.

2 Recent IPSOS MORI Presentation of Gender gap Data

However the actual IPSOS MORI presentation of the gender gap data involves use of both the Female-Male Gender Gap and the Male-Female Gap . In each of the IPSOS MORI studies of the General Elections of 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010 the gender gaps are calculated. In the following table it is clear that for the General Elections of 1974[OCT] to 2001 IPSOS MORI define the Gender Gap as the Female-Male gender gap and measure it as [Female Conservative vote- Female Labour Vote ] minus [Male Conservative Vote- Male Labour Vote] and the positive but declining figures indicate that females were relatively Pro-Conservative /anti Labour by comparison with men between 1974 [Oct ] and 2001.

. On Page 298 of Explaining Cameron's Coalition Robert Worcester., Robert Mortimore and others [for IPSOS MORI} present the data on the Gender Gap slightly differently using the following table to indicate that   between October 1974 and 2001 women were relatively pro-Conservative and anti- Labour [although to a declining extent]  but that in 2005 and 2010 males were relatively pro-Conservative and anti-Labour. You could say that they are using the Female-Male Gender gap between 1974 [Oct] and 2001 and the Male-Female Gender gap in 2005 and 2010 . Nevertheless this does seem to be a particularly clear presentation of trends in "the gender gap" which would be very useful or examination purposes among other things.

Gender and Voting Behaviour 1974 [Oct]-  2010

Male Pro-Conservative/anti Labour lead over Females   Female Pro-Conservative /Anti Labour Lead over Males
  1974 OCT +12
  1979 +9
  1983 +8
  1987 0
  1992 +6
  1997 +2
  2001 +1
+6 2005 -6
+5 2010 -5

 

If we continue to measure the Gender Gap as the Female-Male gender gap the gaps for 2005 and 2006 would be minus6 and minus 5 respectively indicating that in 2005 and 2010 women were relatively less Conservative/pro-Labour in comparison with men. I have included these minus figures in red .

However these red data do not appear in the original IPSOS MORI Table [See Explaining Cameron's Coalition p286]  because in their  own table IPSOS MORI actually switch from measurement of the Female-Male Gender gap  to the measurement of the Male-Female Gender gap which has become positive in 2005 and 2010 indicating that men are now relatively pro-Conservative /anti Labour in comparison with women. [What are the M-F Gender gaps between 1974 Oct and 2001? I am sure you know!]

Thus the IPSOS MORI data show   that a positive Female-Male gender gap from 1974 Oct to 2001 [excluding 1987]  has been transformed into a Positive Male-Female gender gap in 2005 and 2010. Female relative pro-Conservatism/anti-Labourism has been replaced by Male relative pro-Conservatism/ anti-Labourism. This does seem to be a particularly clear way of illustrating changes in relative Female and Male voting behaviour since October 1974.

Relative female Pro-Conservative/Anti-Labour voting up to 2005 was usually explained by theories that for much of the C20th, women were less likely to be in paid employment  and less likely to be trade union members or because women were seen as possibly more  "traditional" or  more "deferential" than men in their views as a result gender differences in socialisation or because women, on average, live longer than men and  age is correlated with Conservative voting.

However according to the IPSOS MORI data females were relatively Anti-Conservative and Pro-Labour in 2005 and 2010. This may have been due to long run generational changes in female attitudes and values and/or to the return to Parliament of an increasing number of female, Labour MPs and/or to Labour's greater willingness to campaign on female related issues although many  women may have been dissuaded from voting Labour in 2005 as a result of UK involvement in the Iraq war .

Further insights into the relationships between gender and voting behaviour may be found via the consideration of relationships between gender, age and voting behaviour  

Gender, Age and Voting Behaviour Between 1974 Oct and 2001

IPSOS MORI found that the  Female-Male Gender gap  between 1974 Oct and 2001 was general positive for all voters illustrating that in overall terms women at this time were relatively more pro-Conservative /anti -Labour than men.  However when they calculated gender gaps for different age groups they found that  even though the overall Female -Male gender gap was positive in 1983, 1992 and 1997 and zero in 1987 indicating women's overall relative pro-Conservatism/anti -Labourism negative Female-Male gender gaps sometimes occurred among younger voters indicating that young women were relatively anti Conservative/ pro-Labour in comparison with younger men. The following table provides information on the gender gap related to age.

Table3: Gender, Age and Voting Behaviour 1983-2010 ] [Data for 1983 -2001 from Explaining Labour's Second Landslide: R. Worcester and R. Mortimore for IPSOS MORI]

{Disregard the 2005 and 2010 data for the time being although  I shall refer to them later in the document]

  1983 1987 1992 1997 2001 2005 2010
All voters +8 0 +6 +2 +1 -6 -5
18-24 +5 -17 -18 -14 -12 -20 +3
25-34 +14 -4 0 +3 +4 -18 -30
35-54 +9 +11 +10 +9 +2 -8 -6
55+ +5 0 +12 +2 +2 0 0

Thus although women in total tended to be more Pro Conservative/anti Labour in between 1983 and 2001 [as indicated by the positive Female-Male Gender gap for all voters] relative pro-Conservatism /anti-Labourism was usually greater among older women relative to older men than among younger women -relative to younger men as indicated especially by the large negative female -male gender gaps for 18-24 year olds in 1987-2001 and the narrow gender gaps [negative, zero and only narrowly positive among 25-34 year olds.

Gender, Age and Voting Behaviour in 2005 and 2010

We have seen in Table 2 above that IPSOS MORI began in 2005 to present their summary information on the Gender Gap in terms of the Male- Female Gender Gap and the same procedure is adopted by Rosie Campbell in her recent writing on voting behaviour. I shall therefore use this same procedure below and  the Male -Female Gender Gap in Conservative voting is measured as:

[% Male Con Vote- % Male Lab Vote ] minus [% Female Con Vote- % Female Lab Vote] and a positive Male-Female Gender gap in 2005 and 2010 implies that men have become  relatively pro-Conservative/anti-Labour by comparison with women.

   Using IPSOS MORI  data I have calculated the overall Male-Female  gender gap and various Male-Female gender gaps for  different age groups  in the  2005 and 2010 General Elections. Click here for IPSOS MORI data on the Social Influences on voting behaviour in 2010

 Table 4:Male-Female Gender Gaps and the 2005 and 2010 General Elections [based upon IPSOS MORI Data]

  A.% Male Con Vote-% Male Lab Vote 2005 B. % Female Con Vote-% Female Lab Vote 2010 A.% Male Con Vote-% Male Lab Vote 2010 B. % Female Con Vote-% Female Lab Vote 2010

 Columns A minus Columns B= % M-F Gender Gaps in 2005 and 2010. Data on Percentage Swings to the Conservatives between 2005 and2010 appear in BLUE

All Voters [34-34] [32-38] [38-28] [36-31] +6  +5    Male=5.0%  Female =%.5%
Age 18-24 [33-34] [22-43] [29-34]] [30-28] +20  -3   Male=-2.0%  Female=11.5%
Age 25-34 [29-33] [21-43] [42-23] [27-38] +18  +30  Male= 11.5%  Female= 5.5%
Age 35-54 [31-36] [[27-40] [36-28] [33-31] +8    +6  Male=6.5%    Female= 7.5%
Age 55+ [40-33] [41-34] [41-29] [42-30]  0      0   Male=2.5%  Female=2.5%
           
  1. Among voters 18-24 young men swung slightly from Conservative to Labour between 2005 and 2010 whereas young women swung substantially toward the Conservatives to such an extent that males  18-24 were actually less  pro-Conservative/anti-Labour than females  18-24 .in 2010.

  2. However among voters 25-34 males swung more toward the Conservatives  than women 25-34 so that males were even more relatively pro--Conservative/anti-Labour relative to females in 2010 than they were in 2005.

