What do Liberal Democrat voters believe?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 02, 2024, 12:51 PM GMT+0

The same thing as Labour voters

There has been a lot of discussion since the start of the campaign about tactical voting – with Labour and Lib Dem supporters backing each other’s party at a local level in order to consolidate the anti-Tory (and in some seats in Scotland, the anti-SNP) vote around one candidate.

New YouGov data looks at both the likelihood of Labour and Lib Dem supporters to vote tactically and also examines the differences and similarities between the two groups. It finds that quite large numbers are voting tactically which may, in part, be made easier by their shared positions on most issues. 

Conservatives facing orange squash

While there is no official “anti-Tory coalition” voters are arranging themselves in this way anyway. Fully four in ten (39%) of those who plan to cast their ballot for the Lib Dems in the election will be doing so tactically. Half of these Lib Dem voters – 20% of the party’s total electorate – wish they were really voting for Labour.

However, this is true on both sides of the equation, as three in ten (29%) Labour voters are doing so tactically, including 10% of all Labour voters who would rather be voting for the Liberal Democrats on 4 July.

The relatively high degree of tactical voting is likely to be made easier by the interchangeability of the views of both parties’ voters. A striking finding of our research is that the opinions and positions of Labour and Lib Dem voters are near identical across a whole range of issues.

On a survey which presented voters with 24 sets of opposing policy and attitude statements across a wide variety of topics, on 20 the difference between Labour voters and Liberal Democrat voters is not statistically significant. On the remaining four the differences are still slender – the most contentious point between the two voting groups is on whether the government should redistribute income from the better off to those who are less well off: 70% of Labour voters say so, while ‘only’ 61% of Lib Dem voters agree.

Extending our quest for differentiation between the two voting groups to opinion on recent manifesto policies still yielded mostly similarities. Of the 54 election manifesto policies we have asked about across the campaign, on 35 of them the differences between the two voting groups are not significant.

Again, even among those 19 policies where opinion differs significantly, opinion between the two parties is relatively close. The biggest gaps are a 15pt difference on charging VAT on private schools (Labour are more pro, at 81% to the Lib Dems’ 66%), and an identically sized gap in opinion on the Tories’ proposed £20m expansion to the Levelling Up fund, which 68% of Labour voters back but only 53% of Lib Dems.

Across all issues examined, there is only one on which the dominant opinion among Lib Dem voters and Labour voters differ: votes at 16, which Labour voters support by 52% to 40% and Lib Dem voters oppose by 50% to 43%.


The demographics of Labour and Lib Dem voters are also strikingly similar in several ways.

The gender balance of the parties is about the same – in contrast to the Greens who skew female and Reform UK who are quite strongly male. They are similarly spread across the income, class and education distributions.

The main difference is that Lib Dem voters are older than Labour voters – the average age of a Lib Dem voters is 49 compared to 45 for Labour voters. In terms of the age categories we typically use, Labour and the Lib Dems have identical numbers of 18-24 year olds and 50-64 year olds, but there are more Labour 25-49 year olds (50% vs 35%) and more Lib Dem over-65s (24% vs 14%).

The larger differences between the demographics of the party tend to reflect this point – Lib Dems are more likely to be homeowners than Labour voters, and more likely to be retired.

The other major difference between the two parties is geography, with the Lib Dem vote much more concentrated in the South (56%) than Labour (28%). Much of this will of course be down to the tactical voting considerations that motivate so many of the Lib Dems’ voters, with the party’s winnable seats being largely concentrated in the South.

See the full results for the battery of policy and attitudinal questions here and the manifesto policies on our manifesto policies page

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Photo: Getty