Tory middle-class problems and Labour working class strength

I found the chart below in “Explaining Labour’s Landslip”, a book about the 2005 Election by Robert Worcester, Roger Mortimore and Paul Baines.

Voting intention be Self-Assessed Social Class and Market Research Social Grade, 2005

 AllABC1 who say they are "middle class"ABC1 who say they are "working class"C2DE who say they are "middle class"C2DE who say they are 'Working Class"
Lab lead11012-1529
Source: Mori/Observer/Sunday Mirror, 1004 GB residents, 18+, 7-9 April 2005

I find this fascinating because it’s counter-intuitive.

The only group the Tories actually had a lead among were C2DE voters (manual workers, those on benefits) who self-described as “Middle Class“. These were the people who were thinking what Michael Howard was thinking, I guess.

Among ABC1 voters who described themselves as Middle Class, there was effectively a three-way tie among the major parties (34/34/27). This contrasts sharply with the eighties and early nineties, when the Tory lead among ABC1 voters was consistently huge. (Mori reports 30 point plus Tory leads over Labour among ABC1 voters from 1974 right up to 1992)1

On the other hand, Labour in 2005 retained significant leads among “working class” voters in both the ABC1 and C2DE social grades – the lead being a huge 29 points among “c2DE” voters who described themselves as working class.

This should perhaps give some pause for thought among those who believe Tony Blair threw away Labour’s ‘Working’ class support wholesale. (Though you’d need to compare with the past to get real insight on trends)

The same poll found that 57% of the population described themselves as working class, 40% as middle class, while nearly three-quarters said their parents were middle class.

This suggests to me that a big problem for the Tories was their huge disconnect with ‘Middle class” ABC1 voters.  With no lead there at all, they were never going to be competitive nationally.

This may be my bias, but this suggests to me why the ‘decontamination’ strategy was so important for the Tories, not to make gains among the ‘Working class” vote but to remove barriers among the “middle class” voters.

It also suggest that ‘re-contamination’ could be really dangerous for the Tories, given that the Lib Dems no longer exist as a credible third option for many voters (being either welcome partners or hated enemy).

I’ll ask Mori if they have the same data for 2010, to see what it says!

  1. One caveat: In their “How Britain voted” series: Mori reported an overall T0ry lead (37 v 30) among all ABC1 voters. That is obviously rather different to this data, which would suggest a Labour lead among ABC1 voters. This may reflect the overall poll having a bigger labour lead than the final 2005 result []

4 Responses to “Tory middle-class problems and Labour working class strength”

  1. Chris Brooke

    Does it matter here that the poll seriously overstates Labour’s support, as measured by the 2005 general election? (basically it imagines that Labour didn’t lose any popularity between 2001 and 2005, which is a bit silly, and contrary to what actually happened)

    • hopisen

      It depends – might do if one particular social group swung away from Labour in course of campaign.

      Personally my guess is that Tories did better among C1/C2s due to their campaign, but prob didn’t gain many ABs, LDs on the other hand prob took quite significant numbers of AB from Labour. That’s just a guess though.

  2. Steve

    My assumption is that many ABC1s who admit to being middle class voted Labour in 2005 because they were thriving personally or could see general improvements in their local economy or public services. Many of those would be either public sector professionals or those who gained otherwise from public sector largesse via company contracts. Labour’s strength among women must in part reflect women’s tendency to work in public or voluntary sector employment.

    Any left-leaning folk who went to Kennedy or Clegg in 2005 or 2010 will surely be back to Labour in 2015. It’s hard to know where Cameron will get new voters from to get a majority- hence the desire to “reform” constituency boundaries.

    Those public sector workers who have lost their jobs will be pretty motivated to vote. All middle class families have lost child tax credits and some will lose child benefit. C2DEs who have lost out may still consider themselves middle class- but will find it harder ti identify with the Tories

  3. Laban

    It would be interesting to split down those “middle class” ABC1s by employment type, particularly state/private. Is it a function of more Senior Housing Officers and fewer factory managers ?


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