Being a Social Scientist, I am constantly engaged in trying to understand why people do what they (we) do. It is an area that is difficult to engage in because it is still difficult to develop repeatable conclusions, but on the other hand, it is fascinating. After my somewhat unique viewpoint of the General Election, it hit me that the Labour Party might be engaging with the wrong people. We campaign to win over the working classes, but is it the working classes who trust and vote for us? I engaged and funded a preliminary study to investigate the correlation between voting history and their “life motivations”. The results and subsequent discussion were interesting and insightful In brief, Labour needs to recognise that the people we campaign and work to help are not the main source of votes that will deliver success.
The Infographic gives an overview of the study and the essential findings. There is a deeper report which we wrote, but the essential messages are in the graphic. I published this on social media and that started an interesting discussion.
In short, it confirmed what many thought, that in the main, lefties vote for Labour, righties vote Conservative. However the hypothesis that working class people vote Labour, was somewhat blown out of the water.
In fact, Labour voters are those with more job security and generally more stability. Those who benefit more from Labour policies actually vote Conservative. This shows where Labour make a fundamental error in our targeting strategy. We need to distinguish between those who we are aiming to help, and recognise that they are not necessarily our voting pool. The people who actually vote labour are those who have struggled themselves but are somewhat stable and have that capacity to help others.
When you look back at it, it actually makes a lot of sense, but I was somewhat blind to it until I saw the results of our research. The conservative “tough love” approach resonates with those struggling to make ends meet. Regardless of individual policies at any one time, the underpinning ethos of each party is what sits with the majority of voters.
So what does this mean for the Labour Party going forward, or even any of the political parties? People are fickle and in the main are not convinced by individual policies at any one time. There is lots of evidence that show policies are published and voters can simply refuse to believe them, or engage with them on an individual basis, almost without logic or reason, until you realise there is a longer term perception issue. The real value is not treating your voter pool and the pool you want to help as the same, and success will be ensured if you can identify both groups, and work with them to engage them both.
The Labour Party needs to speak more to its core values, and almost use them as a checklist against every policy going out. In many ways, this type of discussion and debate should be front and centre of Annual Conference, to build a solid foundation to bed our policy on.
The other interesting piece is looking at the Liberal Democrats, they were seen by the voting public as perhaps a more working class option, but more recently have dramatically moved zones in the past 2 years.
This is a preliminary study, there is a lot of scientific issues with the results, and fundamentally it served its purpose in highlighting that there is a lot of work that can legitimately done to truly understand people and voting intention that looks at people themselves rather than circumstance which would be of huge benefit to future campaigns.