Missing million voters whose decision could swing 40 seats | Politics
More than a million low-income voters who did not cast their ballot in the last election are planning to do so this time, in a sign they could play a crucial role in deciding the result.
Analysis shows as many as 1.2 million people on low incomes did not vote in 2017, but have since become politically engaged. The figure emerged from a major piece of work by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, which has been attempting to identify the concerns of low-income families, with research already showing that there are 40 seats in which the number of low-income swing voters is bigger than the incumbent MP’s majority. Its research reports high levels of disillusion, distrust and cynicism among low-income voters, with many wary of broken political promises.
Crucially, the voters display different priorities to the population as a whole, with key issues including more secure tenancies in the private rented sector, more council and housing association homes for rent, and guarantees that social security benefits rise in line with inflation.
A majority of the group did not vote in the 2016 referendum. However, there appears to be a majority for Leave. Excluding those who didn’t vote or don’t recall who they voted for, this group voted 66-34 Leave. Of the newly engaged voters, 14% describe themselves as swing voters, meaning 170,000 votes could be up for grabs should parties turn their attention to their interests.
Brexit is less of a concern to them than it is nationally. While 20% of all low-income voters said it was among the most important issues, this was below the 26% of voters overall. The cost of living was among the most important issues for 50% of these voters, compared with 42% overall. Housing was an important issue for 21%, against 14% of all voters. Convincing the cohort of potential voters to head to the ballot box could boost Labour’s campaign. The research, based on polling during the summer, found Labour was eight points ahead of the Tories among low-income voters, on 30% compared with 22%. The Lib Dems are on 15%.
Claire Ainsley, executive director of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Voters on low incomes could prove crucial at this election, and all the evidence shows this is a group that is increasingly engaged and likely to vote. Turnout of low-income voters increased in 2017, and with more than a million low-income voters intending to vote at this election who didn’t vote last time around, all the parties need to ensure that they are speaking to people’s main concerns.
“Despite its prominence, Brexit is not the only issue that matters to these voters and last time their living standards was the deciding factor for swing voters on a low income. Distrust is high, and there is a perception that politics is not delivering for people. Yet this doesn’t diminish people’s strong desire to improve their own prospects and those of their communities.”
The research found that there was high support among the group for policies ensuring basic skills, a right to paid training time and companies with public contracts giving jobs and training to the local unemployed.
Compared with voters as a whole, they are also more in favour of policies that help them progress in their job and deal with basic costs, such as housing. There was also support to prioritise benefits for single parents. A third of low-income voters (33%) prioritised this area, compared with 25% of voters nationally.
“I see every day the result of low pay and poverty on some of our most vulnerable residents,” said Melanie Onn, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby. “For too many people the work that is available is insecure, with agencies willing to play fast and loose with people’s lives via anonymous text message. This isn’t a sustainable situation. We can change how the economy works so it unlocks opportunities for families in towns like mine.”
This is no impossible task; Labour won a landslide in 1997 by putting pledges to bring in a minimum wage and end the exploitation of low hourly pay, properly invest in our education system and take millions out of poverty front and centre of our vision for the country, and by delivering on these pledges we transformed our society after 18 years of Conservative rule. If Labour can deliver a similar message of genuine hope of a better life this Christmas to our communities, we can create a better society with social justice at its heart.”
Hanbury Strategy polled 15,009 people (10,008 on a low income, 5,001 nationally representative) between August 8-27.