  3. The large changes in different directions in the Gender gap among 18-24 year olds and 25-34 year olds more or less offset each other and this , combined with the much smaller changes among other age groups meant that there was very little change in the overall Male-Female gender gap between 2005 and 2010.combined .

 

Technicalities

  1. Rosie Campbell and Joni Lovenduski defined the Gender Gap as the Male-Female Gender gap and used this definition to calculate trends in the gender gap between 1992 and 2005.On this basis the gender gap was negative in 1992, 1997 and 2001 but positive in 2005.

  2. If you should wish to look back to Table 3  you will find that the gender gaps for 2005 and 2010 [in the blue cells of the table] are the same as in Table 4 but with a different sign. This is because in Table 3 the Female-Male gender gaps are calculated and in Table 4 the Male-Female gender gaps are calculated.

 

Gender, Age, Social Class and Voting Behaviour in 2001 and 2010.

So far we have investigated the trends in the overall gender gap and the variations in the gender gap as between voters of differing age groups. In their study of the 2001 General Election Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore presented information  relationships between Gender, Age and Social Class. {See Explaining Labour's Second Landslide  pp 201-2Robert Worcester and Roger Mortimore.] These data are  presented in summary form as follows.

 Table 4:Gender Gap by Age and Social Class 2001

Social Class/Gender/Age Female-Male Gender Gap
ABC1 M 18-24 and ABC1 F 18-24 -5
ABC1 M 25-34 and ABC1 F 25-34 +9
ABC1 M 35-54 and ABC1 F 35-54 +5
ABC! M 55+ and ABC1 F 55+ +4
C2DE M 18-24 and C2DE F 18-24 -29
C2DE M 25-34 and C2DE F 25-34 -1
C2DE M 35-54 and C2DE F 35-54 -5
C2 DE M 55+ and C2DE  F 55+ +10
   

 We may note the following main points

  1. Traditional Positive Female-Male Gender gaps existed among voters aged 55+ in both social classes

  2. Non -traditional negative gender gaps existed among voters aged 18-24 in both social classes. However the negative gender gap was far greater in the C2DE social class than in the ABC1 social class.

Some further information on gender, age and voting behaviour and gender. social class and voting behaviour in 2005 and 2010 is presented below..

Gender , Social Class and Voting behaviour in 2010

  A.% Male Con Vote-% Male Lab Vote B. % Female Con Vote-% Female Lab Vote

Column A minus Column B= %M-F Gender Gap. % Swings to Conservative between 2005 and 2010 are in BLUE

AB [44-23] [34-29] +14    Male =5%   Female =-1% 
C1 [40-28] [39-28]  +1    Male =1%    Female= 6%
C2 [33-33] [41-25]  -16    Male =3.5%  Female= 11%

DE

[32-35]

[29-45]

 + 13  Male =10.0%   Female= 4.0%

 

  1. AB Males are relatively Pro-Conservative and Anti-Labour compared with AB females. Notice that AB females actually swung from Conservative to Labour between 2005 and 2010. All other social class/gender groups swung to the Conservatives.

  2. The gender gap is negligible among C1 voters.

  3. C2 males are relatively anti-Conservative and pro-Labour compared with C2 Females. Notice that the C2  Male swing to Conservative was far smaller than the C2 Female swing to Conservative. 

  4. However DE males are relatively pro-Conservative and anti-labour compared with DE females. Notice that the DE  Male swing to Conservative was far greater than the DE Female swing to  Conservative.

  5. How would you explain the significant differences in voting behaviour of C2 and DE women?

These IPSOS MORI data are extremely useful but it is important to note that there were some variations in findings of different polls at the time of the 2010 General Election. For example  in some YouGov surveys at the time of the 2010 General Election the overall traditional gender gap does reappear and also Tim Bale and Paul Webb in Chapter Two of Britain at the Polls 2010 : Nicholas Allen and John Bartle {Editors] 2010 reaches the same conclusion .  You may  click here for a YouGov 2010 Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 2nd-3rd May] and click here for a YouGov  2010  Survey for the Sun Newspaper [Fieldwork 4th -5th May]: data from the latter survey suggest that the traditional gender gap in voting behaviour returned in 2010.

However you may also  click here for a more recent Daily Telegraph article [January 30th 2012] which, among other things, contains polling data from YouGov for January 2012 which indicate that the Conservatives are indeed currently more popular with men than with women. Click here for a similar item from the Guardian

Click here for a report of research on women's political attitudes which may help to explain the reversal of the traditional gender gap in voting behaviour

You may also click here for BBC Analysis Programme [about 25 minutes] on Gender and Voting Behaviour.

Addendum: March 2012: Click here for the  You Gov Survey based on fieldwork March 27-28 2012 for the the Sun Newspaper for recent data on gender and voting intention. 

Students should discuss with their teachers how to respond to this divergence in research findings.

Addendum : June 2012  Click here and here for some video clips from the BBC

It is argued traditionally that young voters are more likely than older voters to vote Labour and less likely than older voters to vote Conservative. The 2010 data do illustrate that , broadly speaking, the likelihood of voting Conservative increased with age: 30% of voters aged 18 24 voted Conservative compared with 44% of voters 65+.

In the 2010 the likelihood of voting Labour varied only slightly with age but, interestingly, young people were considerably more likely to vote Liberal Democrat than voters aged 55+. This may well have been related to the Liberal Democrats opposition at the time of the General Election to increases University tuition fees and certainly helps to explain many students' extreme dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democrats once they voted in favour of substantial increases in tuition fees.

Click here for IPSOS MORI data on the Social Influences on voting behaviour in 2010

 

.

Click here for a Runnymede Trust/BES Slide Presentation on Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2010 General Election 

Sociology students will be familiar with the important distinction between "race" [which is a biologically based concept of negligible scientific validity] and the much more useful concept of ethnicity which refers to the cultural, religious and linguistic aspects of different social groups' lives. I focus here on relationships between ethnicity and voting behaviour.

IPSOS MORI Estimates of Voting Behaviour in the General Election of 1997

  Con Lab Lib Dem Other Labour Lead
White 32 43 18 7 11
Non-White 18 70 9 3 52
Asian 22 66 9 3 44
Black 12 82 5 1 70

As is shown above ethnic minority voters [both Asian and Black] were far more likely than White voters to vote Labour and far less likely to vote Conservative in the General election of 1997. This, of course, should come as no surprise since although ethnic minority members can be found throughout the British class structure Afro-Caribbean origin and Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin people are represented disproportionately in the working class, disproportionately likely to experience poverty and also disproportionately likely to live in large conurbations where working class support for Labour is strongest. The discrepancy between Black and Asian voting can be explained at least to some extent by the more privileged situation of Indian voters relative to other ethnic minority voters.

Nevertheless in overall terms ethnic minority members in all social classes are more likely than white voters in the same social classes to vote Labour which suggests that ethnicity has an important independent effect on voting behaviour beyond what would be predicted solely by the consideration of the class situations of ethnic minority voters. Ethnic minority voters may tend to believe that even if significant patterns of ethnic disadvantage continue to exist in UK society, Labour governments have at least addressed these problems more meaningfully than have Conservative governments which, if anything are associated with the hardening of ethnic inequalities especially in the era of Thatcherism. Furthermore although ethnic minorities are heavily underrepresented among MPs in all political parties it has traditionally seemed more likely that their representation would increase faster in the Labour Party and in  in the 2005 General Election twelve Labour MPs , two  Conservative MPs and zero Liberal Democrat MPs were from BME backgrounds.

