The 2019 General Election saw the puncturing of Labour’s ‘red wall,’ with many traditionally working class Northern seats––some of which had been held by the Labour Party for the past century––switching to the Conservatives. Boris Johnson led the successful Conservative campaign on a manifesto based on ‘getting Brexit done,’ and the election saw a significant increase in the Conservative vote share among those with lower incomes, who are more likely to support Brexit. Meanwhile, Keir Starmer has called on the Labour Party to rediscover its patriotic roots in a bid to appeal to lost former working class voters, especially in the seats they lost in 2019.
Despite an increase in working class support for the Conservatives over a year ago, polling of 2019 Conservative and Labour voters conducted last week by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has found that a plurality of 2019 Conservative voters (47%), when asked, say no, they do not consider the Conservative Party to be the party of the working class, while a significant 39% think it is. Approximately a fifth (22%) of 2019 Labour voters consider the Conservative Party to be the party of the working class.
By comparison, the majority (71%) of 2019 Labour voters, when asked, say yes, the Labour Party is the party of the working class, while approximately a fifth (18%) say no. Over a third (37%) of 2019 Conservative voters think the Labour Party is the party of the working class, and half (49%) think otherwise.
Half (50%) of 18-to-24-year-old 2019 Conservative voters think the Labour Party is the party of the working class. Given that a significant portion of this group also thinks that the Conservative Party is the party of the working class, younger Conservative voters may see the Conservative Party and Labour Party as similar parties with regards to representing the working class. On the other hand, older 2019 Conservative Party voters see neither the Conservative nor Labour Party as parties of the working class.
The majority of Labour voters––regardless of age––consider the Labour Party, and not the Conservative Party, as the party of the working class.
In our voting intention poll conducted earlier last week, among the self-described working class, Labour holds a +3 lead over the Conservatives, with 39% of self-described working class eligible voters saying they would vote for the Conservative Party and 42% saying they would vote Labour. Nationally, this poll showed a +6 Conservative lead, demonstrating some distinction between the voting intentions of working class voters and general voters overall.
Yet among self-described middle class voters, the Conservatives hold a +17 lead, with almost half (48%) of middle class voters saying they would vote Conservative and 31% intending to vote Labour. While it is important to note that respondents were asked to self-describe their social class, the Conservatives hold a clear lead over Labour among middle class voters, and Labour holds a slim lead over the Conservative Party among working class voters.
Ultimately, the majority of 2019 Labour Party voters across age groups consider Labour to be the party of the working class. Despite Conservative gains in traditionally working class seats in 2019, Conservative voters are more divided on which party is the party of the working class: younger 2019 Conservative voters say that both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party are parties of the working class while older voters think neither party is. Indeed, the Conservative Party holds a large lead over Labour among self-described middle class voters in voting intention, but Labour has a small lead among self-described working class voters.