New poll shows Labour lost the centre ground

25 September 2010

Labour leader needs to win back ‘mainstream’ voters
New poll shows Labour lost the centre ground

New opinion poll analysis by Demos shows that voters who left Labour at the last election were more likely to have views in common with the mainstream of public opinion than with the voters that stayed with Labour. The poll shows that the balance of opinion within Labour’s 2010 voters is out of kilter with centrist opinion.

Labour’s lost voters, who voted for the party in 2005 but did not vote Labour in 2010 are less likely to:
• see the state as a guarantor of fairness through public services
• support an activist role for government in regulating business
They are more likely to:
• see reducing public spending as a priority
• express discomfort with immigration

The Open Left project at Demos commissioned YouGov to poll on social attitudes and perceptions to understand the election outcome. The poll allows Demos to compare the outlook of voters Labour lost since 2005, with the ones they retained at the last election.

Overall, voters want to see government intervene to “prevent the market’s excesses” but this view was more strongly held by voters Labour retained. Voters Labour lost were much less likely to see a role for government in constraining the “excesses” of business, with less than half (43%) agreeing that: “On balance, the freedom to make a profit often serves the interests of a minority in society – so government must intervene to prevent the market’s excesses”, placing them closer to the national average (of 41%). Voters who remained loyal to Labour think differently, with over half (58%) agreeing with the statement.

Voters Labour lost between 2005 and 2010 were less likely to see government as a guarantor of standards and fairness in public services. Less than a third (32%) of voters Labour lost at the last election agreed that: “The whole point of government is to make sure that there are decent standards across the board and everyone gets a fair deal. Too much local control means some do well and others badly”, close to the national average (of 35%). Conversely 48% of Labour’s loyal voters agreed with the statement.

Only a third (33%) of the voters Labour lost agreed that: “In general, I think government is a force for good. It helps improve my life and that of my family. It is normally part of the solution, not the problem.” This is in line with the national average (of 32%). More than half (54%) of voters who stuck with Labour at the last election agreed with the statement.

More than half (55%) of voters Labour lost at the last election agree that: “The NHS has got better in the last 10 years but a lot of the extra money has been wasted. The priority now is to seek greater efficiency and end the top-down control”, in line with the national average. Conversely, Labour loyalists were much less likely to see public service cuts as a priority. Just less than a third (32%) of loyal Labour voters agreed with the statement.

The voters Labour lost between 2005 and 2010 were also more likely to see immigration as a source of concern than those who stayed loyal to Labour. While more than half (54%) of voters who stayed loyal to Labour agreed that: “Britain should allow people coming from other countries to live and work here but only grant them access to the benefits of citizenship once they have contributed to our economy and society”, just under half (49%) of voters Labour lost agreed with this statement, in line with the national average.

Richard Darlington, Head of the Open Left project at Demos, said:

“Labour has lost the political centre ground and will struggle at the next election without a shift in political positioning. Labour’s next leader needs to show they are prepared to cut public spending, that they don’t think the state is the answer to every problem and that they are prepared to protect low paid workers against the insecurity that comes with globalisation.

“This poll shows that the voters Labour lost at the last election are closer to the political mainstream than Labour loyalists. Labour’s current coalition of voters is much more comfortable with a bigger, more active state. They are less likely to see public sector cuts as a priority and are more tolerant of immigration.

“Labour’s next leader needs to use their speech a party conference to address the concerns of the voters that Labour lost and show that Labour will represent the mainstream under their leadership. If Labour wishes to create a recipe for returning to power, a bigger or more centralised state is entirely the wrong ingredient.”

4 Responses to “New poll shows Labour lost the centre ground”

  1. Eric Shaw
    November 30th, 2010 @ 8:32 pm

    Could you explain why the views you sketch above are ‘centrist’? What criteria are you employing? There is mounting evidence that two key reasons why Labour lost voters was because it was seen to be very ‘soft’ on immigration and ‘social security scroungers’. Perhaps you could explain why hardline (and often very emotive) positions on these issues are (as Darlington suggests) ‘centrist’ and not right-wing? His reasoning seems to be pretty muddled.

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