When he became leader of the Conservative Party David Cameron stated that he hoped to promote the election of more Conservative BME MPs and this may have encouraged greater electoral support among BME voters for the Conservatives.  In the event in 2010 27 BME MPs were elected to Parliament:  16 Labour MPs , 11 Conservative MPs and zero Liberal Democrats. and so  Mr Cameron can claim to have made some progress in this respect. Nevertheless members of BME groups are still under-represented in Parliament: at the time of the 2001 Census BME members constituted 7.9% of the UK population but only 4.2% of MPs after the 2010 General Election. 

It has been argued that gradual changes in the UK class structure resulting in the increased representation of ethnic minority members within the UK middle class could be expected to lead to increased support for the Conservative party especially perhaps among Indian -origin and some -origin voters. However you may Click here for a Runnymede Trust/BES Slide Presentation on Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2010 General Election which suggests  that even though there has been some decline in Minority Ethnic support for Labour Minority Ethnic voters remained considerably more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative in 2010..

Click here for BBC Radio 4 Analysis programme on "A New Black Politics?" This programme lasts about 30 minutes and is  thought provoking and ,in parts, controversial. Perhaps it will also provoke class discussion!

Click here for Lord Ashcroft's Publication [April 2012] on Ethnicity and Voting Behaviour. Lord Ashcroft is a former Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party who has been involved heavily in the finance and organisation of previous Conservative Party election campaigns. The publication provides very detailed information on ethnic patterns of voting behaviour with the aim of devising new strategies for increasing the attractiveness of the Conservative Party to ethnic minority voters.

Click here for a fairly detailed summary  of the Lord  Ashcroft Report  written by Paul Goodman on the Conservative Home web site.

 

Voters in Scotland, Wales and the more northerly regions of Great Britain have traditionally more likely to vote Labour than Conservative  partly because there have traditionally been larger percentages of working class voters in these areas and because in areas of high working class concentration the likelihood that working class voters will in fact vote Labour tends to be greater. It has been noted elsewhere that the linkages between social class and voting behaviour have tended to weaken especially since the 1960s but it has also been argued that there are good reasons to believe that this process of class dealignment may be stronger in the South of England than in Northern England, Scotland and Wales.

Percentage Vote Shares of Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, SNP and PC 1997-2010

The following data illustrate regional differences in voting behaviour between 1997 and 2010. They have been collated from successive House of Commons Library Research Papers on the General Elections of 1997, 2001, 2005 and 2010. {Notice that I have included the SNP and PC votes as percentages of the Scottish and Welsh votes respectively but have not included the SNP and PC votes as percentages of the GB and UK votes; neither have I included data on votes for other UK parties nor on the vote shares of the Northern Irish parties. Interested students may consult the original sources for these data. ] 

 

  Cons 1997 Cons 2001 Cons 2005 Cons 2010 Lab 1997 Lab 2001 Lab 2005 Lab 2010 Lib Dem 1997 Lib Dem 2001 Lib Dem 2005 Lib Dem 2010 SNP 1997 SNP 2001 SNP 2005 SNP 2010 PC 1997 PC 2001 PC 2005 PC 2010
North East 19.8 21.3 19.5 23.7 64.0 59.4 52.9 43.6 12.6 16.7 23.3 23.6                
North. West 27.6 29.3 28.7 31.7 53.6 50.7 45.1 39.4 14.5 16.7 21.4 21.6                
Yorks. and Humber 28.0 30.2 29.1 32.8 51.9 48.6 43.6 34.4 16.0 17.1 20.7 22.9                
East Midlands 34.9 37.3 37.1 41.2 47.8 45.1 39.0 29.8 13.6 15.4 18.5 20.8                
West Midlands 33.7 35.0 35.0 39.5 47.0 44.8 38.7 30.6 13.8 14.7 18.6 20.3                
East 39.5 41.8 43.3 47.1 38.6 36.8 29.8 19.6 17.1 17.5 21.8 24.1                
London 31.2 30.5 31.9 34.5 49.5 47.4 38.9 36.6 14.6 17.5 21.9 22.1                
South East 41.9 42.9 45.0 49.3 29.1 29.4 24.4 16.2 23.3 23.7 25.4 26.2                
South West 36.7 38.5 38.6 42.8 26.4 26.3 22.8 15.4 31.3 31.2 32.6 34.7                
                                         
England 33.7 35,2 35.7 39.5 43.5 41.4 35.5 28.1 18.0 19.4 22.9 24.2                
Scotland 17.5 15.6 15.8 16.7 45.6 43.3 38.9 42.0 13.0 16.3 22.6 18.9 22.1 20.1   17.7        
Wales 19.6 21.0 21.4 26.1 54.7 48.6 42.7 36.2 12.3 13.8 18.4 20.1         9.9 14.3 12.6 11.3
Great Britain 31.5 32.7 33.2 36.9 44.3 42.0 36.1 29.7 17.2 18.8 22.6 23.6                
UK 30.7 31.7 32.4 36.1 43.2 40.7 35.2 29.0 16.8 18.3 22.0 23.0                
Regional Variation [RV] Statistic     27.5 32.6     27.0 27.4     14.2 15.8                

 

 

With regard to the General Elections of 1997, 2001 , 2005 and 2010 if we compare the General Election results of 1997 and 2010 we may note the following main regional trends

 

 

Click here for IPSOS MORI data on the Social Influences on voting behaviour in 2010

This document also provides detailed estimates of the social influences on turnout in Great Britain and of the changes in the social distribution of the turnout since 2005.]

Click here for information from the BBC on regional differences in turnout

The main trends were as follows:

  1. Overall GB turnout was estimated as 65%.

  2. Male turnout [66%] was slightly higher than female turnout [64%].

  3. There were significant age differences in turnout ranging from 37% for 18-24 year olds to 75% for those aged 65+.

  4. There were significant gender differences in turnout among voters aged 18-24 but not among other age groups. Turnout among males 18-24 was 50% but only 39% among females aged 18-24.

  5. There were significant Social Class differences in turnout ranging from 76% among AB voters to 57 % among DE voters .

  6. Voter turnout varied significantly according to housing tenure: turnout among home owners was 74%, among mortgage holders 66%, among social renters  55% and among private renters 55%.

  7. I hope to include some information on ethnicity and turnout fairly soon.

This link lists the percentage turnouts in every constituency.

Manchester Central [44.31%], Leeds Central [46.01%] and Birmingham Ladywood [48.66%] had the lowest turnouts and Renfrewshire East [77.26%], Westmoreland and Lonsdale [76.86%] and Richmond Park [76.23%] had the highest turnouts.

. I hope to provide some further information on the Mass Media and the 2010 General Election fairly soon which Meanwhile the following paragraphs recycle some general information on the Mass Media and voting behaviour from an earlier document and you may also find the subsequent links useful.

The dominant ideology model of voting behaviour may reasonably be seen as one significant element of the more general theory which suggests that the existence of a dominant ideology has a major influence on politically attitudes more generally. Although supporters of the dominant ideology model would not necessarily describe themselves as Marxists it is perhaps fair to say that the principal inspiration for the model is the Marxist notion that " in every epoch the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class" [The German Ideology 1846.]

Thus it is argued that capitalist societies are dominated by a ruling class which is able to maintain its position of economic and political dominance by means of a socialisation process operating via institutions such as the Family, the Church, the Education system, the Political Parties and the Mass Media  which persuades members of disadvantaged , subservient social classes to accept that ruling class control is actually also in the best interests of the subservient classes: that is the  socialisation process under capitalism results in the transmission of a dominant class ideology which creates false class consciousness among disadvantaged social classes preventing their members from recognising that the capitalist system is the fundamental cause  of their disadvantaged situation.

