Half of Conservative Voters Say They Would Be More Likely to Vote for a Party That Proposes Increased Taxes and Welfare Spending

April 16, 2021
By The Redfield & Wilton Strategies Research Team
Economic Policy | Lifestyle and Society | Social Class | The Economy
Share this research:

Our Most Recent Research

In the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we asked the British public about how specific policy stances might impact their likelihood to vote for a Political Party. These questions presented a simple dichotomy between two positions, on opposite sides of certain debates. While, of course, there are more nuanced positions on each of these issues––and some parties and politicians do present a more nuanced approach––we have chosen to present respondents with these dichotomies: 1) to mirror the black-and-white nature in which some of these issues are presented in the media and press, and 2) to see where voters fall when faced with a binary choice between two opposite positions.

In some areas, such as immigration and evaluating British history, we find significant divergence in Britons’ answers based on how they voted in the 2019 Election. However, there is considerable  divisions within the groups of Conservative and Labour voters with respect to other policies—including taxes and welfare spending.

53% of Britons say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes raising taxes and increasing welfare spending, including 50% of 2019 Conservative voters and 55% of 2019 Labour voters. A significant 47% say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes reducing taxes and decreasing welfare spending.

Although decreasing taxes and welfare spending is typically viewed as a pillar of the Conservative Party platform, 2019 Conservative voters are split on whether or not they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes such a policy. It is worth noting that such a split may be a reflection of the extraordinary circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic rather than a long-term shift in direction—indeed, our research prior to the 2021 Budget announcement found that there was similarly no widespread consensus on economic policy among Conservative voters.

Conversely, despite higher taxes and greater welfare spending being widely associated with the Labour Party’s platform, a considerable 45% of Labour voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes reducing taxes and welfare spending. Those who voted Liberal Democrat in 2019 are the most inclined to say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes higher taxes and welfare spending (69%).

As respondents’ age increases, so does their likelihood to vote for a Party that proposes higher taxes and welfare spending, increasing from 41% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 62% of those aged 65 and over.

The British public is also notably divided on whether they would be more likely to vote for a Party that advocates for a more de-centralised Government (55%) or a more centralised Government (45%).

Once again, Conservative voters are evenly split on whether they would be more likely to vote for a Party which advocates for a more de-centralised (50%) or a more centralised (50%) Government. A greater proportion of Labour voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that supports more decentralisation (58%), while a much greater proportion of Liberal Democrat voters say the same (72%).

Older respondents are also substantially more likely to say they would vote for a Party that advocates for more decentralised Government, including 64% of those aged over 65. By contrast, a slight majority of those aged 18 to 24 (52%) and 25 to 34 (54%) say they would be more likely to vote for Party which supports more centralisation, despite earlier research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finding that younger age groups were most in favour of greater devolution in power––suggesting that younger voters may support devolution, not in theory, but where it suits the party they support.

Another policy area which often differentiates the Conservative Party and the Labour Party is the extent to which they seek to influence citizens to make certain decisions. That being said, a majority (56%) of all respondents—including 54% of Conservative voters and 61% of Labour voters—say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that seeks to nudge citizens into making better decisions. Altogether, 44% of respondents say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that prefers to leave citizens alone.

Further, a majority (56%) of respondents say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that suggests possibly reforming the House of Lords, rather than one that proposes to abolish it (44%).

2019 Labour voters are the most inclined to say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that proposes abolishing the House of Lords at 47%, reflecting the Labour Party’s plans to abolish the House of Lords under former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Still, a majority of respondents who voted Labour, Conservative, or Liberal Democrat, along with all age groups, say they would be more likely to vote for a Party which only suggests possibly reforming the House of Lords (i.e. how the Conservative Party approached the issue in their 2019 manifesto). 

During the 2019 General Election, the Labour Party also promised to scrap university tuition fees if elected, a policy which 66% of 2019 Labour voters say would make them more likely to vote for a Party. By contrast, 57% of Liberal Democrat and 45% of Conservative voters say the same. Overall, 58% of respondents say they would be more likely to vote for a Party which suggests free university without tuition fees, whereas 42% would prefer to vote for a Party which considers free university to be an unsustainable goal.

Respondents aged 35 to 44 say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that suggests free university in the greatest proportion (67%), compared to 58% of those aged 18 to 24 and 50% of those aged 65 and over.

On the contentious issue of Scottish independence, Britons are divided on whether they would be more likely to vote for a Party that is opposed to (52%) or supportive of (48%) Scottish independence.

Although the UK Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour Parties do not support Scottish independence, a majority (58%) of 2019 Labour voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Party which is supportive of Scottish independence. 61% of 18-to-24-year-olds say the same. By comparison, under a third of 2019 Conservative voters (31%) and those aged 65 and over (31%) say they would be more likely to vote for a Party which supports Scottish independence, revealing a considerable degree of division on the matter according to age and partisanship.

Answers also vary with gender: 53% of female respondents and 43% of male respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a Party that supports Scottish independence.

There is a significant consensus, however, on the topic of prison sentences: three-quarters (78%) of the British public says they would be more likely to vote for a Party which favours harsh sentences for crimes rather than one which favours lenient sentences (22%).

2019 voters of the Conservative Party—which included tougher sentencing as a major dimension of its Election Manifesto—are overwhelmingly inclined to say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that favours harsh sentences for crimes, at 87%. Though still forming a large majority, a smaller proportion (72%) of Labour voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that favours harsh sentences.

When it comes to how the UK should approach its history, the difference between Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and Labour voters is substantial: while almost half (48%) of Labour voters say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that thinks the UK should atone for a problematic history, 38% of Liberal Democrat voters and just 14% of Conservative voters say the same. Overall, the majority (68%) of Britons say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that instead thinks the UK should celebrate a proud history.

Half (51%) of 18-to-24-year-olds say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that thinks the UK should atone for a problematic history rather than celebrate a proud history. Meanwhile, only 19% of those aged 65 and over share this view.

81% of Conservative voters—compared to 42% of Labour voters and 45% of Liberal Democrat voters—say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that is more restrictive with respect to immigration. Among all respondents, the majority (59%) say the same, whereas 41% say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that is more open with respect to immigration.

There is also significant variance based on respondents’ age, with 44% of 18-to-24-year-olds and 67% of those aged 65 and over saying they would be more likely to vote for a Party that advocates for more restrictive immigration.

For the most part, the policy positions that make respondents more likely to vote for a Party are often, in fact, close to the positions of the Party for which they voted in 2019. That being said, there is a considerable willingness among Conservative voters to vote for a Party that supports increasing taxes and welfare and nudging citizens into making better decisions, even though these policies are typically not associated with the Conservatives. Likewise, even though the Labour Party does not support Scottish independence, a small majority of Labour voters say such a position would make them more likely to vote for a Party. As Labour seeks to regain the many seats it lost to the Conservatives in the 2019 Election, these results indicate which direction on policy stances the Labour Party could pursue to achieve this end—and which direction the Conservatives could pursue to prevent it. 

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Follow us on Twitter

Share our research:

Our Most Recent Research