Labour for Democracy has studied a number of polls taken over the past two years which aimed to identify how support for key values varied by supporters of different political parties. We examined five issues close to the hearts of Labour members and at the heart of current political debates:
- Responsible capitalism
- Society and welfare
- Employment rights
- The role of the state
- The environment
The key findings of our new analysis include:
- While all voters show relatively high levels of concern about the banks and corporate behaviour, Conservative voters are much less concerned about wider inequality. Lib Dem voters tend to share Labour voters concerns about institutional (Lib 86%, Lab 88%) and societal (Lib 77%, Lab 86%) injustice.
- On issues around work and employment rights there is considerable agreement between Labour and Lib Dem voters, which is in sharp contrast to the views of Conservative voters. 51% of Labour and 48% of Lib Dem voters support the view that trade unions ‘have an important role to play in bringing people together…and to help employees‘. This agreement extends to the issues of business regulation and employment rights.
- Labour and Lib Dem voters tended to share similar views on the role of the state. 53% of Labour voters and 46% of Liberal Democrat voters agree with the view that ‘on balance, the freedom of business to make profit often serves the minority in society – so Governments must intervene to prevent the market’s excesses‘, while 45% of Conservative voters supported the view that ‘on balance, the freedom for business to make a profit serves the interests of society as a whole, so there should be minimal government relation of the market.’
Throughout the analysis there are some consistent trends which offer clear conclusions:
On all the major issues Labour and Lib Dem voters tend to give similar levels of support to broadly ‘progressive’ value statements, with Labour voters giving slightly stronger levels of support on all issues other than the environment. On harder edged positional statements, Labour voters tend, not surprisingly, to lean more to the left, and Lib Dem voters to lean more to the right.
Nonetheless, the polling undoubtedly shows that the basis of support for progressive values extends much wider than declared supporters of the Labour Party.
The congruence of progressive views in Labour and Lib Dem voters obviously provides an opportunity for Labour to attract disillusioned Lib Dem voters, and current opinion polls suggest that is what Labour is doing with some success.
At the same time, polls continue to suggest a long term decline in allegiance to political parties and a trend towards support for a wider range of political parties. Labour’s has gained support remarkably since 2010, but our current poll lead also reflects a decline in and fragmentation of Tory support to other parties. The development of organisations like 38 degrees and living wage campaigns on the centre left and the Taxpayers Alliance on the right shows that broad based campaigns outside formal party structures now have great mobilising power. The internet is rapidly fostering a culture which, though sometimes inwards looking, offers many people a voice without working through political parties.
Progressive pluralism is not, however, a response to new challenges. Historically the left’s greatest advances, from women’s suffrage to the NHS, the welfare state to devolution, have only been achieved through a willingness to work with others. Pluralism today draws on that same tradition.
We believe progressive pluralism is the antithesis of a soggy centrism. We want to maximise the influence of voters with progressive values, rather than chase voters who hold opposing views. In other words, a politics that allowed the progressive attitudes of Labour and Lib Dems (and even some Conservatives) to come through offers more chance of real change than a politics that depends on making huge concessions to those who strongly disagree with us.
As we approach the next election we will be working to win every possible Labour vote. At the same time, showing a respect for supporters of other parties who share our values, and a willingness to work with others to reflect them in practice, will both enhance our own vote and help us to deliver in Government.