In the dominant ideology model of voting behaviour it is argued that the mass media [and in particular the press] have traditionally been supportive of Conservative political opinion and that mass media influence has persuaded large swathes of working class voters to vote Conservative when in reality it has not been in their interests to do so. Furthermore if and when national newspapers have supported the Labour Party [as in the Blair era] this has been precisely because under the leadership of Tony Blair Labour offered no challenge to the interests of the capitalist class  while more recently the election of Mr. Ed Miliband as Labour Party leader has been presented in some sections of the press as evidence of a dangerous "lurch to the Left" under "RED ED" [ the son of the late Ralph Miliband , a famous Marxist intellectual] whose election was made possible only by the disproportionate influence of trade union leaders.  [Perhaps there is material here for David Mitchell's True or False Game Show! ]

Critics of the dominant ideology model of voting behaviour may argue that Marxist -inspired analyses of the capitalist system are flawed in that it is actually existing modern capitalism that is most likely to guarantee individual liberties and to generate rising living standards for all; that the mass media are far less biased than is implied in the dominant ideology model and that the activities of the mass media can be explained more accurately in terms of pluralist theories ; that the dominant ideology model overstates the persuasive capacities of the mass media and understates the capacities of voters to make up their own minds; and that insofar as there are correlations between newspaper readership and voting behaviour this occurs because voters choose to read  newspapers reflecting their own political opinions not because the newspapers have been able to determine voters' political opinions.

Supporters of the dominant ideology model of voting behaviour argue that even after all of these criticisms are fairly assessed the model does nevertheless make a significant contribution to the overall explanation of voting behaviour.

[Further assessment of the dominant ideology model would require a full discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of Marxist theories, of the organisation, activities and effects of the mass media in general and of studies of the actual influences of the mass media on voting behaviour in particular. Doubtless you will be discussing these issues with your teachers!

  1. Click here for a Guardian Item on the Press and the General Election

  2. Click here for a Guardian Item on TV and The General Election

  3. A detailed analysis of relationships between newspaper readership and voting behaviour n 2010 can be found via the following link to the Ipsos Mori site

  General Election 1997 General Election 2001 General Election 2005  Feb 19-22 2010 April 18-19 2010
Percentages identifying with the 3 major parties  Con 29  ; Lab 36     Lib Dem 11  [March '97 ]  Con 24;   Lab  4 2    Lib Dem  10 [ May29 ' 01] Con 16   Lab 35    Lib Dem 22[May '05] Con 30 Lab32 Lib Dem 15 Con 28 Lab31 Lib Dem 21
Percentages voting for the 3 major parties in General Elections Con 30.7; Lab 43.2; Lib  Dem 16.8 Con 31.7  Lab 40.7  Lib Dem 18.3 Con 32.3  Lab 35.2  Lib Dem 22.1 CON 36.1 Lab 29.0 Lib Dem 23.0

Although Party Identification is a weaker now than in the 1945-1970 era it nevertheless still influences the voting behaviour of many individuals. From the above data it is clear that in some General Elections parties poll above their core levels  of support as measured by the Party Identification data and that in other general elections they poll below their core levels of support . Thus in 1997 the Labour Party polled significantly above its core level of support and in 2001 and 2005 the Conservative Party  polled significantly above its core level of support which was, however, very low especially in 2005 when around the time of the 2005 General Election only 16% of respondents actually identified with the Conservative Party.

Turning to the 2010 General Election we may note the following points

  1. Identification with the Conservative Party increased from 16% to 30 % between 2005 and 2010 which can perhaps be taken as evidence of partial success for David Cameron's overall political strategy.

  2. Furthermore Conservative electoral support at 36.1% was 6.1% higher than its core support  as measured by the party identification data.

  3. However Labour identification was actually higher than Conservative identification and Conservative identification was only marginally greater than in 1997 when the Conservatives were heavily defeated.

  4. Labour might take a little comfort from the possibility that it may be able to win back some of the 6% of Conservative voters who did not actually identify with the Conservative Party although nobody is suggesting that this will necessarily be easy.

  5.  Between the May 2010 General Election and December 2011 Labour has often led the Conservatives slightly in the opinion polls but it might be argued that , given the scale of unemployment and economic uncertainty , their opinion poll ratings have been disappointing , and, even worse from  Labour's perspective, in the course of December 2011 the Conservatives have actually opened up a small opinion poll lead over Labour. David Cameron will be hoping that more voters are actually beginning to identify with the Conservatives..

Click here for the full Ipsos Mori Data on Party Identification  2001-2008 XXX

Click here for the full Ipsos Mori Data on Party Identification 1993-2010XXX

 

Click here for the BBC on Parties and Issues 

On the basis of the Ipsos Mori  "Political Triangle"  in which respondents are asked to allocate marks out of 10 for political issues, political leadership and political parties as influences on their General Election voting decision political leadership and political issues were seen as of equal importance as influences on voting decisions and both were seen as more significant than political parties themselves. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to Slide 11.

From the 1970s it has been argued by proponents of issue voting models of voting behaviour that for increasing numbers of voters the key determinants of voting behaviour are the party policies on issues that the voters consider to be most salient and in Issue Voting Models it has been argued that General Elections were likely to be won by the Party which had the preferred policies on the most salient political issues. It is , however, important to remember that survey respondents may state preferences for a the policies of a particular party on a particular issue because of a prior allegiance to [or identification with] that particular party rather than because they genuinely favour that party's policies all of which means that the impact of issues and policies on voting behaviour does remain uncertain.

Major opinion poll research companies collect data on issue salience and on political parties' ratings on individual issues  and there are very important similarities between the findings of different surveys of different companies which enable analysts to draw some important general conclusions about voting trends. However there are also some important variations in survey results deriving from the statistical point that random samples of about 1000 are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, from slight differences in some of the questions asked, in different polls, from differences of timing of different polls and from other technical details relating to different polls Disregarding for the time being the variations in survey finding we may draw the following general conclusions in relation to issue salience and political parties ratings on particular issues. [See also A Journalist's Guide to Opinion Polls by Peter Kellner for the British Polling Council]

  1. All major surveys indicated that in broad terms the Conservatives' overall policies  were preferred to Labour's policies. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slide 29.

  2. All major surveys indicate that voters believed the most salient issue of the 2010 General Election was the state of the economy.

  3. All major surveys indicated that at the time of the 2010 General Election the Conservatives were narrowly preferred to Labour as the Party best able to manage the UK economy effectively. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slides 32-36.

  4. All Major surveys indicate that Health, Education, Immigration/Asylum/Race Relations and Crime/Law and Order were among the other most salient issues in the 2010 General Election.

  5. Longer term data , for example from the Ipsos Mori Monthly Issues Index suggest that the salience of Immigration/Asylum and Crime/Law and Order increased between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010. Other things equal one would expect such trends to have improved the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party.

  6. Longer  term data suggest that Labour continued to be preferred to the Conservatives on Health but that its lead on this issue was declining between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010. Labour's ratings on Education were also declining : by 2010 in some polls Labour still enjoyed a narrow lead but in others the Conservatives were actually the preferred party on education. 

  7. All major surveys indicate that the MPs [and peers] Expenses Scandal had only a very limited impact on voting intentions in 2010 .  Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slide 41.

For purposes of Advanced Level Examinations students should emphasise the above seven points but I include further information below on some of the technicalities  involved in the collection of these data along with additional more detailed information on Issue Saliency and respondents' preferred party on key issues. Different polling organisations use different samples and may phrase their questions about issue saliency differently and all poll findings in any case are subject to a small margin of error. 

Consequently although there are substantial agreements in the poll findings of different polling organisations there are also some variations in the relative saliency of different issues and in the parties' ratings on particular issues. However Advanced Level students  should take advice from their teachers as to the depth of knowledge of these matters which is actually required for Advanced Level examination purposes

 Issues and Policies : Some Technicalities

As a result of differences in the nature of different surveys themselves  there are also important variations in the findings of different surveys some of which are outlined in the following table adapted from Ipsos Mori and You Gov Poll data.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issue Saliency and Party Political Ratings 2010 [with some comparisons with 2001 and 2005] [I have made a few minor clarifications to the column headings in this table  on February 6th 2012. Also this table may originally not have worked in some browsers. Hopefully it does now!]]

