Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we examine the failure of the Government on housing and how this inaction is inviting an electoral backlash against the Conservatives.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Our latest Westminster polling
  • Americans’ love of meat

If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention (28 May):

Labour 43% (+1)
Conservative 28% (-2)
Liberal Democrat 12% (-1)
Green 7% (+3)
Reform UK 5% (–)
Scottish National Party 3% (-1)
Other 3% (+1)

Changes +/- 21 May

Combined Net Approval Ratings (28 May):

Keir Starmer: +8% (+4)
Jeremy Hunt: -13% (–)
Rishi Sunak: -14% (-3)

Changes +/- 21 May

As Spring turns to Summer, Labour maintains a healthy advantage over the Conservatives in our latest Westminster Voting Intention polling.

Since early April, Labour’s lead has consistently held in the low to mid-teens, while the party’s vote share has remained steady in the mid-40’s since late March. 

The Conservatives, meanwhile, have struggled to poll above 30%, having only done so once (32% on 16 April) since the start of the year. The 16% polled by the Liberal Democrats in the week after their successes in the May local elections now looks more like a blip than the start of an upward trend. Their vote share falls one point this week to 12%, back where it was in the week before the local elections.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating, which had been rising steadily since March, suffers a second consecutive weekly drop, with his latest rating of -14% the lowest he has held nationally since 26 February. Labour leader Keir Starmer sees his rating gain four points to +8%, while Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s rating remains unchanged at -13%.

Keir Starmer has also extended his lead over Rishi Sunak as the person Britons think would be the better Prime Minister to eight points, 41% to 33%, his largest lead since 12 March.

Our latest Red Wall poll, published on Tuesday, shows a slightly more mixed picture, but with Labour still in poll position, well ahead of the Conservatives.

Labour’s lead in its historic heartlands has fallen six points since our last poll two weeks ago, but that still gives the party a more than healthy 17-point advantage in a set of seats it lost by nine-points in 2019. 

In short, despite last week’s poll in the traditionally Conservative Blue Wall which showed the Conservatives have nudged into a one-point lead there—their first in these seats since we started our Blue Wall tracker in October—the overall polling picture remains grim for the Government.  

Chart of the Week

In February, an article in The Washington Post noted that the average American now consumes over 250 lbs (113kg) of meat per year and called the United States “a nation of hardcore carnivores.” 

A recent poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on behalf of Newsweek confirms this view of America as a nation of meat lovers.

61% of Americans say they consume meat multiple times a week, with a further 20% saying they eat meat one or twice a week. Only 7% say they either rarely (4%) or never (3%) eat meat.

In addition, more than three-quarters of Americans (76%) agree with the statement ‘It is healthy to eat meat,’ against only 5% who disagree.

Nor do Americans see laboratory-grown meat as an alternative to animal-based products.

57% say they would not eat lab-grown meat, with only 25% saying they would. But Americans’ reticence about lab-grown meat goes beyond simple distaste, with a majority of 55% saying they would not feel safe eating such meat.

Altogether, then, Americans are set to continue consuming their hamburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken, maintaining the USA’s status as one of the world’s most meat-loving countries.

Hire Us: If you are a business, campaign, or research organisation looking to expand your understanding of public opinion, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has the tools to help. Get in touch to find out more.

Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis

The Conservatives Housing Problem

Since the end of the Second World War, housing has served as a bedrock of the Conservative Party’s policy platform. 

In their 1951 manifesto, with Winston Churchill as leader, the Conservatives targeted building 300,000 new homes a year, providing the mantra that “in a property-owning democracy, the more people who own their own homes, the better.” The benefits provided by suitable housing were furthermore seen as “key to productivity.”

In 1975, in her first Conference speech as leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, drew on this vision, arguing that a “property-owning democracy” was “the British inheritance” and “the essence of a free country.”

The party went into the 2019 Election with a manifesto which set out a target of building “300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.” In June 2020, speaking from a lectern emblazoned with the words “BUILD, BUILD, BUILD,” Boris Johnson announced his Government would introduce the “most radical” reforms of the planning system in the post-war era, promising to “build better, build greener” but most of all to “build faster.”

It has long been held that increasing the number of homeowners is good Conservative policy that provides an electoral dividend for the party. Having settled down their roots, homeowners, it has been argued, are more conservative in their outlook. And indeed, data from the 2019 General Election confirms this picture, suggesting that about twice as many owner-occupiers voted Conservative in that election as voted for Labour.

