General election 2024: which voters are the Conservatives and Labour seen as being close to?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 16, 2024, 10:21 AM GMT+0

Older Britons don’t see the Conservatives as being close to them

The Conservatives’ core voter strategy at the 2024 general election has been widely seen as trying to appeal to older Britons. The problem is, no-one seems to have told older Britons.

A new YouGov survey, which asks Britons to say how close they think the Conservatives and Labour are to each of 16 different groups, finds that only 40% of the over-65s feel that the Conservatives are close to ‘older people’, compared to 47% who disagree.

A similar 37% of this age group say the Tories are close to ‘pensioners’, while 50% say they are not. A YouGov poll earlier in the election campaign showed that 54% of the over-65s said that the party’s pension plans – which included the much-touted ‘triple lock plus’ – did not go far enough.

Crucially, when asked whether they think the Conservatives are close to ‘people like you’, the number of over-65s who feel like they are drops to just 28%. Most older Britons (58%) say they don’t think the Conservatives are close to people like themselves.

Among the wider British population, 46% of people say the Conservatives are close to the older generations, compared to 36% who disagree.

While the Conservative messaging towards older Britons might not be getting through to that age group, it is certainly being picked up by the youngest Britons. Fully 64% of 18-24 year olds say they feel like the Conservatives are close to ‘older people’ – this is significantly higher than all other age groups, comparing to 46% of 25-49 year olds, 45% of 50-64 year olds, and the aforementioned 40% of the over-65s.

By contrast, few across any age group think that the Conservatives are close to young people. Just 11% of Britons feel this way – this includes only 7% of 18-24 year olds, and still just 19% of the over-65s.

Who are the Conservatives close to?

If the Conservatives are not considered by a majority of the population to be close to even their core voting group, then who do people see them as being close to?

Topping the list is ‘rich people’, whom 79% of Britons consider the Tories to be close to, with a similar 74% feeling they are close to ‘businesspeople and the City’. Likewise, 60% feel that the party are close to people in the South of England (with most Southerners agreeing) and 56% think they are close to the middle class (with most people in middle class households agreeing).

In 1975, Margaret Thatcher outlined her vision for Britain as a ‘property-owning democracy’, and today the Conservatives are seen as being close to homeowners by 49% of the public, compared to 32% who do not see them as being close.

As already noted, the Conservatives are more likely to be seen as close to older people by the general public than not (46% vs 36%), but people are torn on whether they are close to pensioners, with 40% feeling that they are, and 40% saying they are not close.

There are no other groups that the public tend to see the Conservatives as close to. Of the groups they are generally not seen as being close to, this most importantly includes ‘people like you’ – a mere 19% of Britons say they think the Tories are close to people like themselves, while 65% say they are not.

Even among those who voted for Conservatives in 2019, just 39% see the party as being close to ‘people like you’ – the highest rate the Tories get with any group. Half of 2019 Tory voters (50%) feel that the Conservatives are not close to people like themselves.

Who are Labour close to?

With their commanding lead in the voting intention polls, it is no surprise that more people believe that the Labour party are close to people like themselves. Nevertheless, this only constitutes 32% of the population – 49% still feel that Labour are not close to people like themselves.

Young people (18-24 year olds) are the only social group who are more likely to think that Labour are close to them (45%) than not close to them (32%). When it comes to voting groups, most 2019 Labour voters think the party is close to them (62%), as do a plurality of 2019 Lib Dem voters (46%, versus 36% who see them as not close), and Remain voters (49% close, 38% not close).

While the Unite union – the UK’s largest – may be refusing to endorse the Labour manifesto, ‘trade unions’ are the group that the public are most likely to see Labour as close to. Two thirds of Britons (65%) feel Labour are close to the unions, compared to only 17% who say they are not.

Labour are also seen by half of Britons has being close to the working class (52%) and benefit claimants (50%).

Half of people (48%) likewise see Labour as close to ‘people with families’ – a key advantage over the Conservatives, of whom only 29% think the same.

The party is also seen as close to young people by 45%, with 30% of the public disagreeing. The youngest Britons (53% of 18-24 year olds) are the most likely to agree, and the oldest Britons (40% of over-65s) are least likely.

See the full results here

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Photo: Getty