% of respondents rating issue as important influence on voting decision in  2010[ [Ipsos Mori March2010  Political Monitor] % Party ratings on individual issues Ipsos Mori BPOKI [March  2010: All Respondents [ Row 1] and respondents stating particular issue to be important influence on voting decision [Row 2]] Labour leads in  2001, 2005 and 2010 on important issues among respondents stating  particular issue to be important influence on voting decision {Ipsos Mori data: BPOKI]  Which two or three issues have been most important to you in deciding which party to support in this general election? Please list up to 3 issues [You Gov/Sun  survey: Fieldwork 4th -5th  May 2010].Percentages of respondents mentioning each issue as among up to the three most important issues % Party ratings on individual issues : Which Party will handle the issue best [You Gov /Sun Survey [May 2010 All Respondents: Fieldwork : 2nd-3rd May 2010]
 

Con   Lab   Lid Dem

             May 2001    April 2005    May 2010                                      Con Lab Lib dem
Managing Economy 32

 29,  26        12               Con Lead =3

 36    26       10                Con lead =10

 

34                     30             -10

The Economy 67

Economy *               37     36  [Respondents were asked for a straight choice  between Conservative and Labour
Health  26 24    33       9                  Lab lead =9

28   33       10                 Lab lead =5

 

26                     14               5

Asylum and Immigration 45

Asylum/Immigration  38       15        19
Education 23 29    28      10                 Con lead =1

31    31      17                 Tied

 

26                     15               Tied

Health  30

NHS                               28       35        16
Asylum /Immigration 14 28   17        9                  Con lead =11

44     6         4                 Con Lead =38

 

-22                   -41                 -38          

Tax  28 Taxation                       31    24          23
Taxation 12  26    25      13                 Con lead =1

 26     20       19               Con lead =6

 

-3                    -6                     -6

Education 19 ED and Schools          28      30         20 
Unemployment 11  24    30      10                 Lab lead =6

 15     34      15                 Lab lead =19

 

   53                    31                     19

Crime  18 Law and Order          38         24        14
Crime /anti-social behaviour 8 33    23        8                Con Lead =10

 45     14      7                 Con Lead= 31   

 

- 2                -10                      -31

Family Life and Childcare 16 Unemployment            29    28       17 
Defence 3 29      18      7                 Con lead =11

35        5      12               Con Lead=30

 

  Pensions 14  
Benefits 7 24      30     7                    Lab lead =6

24       21     13                 Con lead=  3

 

     
MPs Expenses 24        13     14                Con lead =11

 0          11      18              LibDem lead=7

 

     
Care for older and disabled people 7        
Pensions 6        
Afghanistan 5    

Iraq/ Afghanistan   9

 
Protecting natural environment/ climate change 5  11         15        15             Lab lead =4

 14        17   25                   Lib Dem lead =8      

 

     
Housing 3     Transport  3  
Iraq 3     Don' Know 3  
Public transport/roads 3        

In relation to this table we may note the following points.

  1. The Ipsos Mori Political Monitor and the You Gov survey invites respondents to choose issues from a given list  issues which will have an important influence on voting decision. The Ipsos Mori and You Gov lists are not identical and respondents may choose as many issues as they wish in the Ipsos Mori surveys but a maximum of three issues in the You Gov surveys. Consequently we should expect some variation as between the Ipsos Mori and You Gov survey results

  2. The Economy is shown to be the most important/salient issue in both  surveys

  3. There is some variation in issue saliency rankings as between these different surveys. Race relations/ Asylum/Immigration, Crime/Law and Order, Health and Education are all seen as salient issues in Ipsos Mori and You Gov surveys  but whereas Health and Education outrank Asylum/immigration in the Ipsos Mori Political Monitor data the reverse is the case in the  You Gov Survey. Crime/ Law and violence are seen as the 7th most salient Ipsos Mori data and the 6th most salient issue in the You Gov data and so there is considerable agreement here.

  4. In column 2 the Ipsos Mori BPOKI data indicate that in 2010 the Conservatives were preferred to Labour on the Economy, Education [very narrowly and there were tied rankings among respondents mentioning the issue as important], Asylum /Immigration, Taxation, Crime and Anti-social behaviour, Defence and MPs' Expenses [although the Liberal Democrats were preferred to the Conservatives and to Labour on this issue.] Labour were preferred to the Conservatives on Health, Unemployment and Benefits.

  5. In column 5 we see that respondents in the You Gov Survey expressed similar preferences although there were some differences. Labour was narrowly preferred to the Conservatives on Education and the Conservatives were preferred to Labour on Unemployment ... perhaps a little surprisingly.

  6. As is indicated by the Ipsos Mori data in column three there was also a deterioration in  Labour's ratings between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010 on all of the most important issues as is indicated by the Ipsos Mori data in column three.

On the basis of these data we see that the combined effects of changes in issue salience and improvements in respondents' ratings of Conservative policies on the most salient issues of the General election could be expected to result in improvements in the Conservatives' overall poll ratings. However the Conservatives would still fail to achieve outright victory.

The Economy and the General Election

For much of 2008 and 2009 the Conservatives were preferred to Labour as the party best able to manage the economy but their lead on this issue tended to narrow in late 2009 and early 2010.tDuring the Campaign the Conservatives'  lead over the Labour Party on the economy was generally small and, indeed , there were some polls at some times during the Campaign which gave Labour a small lead over the Conservatives on the economy. In answer to  the IPSOS MORI Survey question "Which Party has the best policies on the economy? " respondents replied Conservative  29%: Labour 26% , Liberal Democrats 12%: Other/None/Don't Know 36%. A small Conservative lead over Labour . Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election. and scroll to  slides 32-36 for Ipsos Mori data on attitudes to parties and the economy.

The  economy  was considered to be the most salient issue of the campaign which is hardly surprising given the onset of the Credit Crunch, the depth of the economic recession from 2008 to 2009 , the possibly precarious economic recovery in 2010, the parlous state of the public finances and the likelihood of  public expenditure reductions and tax increases once the General Election was over.  George Osborne had promised in 2007 that, if elected the Conservatives would match Labour's Public Expenditure plans up to 2010-2011  but with the onset of the credit crunch and the economic recession the Conservatives developed a much more critical analysis of Labour's economic policies.

  1. They claimed that  the onset of the credit crunch and subsequent economic recession revealed clearly  that Gordon Brown's much vaunted claim to have "abolished boom and bust" via effective management of the economy amounted to a gross distortion of the economic realities.

  2. According to the Conservatives the financial crisis which enveloped first Northern Rock and then major UK banks such as RBS and HBOS arose to a considerable extent because of the failure of the inefficient system of financial regulation which had been introduced by Gordon Brown.

  3. The UK's relatively high rate of economic growth high had been fuelled by excessive growth of personal and private corporate debt which  were unsustainable in the long term.

  4. Labour's high rates of public expenditure in the boom years meant that  Labour had failed to build up the budget surpluses which could be used to offset the budget deficits which would inevitably occur as a result of Government attempts to deal with the effects of the credit crunch combined with the effects of economic recession. Consequently both the public sector borrowing requirement and the size of the national debt were increasing alarmingly.

  5. The increases in the PSBR and the National Debt  carried the threat that international credit rating agencies would downgrade the UK's AAA credit rating which would result in higher interest rates and increased borrowing costs which  would further undermine the Government's finances and  discourage both private investment and consumption which would restrict the possibilities of economic recovery.

