Fascinating new polling from TUC on voter attitudes

The TUC are today publishing vital polling information, which throws light on the areas where Labour needs to improve, if we are to win the next election.

The polling was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner on behalf of the TUC, straight after the election. The findings are available as interactive graphs, allowing users to compare different subgroups and questions at: http://www.gqrr.com/uk-post-election-1

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“We commissioned this poll having no idea of the election outcome. But the unexpected result means that there will be much wider interest, and we are pleased to put its results into the public domain. It will be fascinating to see how Labour’s leadership candidates respond to some very challenging findings, just as we can see other parties acting on the same issues that their own polls will have revealed.

“What comes through is that this poll offers no simple set of solutions for a new Labour leader – the attitudes revealed are a fascinating mix that shows voters are on the left on some issues and on the right on others.

“The challenges Labour now faces are very different from those in the past. Voters back a lot of the trade union agenda on living standards and an economic policy based on investment and growth, rather than the deep cuts we now face. But on welfare and immigration their views are very challenging.

“Interestingly, voters are not greatly worried about Labour being against aspiration or anti-business, despite these emerging as themes in Labour’s post mortem. But they did see Labour as a risk and doubted their competence to run the economy, despite being unenthusiastic about Conservative cuts.

“There is no simple formula for a Labour victory here. But to find a route, the party will need to start with the kind of map this poll provides.”

There are a number of positives for Labour. For example, 18-34 year-olds voted for Labour by 39 to 30 over the Conservatives, with UKIP and the Greens each getting 8 per cent. Labour is also seen as being on the side of ordinary people (a 31 point lead over the Conservatives among voters) and the NHS (a 17 point lead). Labour also fared generally better among women than men, although even among women the Conservatives had a 2% advantage (36% to 34%), compared to a 10% lead for the Conservatives among men (39% to 29%)

The current leadership debate seems to be developing an early consensus that Labour needs to address “aspirational” voters. In fact, as Chris Dillow has perceptively observed,

Alan Johnson’s lament that Labour is no longer “a party of aspiration” confirms […] that Blairism is not so much wrong as just out-of-date.

[…] back in the 90s, it was easy to be a party of aspiration. The IT revolution was promising a bright new future, so talk of aspiration, modernity and newness chimed with the zeitgeist. And the world economy was growing well and a favourable supply shock – a falling China price – was boosting real incomes. A government could thus deliver rising living standards simply by not screwing things up too much.

But now is not then. Labour productivity has been flatlining for years and the intelligent talk today is of secular stagnation, not of a new economy. This changes everything. In a world of zero productivity growth, people’s real incomes can rise only in one of three ways: by moving from unemployment to work (which whilst a good thing is not what Mr Johnson means); or by getting a lucky supply shock such as falling commodity prices, which might not happen; or if one person’s income rises at the expense of another’s.

When productivity is flat, “aspiration” is a zero sum game.

What the TUC polling shows is that 13 % of voters considered voting Labour before choosing another party. It is reasonable to assume that this group who considered but rejected Labour are the key swing vote constituency that Labour must win over. Of this group, just 8 % of them say their biggest doubts included that Labour being ‘hostile to aspiration, success and people who want to get on’. This was dwarfed by concerns over Labour spending too much, and being hostage to the SNP.

Contrary to the argument coming from some leadership contenders, by 42 to 22 voters thought Labour was too soft on big business, not too tough; and this rose a ratio of 50 to 15 among voters who considered Labour. By 46 to 35 voters thought Lab should increase taxes on the rich rather than worry about driving investors abroad.

There is also evidence that many voters have a very instrumental view of politics. For many voters, the deciding issue will be which party gives them confidence that they and their familly will maintain or improve their standard of living. The conservatives benefited from incumbency, at a time when most people see the economy recovering, and low interest rates benefit mortgage payers. The Conservatives are seen to have a good track record in government by 54 per cent of voters, perhaps explained by the fact that 60 per cent think the economy is improving and more think their personal finances are improving than think they are getting worse.

Labour is 39 points behind on economic trust despite the fact that the poll suggests Labour’s potential growth arguments are more persuasive than a right-wing focus on the deficit, red tape and tax.

