2019 election manifestos: which policies have the public noticed?

Sarah Prescott-SmithSenior Research Executive
December 09, 2019, 10:24 AM GMT+0

The public recall more Labour commitments than Conservative

In 2017 the Labour and Conservative manifestos had a huge impact on the election, with Labour’s pledges appealing to many while Conservative social care proposals derailed their entire campaign.

This time the Conservatives have understandably kept their pitch more low-key, while Labour appears to have been unable to generate the same level of enthusiasm as 2017.

This being the case, what has the public noticed from party manifestos? We asked Britons a pair of questions, allowing them to answer in their own words which policies they had noticed from each manifesto, and grouped them into categories.

Brexit stands out

Brexit comfortably tops the list of policies which Brits recall from the Conservative document, with 43% citing it as one of the main elements they had seen or heard of the manifesto. This number rises to 50% amongst those who voted Leave in 2016.

Labour’s policies on the EU were recalled by far fewer people, with just 26% mentioning something to do with Brexit. This is perhaps unsurprising given a YouGov survey in November found that most Brits are uncertain on Labour’s Brexit policy. This figure breaks down into 15% of Brits recalling Corbyn’s pledge to enter back into Brexit negotiations, and 11% citing the promise of a second referendum.

With Labour hoping to squeeze more support from Remainers ahead of the vote on Thursday, they might be disappointed to see only 15% of 2016 Remain voters quoted their second referendum pledge as a main policy.

NHS pledges cross party boundaries

With Labour traditionally seen as the party of the NHS, it’s perhaps unsurprising that around one in five (22%) respondents mentioned the NHS or health policies among those they most noticed.

However, just as many (22%) recalled the Conservative NHS policies, in particular their pledge for more nurses, suggesting that the Tory strategy of getting people arguing about the figures involved may have paid off. Possibly bad news for the Tories though is that 2% of Brits mention privatisation of the NHS as a prominent policy in the Conservative manifesto.

Brits recall more of Labour’s manifesto policies

One noticeable difference between public opinion on the two manifestos is how many more policies people cite from Labour’s manifesto than the Conservative pledge document.

Five of Labour’s manifesto pledges are recalled by more than one in ten people, compared to just two for the Conservatives. Along with policies on Brexit and the NHS, the public also recalled ‘more spending or money for services’ (19%), ‘nationalisation’ (17%), and ‘free broadband’ (12%).

When it comes to the Conservatives, once you get past Brexit (42%) and the NHS (22%) there is a significant drop to third-placed ‘crime and more policing’, at just 9%.

That Labour has a lot more policies than the Tories has not gone unnoticed. Six in ten Brits (60%) think that Labour have a lot of policies, compared to just 37% who think the same about the Conservatives.

However, only 20% of Britons think that Labour’s policies are well thought through, compared to 27% who say the same of Conservative policies.

Many Brits noticed no manifesto commitments

Despite all the Westminster excitement about manifestos, it's important to remember that much political news does not cut through to the public. This is best demonstrated by the fact that despite more than a month of campaigning almost a third of the public can’t recall any policies for either party (33% for the Conservatives, 31% for Labour).

Photo: Getty

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