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
ABC1 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"
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!
- 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 [↩]