  6. Keynesian- inspired attempts to generate economic recovery via the continuation of high levels of government spending and borrowing would inevitably fail and deeper cuts to public spending than were eventually proposed by Labour would be necessary if economic recovery was to be secured. During the General Election Campaign the Conservatives focused upon the need for immediate reductions of government expenditure of 6B over and above those proposed by the Labour Party

  7. The Conservatives recognised that these public spending cuts would lead to increased public sector unemployment but they promised that the burdens of public spending cuts would be evenly shared because "We are all in this together" and promised that they would introduce measures which would promote private sector employment thereby offsetting the effects of declining employment in the public sector.

  8. The Conservatives also attacked Labour's record on poverty and inequality. Thus they claimed that under Labour even if overall poverty levels had declined extreme poverty had actually increased; that income inequality as measured by trends in the value of the Gini Coefficient had actually increased between 19997 and 2010 and that rates of social mobility had fallen indicating a reduction in equality of opportunity.  David Cameron stated on several occasions that a future Conservative Government should be judged on the  effectiveness of its policies in improving the living standards and the life chances of the most disadvantaged members of UK society. We shall see .

Of course Labour rejected these arguments

  1. According  to Labour the financial crisis derived primarily from external causes, most importantly from the implications of the  excessive growth of sub prime mortgages in the USA.

  2. The Economic recession in the UK and elsewhere was itself caused primarily by the international financial crisis for which Labour were not responsible.

  3. Labour's taxation and spending policies prior to 2007 had been entirely sensible and responsible . Neither the budget deficit [PSBR] nor the national debt had been especially high prior to the financial crisis and the economic recession but it was the financial crisis and the economic recession which caused the subsequently  rapidly growing imbalances in the public finances.

  4. Labour had responded effectively to the financial crisis and the economic recession and recognised that tax increases and government spending reductions would be necessary in the longer term. but claimed that Conservative proposals would result in too rapid tax increase and public expenditure reductions which would put at risk the economic recovery which was apparently now underway.

  5. Labour rejected the Conservatives' claims in relation to poverty, income inequality and social mobility. Thus they emphasised that they had reduced overall poverty and that the data suggesting that extreme poverty had increased are recognised by statistical experts to be unreliable; that even if income inequality had increased Labour's taxation and social benefits policies had significantly reduced income inequality in comparison with the inequality levels which would have occurred if Conservative policies had remained in place; and that insofar as social mobility rates were declining this could be explained to a considerable extant as a consequence of the increased economic inequality which occurred during the years of previous Conservative governments , especially those of Mrs Thatcher.

During the General Election Campaign the Conservatives focused upon the need for immediate reductions of government expenditure of 6B over and above those proposed by the Labour Party while both Labour and the Liberal Democrats argued that these additional public expenditure reductions  were likely to undermine the current potentially fragile economic recovery [although once in coalition the Liberal Democrats  acquiesced in the Conservative programme of public expenditure cuts on the grounds that Greek economic problems pointed  to the possibility of a growing crisis of confidence in the British economy leading to increased interests rates if the international bond markets lost confidence in the viability of the incoming Coalition Government's debt reduction programme.]

 

Click here for BBC data on recent economic trends charting the extent of recession. 

Click here for Guardian comparisons of Labour and previous Conservative economic records

 Some of the disagreements among professional economists around these issues of economic policy are outlined in an Observer article published about one month after the General Election.

Click here for a page of links on analysis of state of UK economy .

 

Ipsos Mori publish very detailed trends upon a range of topics relating to the public images of the political parties. I have extracted and rearranged the information in the following table from this original Ipsos Mori table.XXX

Although Labour's image as measured by several criteria deteriorated between 1997 and2001 and between 2001 and 2005 Labour's image was nevertheless still more favourable than the Conservatives' image by 2005. However note that on several criteria the image ratings of the Labour and Conservative Parties narrowed very substantially. Note also that on some important criteria , especially criterion 1 , all parties gained consistently poor ratings .

Percentages of the Electorate believing that the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties are......

  April 1997 May 2001 April 2005 May 2010
 

                           Con   Lab     Lib Dem

Con   Lab   Lib Dem Con    Lab   Lib Dem Con       Lab     Lib Dem   
1. A Party which keeps its promises: All parties score poorly on this criterion but by 2010 the Conservatives have overtaken Labour.                  5         9      6                   5    9              6 3    6                 7 6            5                  5
2 A Party which understands the problems facing Britain: Labour's lead declines significantly 1997-2001: Conservatives overtake Labour 2005-2010l    20     37   23 18     28         22 22   26    22        32         28                  22     
3A party which represents all classes: Labour rating declines but little improvement in Conservative rating 10   31    27 8   24   21 9   23    29 10           18               22  
4 A party which looks after the interests of people like us: Labour rating declines but little improvement in Conservative rating. 9    30   13 11   21   11 11   16   16 13            15                   13
5 A moderate Party: apart from increased Labour score in 2001 little change in party ratings 11   15     23 12   20     25 12   16     31 13             14                 23
6 An extreme Party: fairly significant decline in proportion seeing the Conservatives as extreme 2005-2010 10     5    2 12     3     2 14     6    2      7                4                   3   
7. A Party which is concerned about people in real need in Britain: substantial decline in Labour rating 1997-2001; steady improvement in Conservative rating  8         36   21 9        21      19 14    20    30 16           21              22
8 A Party which has a good team of leaders: Conservatives overtake Labour 2005-2010  1 0      25    12 7    25     8    8    23     7       1 6               7                8    
9 .A party which will promise anything to win votes: Labour overtake Conservatives on this negative criterion 40   31   15 46   35   16 45   40     19 29               30               21
10 A Party which is out of touch with ordinary people: significant narrowing especially between 1997 and 2001 but also between 2005 and 2010 50    7     8 36   24   9    32   27         8 25               24               7
11 A Party which has sensible policies: gap narrows considerably 2001 -2005 and Conservatives then overtake Labour in 2005-2010    14   27      25 15   27    27     17   18    27 20               15               20
12 A Party which is too dominated by its leader: neither Mr Brown nor Mr Cameron are widely perceived as too dominant. Labour slightly ahead on this negative criterion in 2010

10    15        9 

13   26     4

        16  37    6

             10               18                 7
13A Party which is professional in its approach; Conservatives overtake Labour between 2005 and 2010  13    21   15 13    19   14            15     17    13 24               11               12
14 A divided party: gap narrows significantly between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010 Labour overtake the Conservatives on this negative criterion. 44   12   4 30    11      6             23      22   5    13               25               15
15 No Opinions 9    9    30 10    7     20 14     9      23 17               14               24

In general terms between 1997 and 2010 Conservative party ratings have tended to improve and Labour's have tended to deteriorate on the basis of the criteria Used by Ipsos Mori. Between 2005 and 2010 Conservative ratings improved especially according to the following criteria: : they are now seen as more likely than Labour to understand the problems ; as having a better team of leaders than Labour; as having more sensible policies than Labour; and as more professional in their approach than Labour. The Conservatives in 2010 were also less likely than in 2005 to be seen as divided; less extreme ; less out of touch with ordinary people and less likely to promise anything to get elected. However it is important to note that even though the Conservative Party image has improved according to a range of criteria   its ratings remain lower  on several criteria than were those of the Blair Governments especially in 1997 and 2001. 

 

  1. As has been pointed out elsewhere it has become increasingly important in the analysis of voting behaviour to between Spatial Issues and Valence Issues. Spatial issues are those on which political parties  adopt different political positions: [for or against privatisation; for or against increased taxation; for or against increased government spending; for or against greater economic equality; for or against industrial relations legislation sympathetic to the trade unions  and so on]  whereas valence issues are those on which there is a general consensus among political parties and voters in that for example all political parties and all voters are in favour of increased economic efficiency , improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime and on these issues voters are assumed to choose between the political parties on the basis of their assessments of the likely competence of the political parties to achieve these objectives.