Interestingly, the evidence is contradictory when it comes to evaluating the claims from “Blue Labour”, that a new social model of reciprocity and mutuality should be central to Labour’s vision. By a ratio of 77 to 15 voters are looking for ‘concrete plans for sensible change’ rather than ‘a big vision for radical change’ from political parties. However, by a ratio of 62 to 20 voters want Labour to be tougher on immigration rather than more positive, and a similar margin exists on welfare. This would suggest that to be successful, Labour does need to engage with the collective sense of shared national identity and its values, but this needs to be done organically, rather than trying to sell a big “vision thing”

Where Labour does have an advantage, is that it already has an organic link with some 3 million trade union members, through the affiliated unions; and those unions retain their members by addressing the day to day concerns and problems of their members. While trade union activists are perhaps sustained by a shared ideology of mutuality, and even socialism, the relationship that these activists have with the wider membership is a more complex one, and the art of trade union leadership is to present the case for collectivity and solidarity to members who have a much more instrumental attitude, and a much weaker relationship to the union than the activists do. This is something that Labour needs to learn to do better, it is necessary for the party to create a vision of a fairer and better Britain, and develop that into detailed policies, but it is also necessary to persuade millions of potential voters, who don’t already identify with Labour, that a Labour government will result in not just a fairer society, but also one where they, and those they care about, are more prosperous, and less exposed to economic risk.

22 comments on “Fascinating new polling from TUC on voter attitudes

  1. Uncle Albert on said:

    Interesting comment from Labour MP Jon Trickett on the Labour elite’s current, near-hysterical enthusiasm for the term ‘aspiration’:

    “He [Trickett] said the term was simply “a code for saying we think that inequality is acceptable”.

    “The biggest engine for the delivery of working class aspiration are the trade unions. They deliver what people aspire to achieve.” ”


  2. Sam64 on said:

    The key finding of lack of trust over Labour’s economic management chimes (to the extent that swing voters were more inclined to blame the last Labour govt than the Coalition for spending cuts) with John Curtis’s extensive polling – possibly the TUC derived their data from the Stathclyde psephology Prof, I don’t know. It also tallies with this journalistic evidence on Ch 4 news last week in a revealing report from the key marginal of Warks North – the top of the Labour hit list that the Tories held with a swing. The interviews with private sector factory workers at the end are particularly revealing – they were susceptible to relentless Tory propaganda over jobs. http://www.channel4.com/news/catch-up/display/playlistref/140515

  3. Andy Newman on said:

    Sam64: possibly the TUC derived their data from the Stathclyde psephology Prof, I don’t know

    No, as the article above says, the TUC did their own detailed polling through Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, from 10:00 pm on 7th May through to 11th may, I think, interviewing about 2500 people

  4. John Grimshaw on said:

    Message for Tony Collins. Tony my preview button has stopped working. Is this a common phenomena or just restricted to me?

  5. Pete Jones on said:

    Of course, people may be thinking very differently after the tories return to austerity with gusto. We need to look to the future, not plan to re-fight the last election.

  6. robert p. williams on said:

    So… which Blairite leader will the Labour Party members vote for I wonder?

  7. Uncle Albert on said:

    robert p. williams,

    As the Blairite with the least toxic baggage, I’d put my money on Liz Kendall.

    Burnham is favourite with the bookies and is backed by Blairite idol Dan Jarvis. However, organised Blairites began gunning for Burnham as a possible Miliband successor some years ago. Given their organisational supremacy, they may yet successfully skewer Burnham.

  8. Karl Stewart on said:

    robert p. williams,
    Will the Socialist Party ever have a leadership election I wonder?

    Or will your current general secretary, who’s been in post since 1965 – that is 20 years longer than Joe Stalin was GS of the CPSU and 10 years longer than Mao led the CPC – remain in post unchallenged for the rest of his life?

    At least the Labour Party is holding a democratic leadership election.

  9. robert p. williams on said:

    8# If anybody wants to put themselves forward we can vote on it. No problem.

    But your point is a distraction from the point I was making which was…. Which Blairite leader will the Labour Party members vote for?

