The local vs the national: the NHS comes into conflict with Brexit in terms of voters’ priorities

The local vs the national: the NHS comes into conflict with Brexit in terms of voters’ priorities
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With the Conservatives adopting a campaign on Brexit and other national issues, and many Labour candidates adopting an exclusively local approach, YouGov looks at how the public’s national vs local perspectives differ

One of the features of this election has been the attempt by Labour candidates to separate the local from the national. With reports that the party’s leader is very unpopular on the doorstep, Labour candidates have been trying to convince voters to think about their local candidate when voting rather than Jeremy Corbyn.

The Conservatives meanwhile are centring their campaign solely on Theresa May and her ability to negotiate Brexit and handle other national issues like defence and security.

Framing things this way raises an interesting question: how far does the importance of an issue at a national level diverge from how it is seen at a local level? What issues would a candidate looking to fight a local campaign be better off tackling compared to a candidate campaigning on national issues?

To find out, YouGov asked respondents three sets of open-ended questions exploring the most important issues at a local and national level:

  • The single most important issue facing the local area/country as a whole
  • The single most important issue in the local area/country as a whole in deciding how people will vote in the election  
  • The single most important issue they would prioritise if they were their local MP/Prime Minister

Across the three sets of questions, when it comes to the most important issues facing the country Brexit comes top, at between 31-36%. However, this figure drops off significantly when respondents were talking about their local area, gaining only 8%-13%.

By contrast, while health is in second place when it comes to national issues (at 14%-16%) it moves up to first place when respondents think about their local concerns (21%). Those aged 65+ were the group most likely most likely to rank health as their number one local concern.

Some issues are much more polarising. Housing gains more resonance as a local issue than a national one (7%-11% vs 0%-1%), whereas defence and security gains more traction at a national than local level (9%-18% vs 2%-3%).

To an extent, this research backs up the phrase that “all politics is local.” However, in a general election – where the party leaders are front and centre, fighting for airtime on the six o’clock news – the campaign is national. Both parties will hope that they have picked the right battles to win the right seats. We will know for sure on Friday.

Photo: PA

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