  2. Especially important are the voters assessments of the economic competence of the political parties but it is also possible that even if voters approve of a particular party's policies on particular issues they may still doubt the competence of that party to implement its stated policies effectively thereby undermining that party's electoral prospects. It has been argued also that the increased importance of valence issues has increased the importance of political leadership as a determinant of voting behaviour as voters' perceptions of overall party political competence are nowadays said to depend heavily of their relative perceptions of the competence of different party leaders.

  3. In the era of strong party identification prior to the 1970s it was usually argued that leadership effects on voting behaviour were much weaker than the effects of  party identification. There were very strong correlations between party identification and leadership preferences and where there was no such correlation it was clear that voting decisions were influenced more strongly by voters' party identification than by their leadership preferences.

  4. It has been argued more recently that in the era of declining party identification and increasing mass media focus on the political leaders that political leadership is an increasingly important influence on voting behaviour. This may arise especially if party policy differences on spatial salient issues are  relatively small because in these circumstances perceptions of overall governing competence to deliver on valence issues [such as improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime] are  likely to be more significant determinants of voting behaviour and it is the perceived abilities [or otherwise] of the  party leaders [and other significant members of the leadership team] which are crucial to the creation of an image of governing competence.

  5. Using this line of argument voters relative preference for John Major over Neil Kinnock in 1992 helped to improve the Conservatives' overall ratings for economic competence and thereby helped them to win the 1992 General Election while voters' preferences for Tony Blair over John Major [1997], William Hague [2001 ] and Michael Howard [2205] are considered by many to have been important influences on the General Election results of 1997, 29001 and 2005 although it has also been argued that Blair's declining popularity did cost Labour votes in 2005 although he was at least still more popular than Michael Howard. Nevertheless some controversy still exists: some famous analysts such as Ivor Crewe argued for example that in 2001 the Conservatives lost more because William Hague was unable to offset  the unpopular policies and image of the Conservative Party than because he actually added to Conservative unpopularity. 

  6. In the General Elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 Tony Blair was rated more highly as the best potential Prime Minister than any of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders contesting these General Elections although his opinion poll lead over Michael Howard in 2005 was lower than his lead of John Major in 1997 and William Hague in 2001.

 

IPSOS MORI Data: Who would make the most capable Prime Minister?

  Conservative Leader Labour Leader Liberal Democrat leader
April7-8 1992 38 27 20
April 29th 1997 23 40 15
June 5th 2001 14 51 14
Sept 1-16 2003 15 42 18
April 1-3 2005 22 36 14
May 5th 2010 33 29 19

 Gordon Brown did experience a short honeymoon in the early stages of his Premiership when both the Labour Party and Mr. Brown personally achieved higher opinion poll ratings than the Conservative Party and Mr. Cameron personally. However following the postponement of an expected General Election the poll ratings of Mr Brown and of the Labour Party declined, recovered slightly in the early stages of the "credit crunch" but then declined mainly as a result of the combined effects of the economic recession, the MPs expenses scandal and the perceived relatively poor performance of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. However Gordon Brown's ratings did improve slightly in 2010.

Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slides 13-19 for Information on Party Leadership 

  1. On May 5th, the day before the General Election in answer to the IPSOS MORI question "Who do you think would make the most capable Prime Minister best Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg  respondents answered: 33% David Cameron, 29% Gordon Brown, 19% Nick Clegg, 19% Non/Don't Know. We may note that David Cameron achieved significantly higher poll ratings  than previous Conservative leaders [except John Major in 1992] but that his ratings were lower than those of Tony Blair in 2005 and not much higher than those of Gordon Brown in 2010.

  2. The Conservatives were seen as having the best team of leaders and the best senior leaders but in each case their leads over Labour were small [5% and 3% respectively.

  3. On some criteria Gordon Brown was preferred to both David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Click here for the BES Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election. You might like especially to compare the IPSOS MORI and BES Poll ratings of the Party leaders.

Click here for UK Polling Report data on Party leadership ratings 2005-2010 which indicate that  David Cameron often held a double figure lead over Gordon Brown in 2008 and 2009  but his lead did narrow considerably in 2010 as did the Conservatives' lead over Labour. Thus in 2010 David Cameron's lead over Gordon Brown was usually in single figures although one May 2010 poll did give David Cameron a 12% lead.

 

 For several years there have been obvious signs of increasing dissatisfaction with and disengagement from the institutions of the UK political system as indicated by the growth of partisan dealignment, the decline in party membership, the low levels of electoral turnout and the low levels of trust in politicians reported in opinion polls. Voters have been alienated by what they perceived as the "sleaze " of previous Conservative Governments[1979-1997] and the "spin" and alleged financial malpractice in the era of Labour governments [1997-2010] . It has been suggested that the origins of the 2009 MPs' Expenses Scandal lay in decisions of successive governments since the early 1980s not to fund [for fear of antagonising public opinion] the substantial increases in MPs' pay recommended by independent inquiries  but instead to acquiesce quietly in an increasingly generous and loosely regulated MPs' expenses which was to compensate "subtly" for the limited increases in MPs' salaries.

Increasingly , however, the MPs' Expenses system itself attracted criticism which MPs sought to deflect but in 2008 the  High Court  ruled in 2008 that Parliament had no legal right to disregard demands for full disclosure of MPS expenses and when Harriet Harman's efforts to prevent full disclosure failed and evidence of MPs questionable expenses claims [ such as those of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith] began to leak out it was agreed that the  office of Registrar of Members Interests would copy all relevant MPS. expenses data onto disc with a view to eventual publication. However it came as no real surprise when a government official leaked this information to a national newspaper , the Daily Telegraph, reportedly in exchange for payment of 150,000, and the Daily Telegraph began daily publication of MPs and Ministers' expenses claims on May 8th 2009.

Many Peers and MPs were shown to have behaved entirely honestly and reasonably in relation to their expenses claims and only four MPs [all Labour] and two Conservative Peers were actually found guilty of illegal behaviour and imprisoned. However a substantial number of MPs and Peers Expenses claims involved questionable interpretation of the rules governing expenses claims while the rules themselves soon came to be regarded widely as inappropriate. Attention focussed especially on  the questionable designation of second homes, the "flipping " of homes for financial gain and claims for  expenses not remotely connected with MPs' and Peers' political duties:  gardening expenses, house repair, expensive furniture, duck houses and moat cleaning involved claims of hundreds and in some cases thousands of pounds while in other cases there were claims for "adult" CDs, newspapers, toilet seats and even Remembrance Day wreaths which, although not financially comparable to the huge salaries  and bonuses currently being earned in the financial sector ,were seen by many as pointing to the penny- pinching small mindedness of some Honourable Members. 

Opinion Poll data suggested initially that the MPs' Expenses Scandal had intensified already existing high levels of dissatisfaction with the political system and it was also widely believed that the  scandal was especially likely to harm Labour partly because Labour was after all the governing party and partly also because David Cameron's handling of the crisis was widely seen as more effective than Gordon Brown's. Brown's ill-judged  and poorly executed response in a You Tube video attracted widespread derision  which was if anything intensified  by dismissive references to it by Hazel Blears [who was herself attracting considerable criticism as a result of her own dubious interpretation of the rules surrounding the designation of here second home which obliged her to repay several thousand pounds of claimed expenses. Brandishing a cheque for several thousand pounds while many were now increasingly suffering the effects of recession did little to enhance her or Labour's popularity.]

However it has also been argued that the Expenses Scandal may also have harmed the Conservatives who were to some extent deflected temporarily from reinforcing the issue agenda which they hoped would ultimately win  the General Election. In the event although the scandal certainly contributed to the reduced electoral support for all three main political parties and to the increased support for minor parties , especially for UKIP, in the 2009 European Parliament Elections it is likely that its impact on the General Election result was much weaker.