    If, as some here still attempt to argue, the Labour Party is a party of and for working people… where is the left candidate?

    If this leadership election is a battle for the heart and soul of the Labour Party, then from what I can see of the candidates, the heart and soul of the Labour Party is firmly committed to the same pro-capitalist anti-immigrant cack we’ve been hearing for years.

  10. Vanya on said:

    #9 Firstly Robert your party will be arguing that there is no difference between Labour and Tories whoever wins the leadership contest, and even if there was a full blown left candidate.

    Remember that you refused to support Ken Livingstone against Boris Johnson for example, and stood in a number of marginal constituencies in this election.

    Secondly, Labour governments have brought in various immigration controls, over a very long period of time, including while the CWI was fully involved in the Labour Party and denouncing anyone on the left who wasn’t as a petty bourgeois sectarian.

  11. Karl Stewart on said:

    robert p. williams,
    Two potential Blairite candidates have already withdrawn from LP leadership contest, Chuka Ummuna and Tristram Hunt, and of the two remaining Blairites who have said they want to be candidates, Liz Kendall and Mary Creagh, I expect only Kendall will actually achieve sufficient nominations to stand.

    So that’ll leave a field of three – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – of whom I would predict Burnham will win.

    So in answer to your question Rob, I don’t think any of the Blairites will win the leadership.

    As to the PLP as a whole, I think the 2015 intake shows a small increase in left Labour MPs. Whch will make for a better political environment in which to argue for socialist policies and a Parliamentary base for resistance to the Tory government and its forthcoming attacks.

    But much, much more importantly, it is up to the wider labour movement to get organised to resist the Tories now. And the forthcoming national anti-austerity demonstration on June 20th will be an extremely important start.

    It’s up to all of us on the left to build a united political consensus, to create a whole political environment, against cuts and austerity and for working-class rights.

    Now, your party Rob. You’ve had the same general secretary since 1965.

    Your party has not had an internal political discussion between competing ideas since the early 1990s.

    Do you think this fossilised leadership is the reason for your party’s fossilised politics?

  12. If nobody in the SP has “put themselves forward” in 50 years then this says that either the level of ability and ideas in the Party is incredibly low, or that literally everyone in the Party is happy with the success of the organisation over that lengthy period. Not sure which is more worrying to be honest.

  13. Robert p Williams on said:

    Ah, I stand corrected…. there ARE still two wings to the Labour Party. On one side we have the pro austerity anti immigrant wing… And on the other the anti immigrant pro austerity wing. What future can we expect for Labour.

    The TUSC wrote to all the Labour candidates we stood against. If they had agreed to an anti austerity position then we would not have stood against them. They made the choice for us.

  14. George Hallam on said:

    Robert p Williams: The TUSC wrote to all the Labour candidates we stood against. If they had agreed to an anti austerity position then we would not have stood against them. They made the choice for us.

    That was very reasonable, but why restrict the offer to the Labour Party?

    TUSC stood candidates in constituencies where anti-austerity parties such as the Socialist Labour Party and the National Health Action Party were also standing.

  15. Karl Stewart on said:

    Robert p Williams,
    There are more than two shades of opinion within the Labour Party. There are many different views and hundreds of thousands of members openly and publicly debating those different views and perspectives. No-one is frightened to speak up and yes of course there are views expressed that I disagree with.

    Your organisation has one view, the view of one individual who has led you for 50 years. You have an internal political culture of unquestioning obedience. And you are too conditioned by this culture of obedience to make any criticism of your leader.

    You have a couple of hundred members and you win derisory levels of support in elections, and both are in long-term decline.

    Out here in the real world, there’s a huge political debate going on, in which the very idea of socialism – even of social democracy – is under attack.

    But this can also be an opportunity for the left. A chance for us to make our ideas known to a wider audience. Maybe we should be saying to the right: OK, let’s talk about ‘aspiration’ about ‘overspending’ and about ‘wealth creators’.

    Let’s support people’s ‘aspirations’ to a decent job, a good and affordable home, quality public services, accessible public transport, and leisure facilities.

