Study Notes

General Election 2017: Gender, Age, Ethnicity and Region

Level:
A-Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 30 Oct 2018

Here are some key features of the June 2017 General Election result in so far as they relate to gender, age, ethnicity and religion.

Gender

The detailed YouGov post-election poll concluded that gender was not a hugely significant factor in the election. Women were evenly split between Labour and Conservative while men were rather more likely to vote Conservative (a six-point lead) but this was a relatively insignificant factor compared with age. It is interesting to note, however, that the gender of the party leader did not have the impact that it had in 1979 and 1983 when a lot more women voted Conservative with a female leader.

Age

By far the most significant factor in the 2017 General Election result was age. Far more obviously than class, gender or even region.

Young people voted Labour, older people voted Conservative. 66% of 18-19 year olds voted Labour, compared with 19% Conservative. The Labour vote remained in the 60s right up to 29 year olds. 55% of 30-39 year olds voted Labour compared with 29% Conservative. It is not until 50-59 year olds when you find an age category where the Conservatives got more votes than Labour. After 60, it becomes overwhelming, with those aged 70+ seeing 69% vote Conservative, to 19% Labour (almost a mirror image of the 18/19 year olds). The age at which a voter is more likely to vote Conservative than Labour (on average!) is 47.

This is quite an extraordinary pattern which is now clearer than any other long-term factor in predicting election voting behaviour. The scale of this pattern is further illustrated by the fact that when voting behaviour in 2017 was measured by employment status, the retired were actually the only group where the Conservative beat Labour (and they did so by a large margin, 63:24). Among full-time workers, part-time workers, the unemployed, students, etc, etc: Labour got more votes in every group. Full-time students and the unemployed were the groups where Labour got the largest vote.

This age factor does raise an interesting question: do people actually become more conservative when they get older or are conservatives getting older? In other words when the current 18-40 year olds are 60+ will they have started voting Conservative, or will they still vote Labour? Michael Heseltine has rather gloomily talked of the Conservatives’ lead dying off and this does present a potential crisis for the party. They are currently benefiting from the higher turnout among older voters although, in this election, while that pattern was still evident, youth turnout was much higher than in the previous few elections.

Ethnicity

It is estimated the 65% of ethnic minority voters voted Labour in the 2017 election. This is the continuation of a long-term trend in voting behaviour in the UK (although Labour got rather more minority-ethnic votes and the Conservatives rather less than in 2015) and undoubtedly helped Labour in multicultural constituencies in London, for instance. For example, there has been some debate as to how Labour could win the constituency of Kensington, one of the wealthiest constituencies in the country where Labour has never won before. Partly it’s a response to Brexit, but it is also a seat where 32% of residents are BME. A study suggested that the Conservatives lost 28 seats to Labour because of the Conservatives’ unpopularity among BME voters. In contrast, the Conservatives gains were in seats with very low minority-ethnic populations.

Region

This was trailed as an election where the Conservatives were going to break into some of Labour’s traditional regional strongholds. This was partly expected because of some by-election results in 2017, including Labour losing their safe seat of Copeland (which they did not manage to win back in the general election).

However, for the most part regional voting followed expected lines (although this disguises some interesting movements below the surface). Apart from high-profile shock changes, like Labour winning Kensington and Canterbury and the Conservatives winning Mansfield) there were minor shifts, like Labour’s march in university towns and the Conservatives eating into UKIP votes (some of whom had previously been Labour voters) in the North East. A bigger change was the SNP losing seats to both Labour and the Conservatives and the Conservatives gaining back ground in Scotland which had been lost to them for a very long time. The different fortunes for the Scottish Conservatives compared with the rest of the UK has been put down by some to the differing leadership qualities between Theresa May and Ruth Davidson.

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