[Students who require more detailed information on the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal may consult this Wikipedia link and these  BBC links one and two . Click here for BBC coverage of the career of Speaker Martin and here for the events surrounding his resignation. Click here for BBC information on imprisoned Labour MPs and Conservative Peers and Click here for BBC information on Labour Peer Baroness Uddin and click here for the factors leading to the resignation of Labour MP Ian Gibson.  Click here for a Guardian Editorial suggesting that Ian Gibson had been an effective MP and that he will be missed.]

 

  1.  There was a significant decline in class voting such that in 2010 there were  little differences in the patterns of party support among AB, C1, and C2 voters although DE voters were still quite significantly more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative although the difference was smaller than in previous general elections.

  2. The combined effects of the relative increased and reduced sizes of the middle class and the working class respectively, the class differences in turnout and the decline in class voting meant that Labour actually received more middle class votes than working class votes. You may like to revisit the assignment on social class and voting behaviour.

  3. Ipsos Mori data and YouGov data on relationships between social class and voting behaviour in 2010 were very similar.

  4. In the Ipsos Mori poll data Women remained more likely to vote Labour and less likely to vote Conservative than men although some YouGov surveys suggest that the more traditional gender differences in voting behaviour had to some extent reasserted themselves. Given the differences in poll findings it will be important for students to discuss this point with their teachers.

  5. Age differences in voting behaviour were small

  6. Minority ethnic voters were more likely than White voters to vote Labour and less likely than White voters to vote Conservative. However support for Labour did decline among Minority Ethic voters and Indian voters were more likely to vote Conservative and less likely to vote Labour than other Minority Ethnic voters. You may Click here for a Runnymede Trust/BES Slide Presentation on Ethnic Minority Voting in the 2010 General Election which suggests  that even though there has been some decline in Minority Ethnic support for Labour Minority Ethnic voters remained considerably more likely to vote Labour than to vote Conservative in 2010..

  7. All regions/countries apart from Scotland swung from Labour to Conservative. Only in Scotland was there a swing from Conservative to Labour.

  8. The Liberal Democrats fared poorly in Scotland partly because they had dismissed two Scottish leaders [Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell between 2005 and 2007.  

  1. The Conservatives were perceived as having better overall policies than Labour.

  2. The most salient issue of the campaign was the economy on which the Conservatives now enjoyed small advantage over Labour. In 1997, 2001 and 2005 Labour was considered more economically competent than the Conservatives.

  3.  Asylum and immigration had become an increasingly salient issue between 2005 and 2010. In Ipsos Mori polls asylum and immigration were less salient than Health and Education but in YouGov polls Asylum and Immigration were more salient than Health and Education. This may have been because the questions on issue saliency were phrased differently in the different companies' polls

  4. Health was  the second most salient issue in the Ipsos Mori survey : Labour enjoyed a small lead over the Conservatives and but Labour's lead  had declined significantly between 2001 and 2005 and gain between 2005 and 2010..

  5. Education was now the third most salient issue in the Ipsos Mori surveys: Labour's large  lead on this issue had disappeared by 2010 and in some polls the Conservatives were rated narrowly ahead of Labour [Ipsos Mori: all respondents], in some polls the ratings were equal [Ipsos Mori : Individuals mentioning Education as important] and in other polls Labour were rated narrowly ahead of the Conservatives You Gov: All respondents]

  6. The Conservatives enjoyed substantial leads over Labour on Asylum/immigration, Taxation, Crime and anti-social behaviour, Defence and Reforming MPS expenses..

  7. In the Ipsos Mori polls Labour did have small leads over the Conservatives on Unemployment, Benefits and Climate change although the Liberal Democrats were actually the preferred Party on Climate change. However in the last YouGov Poll before the General Election the Conservatives' policies on unemployment were narrowly preferred to Labour's were

  8. The Conservative Party was perceived as better able than the Labour Party to deal with the MPs' Expenses Scandal but the electoral salience of this issue had declined significantly between April 2009 and May 2010.

  9. Conservative electoral support could therefore be expected to improve as a result of these developments in the issue and policy agenda but not necessarily by enough to propel the Conservatives to outright General Election victory.

  1. In general terms between 1997 and 2010 Conservative party ratings have tended to improve and Labour's have tended to deteriorate on the basis of the criteria Used by Ipsos Mori. Between 2005 and 2010 Conservative ratings improved especially according to the following criteria: : they are now seen as more likely than Labour to understand the problems ; as having a better team of leaders than Labour; as having more sensible policies than Labour; and as more professional in their approach than Labour. The Conservatives in 2010 were also less likely than in 2005 to be seen as divided; less extreme ; less out of touch with ordinary people and less likely to promise anything to get elected. However it is important to note that even though the Conservative Party image has improved according to a range of criteria   its ratings remain lower  on several criteria than were those of the Blair Governments especially in 1997 and 2001. 

  1. It has been argued more recently that in the era of declining party identification and increasing mass media focus on the political leaders that political leadership is an increasingly important influence on voting behaviour. This may arise especially if party policy differences on spatial salient issues are  relatively small because in these circumstances perceptions of overall governing competence to deliver on valence issues [such as improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime] are  likely to be more significant determinants of voting behaviour and it is the perceived abilities [or otherwise] of the  party leaders [and other significant members of the leadership team] which are crucial to the creation of an image of governing competence.

  2. Gordon Brown did experience a short honeymoon in the early stages of his Premiership when both the Labour Party and Mr. Brown personally achieved higher opinion poll ratings than the Conservative Party and Mr. Cameron personally. However following the postponement of an expected General Election the poll ratings of Mr Brown and of the Labour Party declined, recovered slightly in the early stages of the "credit crunch" but then declined mainly as a result of the combined effects of the economic recession, the MPs expenses scandal, [the significance of which had nevertheless declined by May 2010]  and the perceived relatively poor performance of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. However Gordon Brown's ratings did improve slightly in 2010.

  3. Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slides 13-19 for Information on Party Leadership 

  4. On May 5th, the day before the General Election in answer to the IPSOS MORI question "Who do you think would make the most capable Prime Minister best Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg  respondents answered: 33% David Cameron, 29% Gordon Brown, 19% Nick Clegg, 19% Non/Don't Know. We may note that David Cameron achieved significantly higher poll ratings  than previous Conservative leaders [except John Major in 1992] but that his ratings were lower than those of Tony Blair in 2005 and not much higher than those of Gordon Brown in 2010.

  5. The Conservatives were seen as having the best team of leaders and the best senior leaders but in each case their leads over Labour were small [5% and 3% respectively.

  6. On some criteria Gordon Brown was preferred to both David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

  1. When the MP's Expenses Scandal first broke in April 2009 many voters were  enraged by it and the scandal was clearly a major explanatory factor in the reduced support for all three main political parties and increased support for UKIP, the BNP and the Greens in the European Parliament Elections of 2009. However in May 2010 by comparison with 2005 overall turnout increased slightly and support for non-mainstream parties increased only slightly suggesting that despite the involvement of some MPs from all mainstream parties in the Expenses Scandal the vast majority of voters still wished to support mainstream rather than non-mainstream parties. There were arguments that perhaps the Expenses Scandal might harm Labour more than the Conservatives but it seems likely that any such differential effect was small and possibly non -existent.

The web site  which accompanies  the Politics UK  Textbook by Bill Jones et all contains some very useful additional student resources including resources on the formation and performance of the Conservative -Liberal Democrat Coalition. You may click here for all of the Student Resources and then  Click on Updates on current developments in UK politics. Alternatively click here for a direct link to a very useful Update on the formation of the Coalition and its performance to Feb 2011.

You may click here for a page of new links which I am using to try to keep up to date with developments in UK Politics. This page will be updated continually and  will eventually be used to "set the scene" for the next General Election whenever that may be.