    How about shining the spotlight on government ‘overspending’ – on the Iraq War, the regime change in Libya, the cost of Trident replacement, the tax-cut handouts to the wealthy and to businesses.

    And we should support society’s “wealth creators” – all wealth is created by labour. It’s workers who create added value. We need to state and restate this basic fact.

    You seem a quite decent guy Rob, you should leave that fossilised, politically suffocating leader-cult organisation and be part of rebuilding the left.

  16. Uncle Albert on said:

    Karl Stewart: I don’t think any of the Blairites will win the leadership.

    Yet you feel Burnham will win. What convinces you that Burnham isn’t a Blairite?

  17. Karl Stewart on said:

    Uncle Albert,
    Because Blair, Mandelson, Hutton, Bradshaw, the Guardian, the Independent and various other Blairites/Red Tories are opposing him.

    That’s not to say Burnham is a fantastic left-wing socialist. But life is full of “least-worst” choices and he’s the best of the candidates.

    More important is what we do now to shift the political consensus. The forthcoming anti-austerity demonstration called by the People’s Assembly on June 20th is an extremely important event and one we need to be building for now.

  18. robert p. williams on said:

    #15 My experience of being in the socialist party is that we have lively debates on all sorts of subjects. I don’t think the party has fossilized opinions. In fact we have adapted to changing realities. That is why we changed our position on the Labour Party when the Labour Party underwent their historical changes.

    Burnhams clearly stated anti immigrant views and his pro-austerity position… and his role in bringing PFI into the NHS makes him just as right wing as all the other candidates.

    If Burnham is the least worst of the candidates then that speaks volumes about the Labour Party and what it has become. I’m sure there are some people on the left still remaining in the Labour Party, but they are not going to change anything… they are simply trapped there, trapped in a hall of mirrors, imagining they are surrounded by other ‘lefties’ when they simply are not. They are wasting their time, and the time of the working class.

    Sooner or later a new mass party for socialism will be built, I hope sooner. But it is clear that the strategy of remaining in the Labour Party and trying to effect change from within is plainly not working at all. It is a strategy of hopelessness.

    You are right we have to fight back against austerity, and certainly work together with each other. I’m happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with Labour Party individuals who actually oppose all cuts and are willing to act on their convictions…. But I am not willing to offer support to a Labour Party that has turned its back on me and my community.

  19. Karl Stewart on said:

    Can you give any examples of these lively expressions of differing views within your party Rob?

    Where in your party publications are these lively discussions of different viewpoints reported?

    What is the procedure for electing your party leadership? When is the next SP leadership election? Who are the likely candidates? What are their political perspectives?

    I know your organisation had a political debate 20 years ago, but are you really saying one political debate in a generation is an indication of a healthy internal democracy?

    As to Burnham’s call for immigration controls on people coming to the UK from other EU countries, I disagree with him and I disagree with arbitrary controls on human movement in general.

    But it’s odd that you should pick this policy as your “deal-breaker” as the SP does believe in immigration controls.

    Of course, you say immigration controls must be “non-racist” but then so would Burnham argue that he isn’t being racist. In fact everyone who advocates immigration controls begins with a variation on the “…I’m not racist but…” formula.

    So on this particular issue there’s no difference in principle between you and Burnham.

  20. John Grimshaw on said:

    Uncle Albert: Yet you feel Burnham will win. What convinces you that Burnham isn’t a Blairite?

    Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are, Blairism shall never vanquished be until Andy Burnham to Westminster shall come against it?

  21. George Hallam on said:

    John Grimshaw: Who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are

    Given the Labour Party’s results of the recent election any reference to the ‘Scottish play’ must be in poor taste.

  22. jim mclean on said:

    robert p. williams,

    In all honesty I cannot see where a new mass party for Socialism can emerge from as there is not a single party working across the EU, the advantage that Capital and the Right have in compartimentalising the working classes in numerous statelets within a limited free market controlled by a central unelected bureaucracy are Insurmountable. I see the SSP are joining the Scottish Left Project, it is these little distractions that waste time, energy and people power, as does the call for a New Party. Sadly the party in prime place to become the New Party of the working class could be UKIP whose protectionist policies do strike a chord with many.