However, that considerable lead has since been reversed. In our latest national voting intention poll, Labour and the Conservatives are neck-and-neck among those who own their own homes (36% vs 35%), with Labour having led the Conservatives among homeowners only since the mortgage rates spiked in the aftermath of the mini budget.

In the meantime, among those who live in rented accommodation, Labour holds a lead of over thirty points, having led among this demographic in every poll that we have conducted that included this demographic question (since January 2021).

In simple terms, Labour is competitive (and winning) among a demographic in which the Conservatives had heretofore been dominant and is dominant among a demographic that, in its youthfulness, represents the future of the country.

If it is true that comfortable, prosperous home-owners are more conservative in their outlook, then the Conservatives must seek to make the conditions of owning a home as favourable as possible, thereby (1) turning renters into home-owners and (2) providing home-owners with the security of being able to keep their home. Instead, in a Britain with a chronic housing shortage and ever increasing interest rates, the Conservatives are failing on both fronts.

Looking to meet the ambitious targets set in their 2019 manifesto, the Government finally introduced a bill in the Commons in November 2022 that would have loosened planning laws and made the target of 300,000 new homes per year mandatory. But a rebellion by Conservative MPs forced the plans to be watered down. The target has since been described by Minister Michael Gove as a “starting point” and “advisory.”  

The leader of the rebellion, Theresa Villiers, argued that top-down housing targets created “pressure on councils to accept overdevelopment” while denying local communities a say over development in their area. Rishi Sunak himself said the targets were dropped due to the opposition of Conservative councillors and party members.

Meanwhile, approval of the Government’s performance on housing has sunk. Last week, the Government’s approval rating on housing (-26%) was its third worst on all issues, behind only the perennial problem issues of immigration (-27%) and the NHS (-30%).

Many thoughtful Conservatives recognise the electoral danger posed by such failure. In a scathing column on the rebellion over planning reform last November, the former Conservative MP Paul Goodman asked “Why on earth would young people who can’t afford a home vote Conservative?” 

His cri de coeur echoes the warnings of the former Levelling Up Secretary, Simon Clarke, who recently told his party that young people priced out of London were moving to surrounding counties and “carrying their resentment against the Government with them.”

And indeed, with Conservative policy in disarray, Labour has spotted an opportunity to swipe the Conservatives long-held mantle as “the party of home ownership.”

Frustration with the Government has helped Labour maintain a lead over the Conservatives in every single poll going back to the summer of 2021 as the most trusted party to manage housing. Looking to drive home its advantage, the party this week unveiled a “pro-building” agenda, which would give local officials new powers to expedite compulsory land-purchases and speed up housing construction.

Tellingly, Keir Starmer used his final Prime Minister’s Questions before last month’s local elections to take up the case of struggling home buyers, telling Rishi Sunak that his “decision to scrap housing targets is killing the dream of home ownership for a generation.”  

As an electoral issue, housing ranks consistently among the top five issues. Since the start of the year, around 20% of voters have consistently named housing as one of the three issues that would most determine their vote in a General Election. But the issue is more likely to be a priority for younger voters than it is for older ones, with the percentage of voters aged 18-24 and 25-34 citing housing as one of their top three election issues regularly reaching 30%. 

Stagnating wages and a shortage of available housing, in addition to the difficulties of securing a mortgage, are forcing increasing numbers of millennials out of the housing market and into the crowded rental sector. 

The Home Builders Federation now warns that the current Government’s “anti-development approach to house building” could lead to just 120,000 new homes being built in England annually in the coming years, a little more than one third of the annual total need according to an estimate by the National Housing Federation. The continued Conservative inaction on house building is handing “Generation Rent” a powerful incentive to vote against it at the next election.   

Every Conservative Prime Minister has known the electoral importance of not just home-ownership but genuinely secure home ownership. Now, their heirs in the Conservative Party appear to be losing the argument among both those who aspire to be home owners and those who are already home owners too.

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

Kemi Badenoch’s popularity falls among Tory voters after Brexit bonfire row
The Telegraph | 30 May 2023

Through the looking glass: Labour is now the low-immigration party
The Independent | 28 May 2023

Boost for Tories as they take polling lead in ‘Blue Wall’ seats for first time since Rishi Sunak became PM
Daily Mail | 25 May 2023

US backs Prince Harry leaving Coronation early for Archie’s birthday
Daily Express | 24 May 2023

Trump says ‘treasonous quest’ against him will continue because of strong polling
Washington Examiner | 20 May 2023

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