Despite their overwhelming importance, “squeezed middle” voters across England’s most marginal seats feel overlooked and unrepresented – with Labour perceived as the party that represents those on benefits and trade union members and the Conservatives perceived to be on the side of the rich and business.
Overlooked but Decisive examined the values and political attitudes of C1/C2 voters in 119 ‘permanent’ battleground seats in England that are likely to remain critical in future elections. These are the seats that both Labour and the Conservatives need to secure workable parliamentary majorities. 2011 Census data shows that in the vast majority of these marginal seats, C1/C2 voters make up over half of the electorate.
YouGov polling in April of 2,974 voters in marginal seats, and 1,771 across Britain in an additional nationally representative poll, asked voters to reveal their attitudes and views on a range of issues. Digging into the analysis for just the 1,207 C1/C2 voters, the research found that both men and women prioritised the values of family and fairness above all – as well as hard work and decency.
They perceived the two main English political parties and their priorities as:
- When asked who Labour represented, the top two answers were people on low incomes and trade unionists. Labour were associated more closely with the stated values of C1/C2 voters. The party was seen to stand for equality, fairness and family.
- The Conservatives were seen as the party of entrepreneurship, followed by tradition, hard work and ambition. Other than hard work, these perceived values were well down their own list. When asked who the Conservatives represented the top two answers were rich people and business people.
Other key findings reveal:
- The Conservatives have a potential problem with C1/C2 women in marginal seats. While C1/C2 men in these marginals were planning to vote Tory by a significant margin, C1/C2 women were split. However, the answer clearly does not lie in a “softer” approach to politics. While C1/C2 women are more interested in issues such as childcare and the cost of living, they are more concerned than men about immigration, school discipline, weak sentencing and keeping the country safe.
- 59% of C1 voters and 56% of C2 voters in marginals said they often switch between parties or would vote for a different party if they were disappointed with their usual choice.
- When given a list of priorities divided into five categories by financial, health, education, ‘family friendly’ and crime and justice, C1s/C2s put the following towards the top of the pile: raising the personal allowance, preventing ‘health tourism’, introducing stricter discipline in schools, increasing the number of free childcare hours and amending human rights laws to ensure the swifter deportation of criminals who were foreign nationals.
Some of the data is available to examine in the interactive charts below
Law and order priorities