General election 2024: what are the most important issues for voters?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 01, 2024, 4:18 PM GMT+0

While 2019 may have been the Brexit election, few see it as a top issue this time round

With the election campaign under way and parties setting out their pitches, a new YouGov survey examines which issues Britons say are most important to how they will vote.

Adapted from our usual ‘most important issues’ tracker, the question asked Britons to choose up to three issues from a list of 16 that will be the most important in deciding who to vote for.

The cost of living tops the list, with 45% of Britons saying it is one of the most important issues in deciding their vote. Health comes in a distant second, on 34%, followed closely by ‘the economy in general’ on 32%, and then immigration in fourth on 26%.

When asked what the single most important issue in deciding their vote will be, the cost of living again comes top, at 26%. After that, three issues are closely tied: immigration, on 18%, the economy in general, on 16%, and health, on 14%.

With Labour expected to handsomely win the coming election, the cost of living is clearly the issue those intending to vote Labour want Keir Starmer to prioritise should he enter Downing Street. A majority of Labour voters (58%) say the cost of living is one of the top issues that will decide their vote, significantly ahead of second-placed health (44%) and ‘the economy in general’ in third (39%).

For those who intend to vote Conservative, by contrast, cost of living only comes third on their list, at 36%. They are instead most likely to say that immigration and asylum is a top issue in deciding how they will vote, at 45%, followed by the economy on 39%.

Those intending to vote for Reform UK are even more animated by immigration, with fully 82% saying this is a top issue for them. The cost of living comes in a very distant second, at 34%.

When it comes to the single most important issue for voters, the cost of living again stands out at the top of the list for Labour voters (36%) – twice as many as joint-second-placed health and economy (18% each).

While, at 27%, immigration is the most commonly listed singular top issue to Tory voters, the economy is not far behind on 23%. Reform UK voters prove to be far more single-minded – fully 68% say that immigration is the most important issue to deciding their vote.

With immigration the issue on which the British public are most likely to say the government has been performing badly - at an enormous 84% - this suggests that Rishi Sunak’s attempts to win over Reform UK voters are likely to be forlorn.

Brexit is not an issue at the 2024 general election

If 2019 was the Brexit election, 2024 is distinctly not. A mere 8% of Britons list it as one of the top issues in deciding how they will vote, and just 2% say it is the most important issue to them.

Notably, just 3% of Leave voters list Brexit as a top motivator in their choice of who to vote for. Remain voters are more likely to do so, although at 15% this means it only ranks fifth overall.

Brexit as an issue has declined in importance over the course of this Parliament. Our standard tracker question shows that Britain leaving the EU had been a top issue for 61% of Britons shortly after the 2019 general election. However, after the 2020 transition period ended this figure slumped to 34%, and has been gradually declining in importance ever since.

Different issues matter to different generations

There are significant differences between the generations in terms of which issues are most important to their vote.

For the over-65s, immigration most commonly features among their ‘top’ issues, at 44%. This contrasts with just 16% of 25-49 year olds and 14% of 18-24 year olds.

For these younger voters, the cost of living is most likely to be one of their big issues, at 49-53%. Only 31% of over-65s say the same, ranking fourth overall.

Unsurprisingly, ‘pensions’ are more likely to be a big concern for the over-65s relative to everyone else (22%), and so is defence and security (17%).

For the youngest Britons, housing stands out as a concern, as does climate change, both are which are listed as top issues by 20%. The conflict in Gaza also motivates 14% of 18-24 year olds, notably more than the 1-6% of other age groups.

See the full results here

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Photo: Getty