Embargoed: 00:01h Tuesday 3 August 2010


Voters were turned off by Labour’s main election message on public services, according to new polling evidence commissioned by the independent think tank Demos, released today. The poll shows that voters who deserted Labour at the last election felt Government spending had reached or even breached acceptable limits and no longer viewed the state as a force for good. Demos says Labour’s next leader needs to support public sector cuts and embrace the Big Society agenda if they are to be heard by the public.

Demos commissioned YouGov to undertake a 45,000 respondent poll on social attitudes and perceptions of the main political parties to understand the election outcome.  The poll allows Demos to compare the outlook of voters Labour lost since 2005, with the ones they retained at the last election. The full poll results will be published in September by the Open Left project.

When asked about the NHS, a third (33%) of voters Labour retained thought the priority was to ‘avoid cuts’ but among the voters that Labour lost that proportion was just over one in ten (only 13%). More than half (55%) of voters Labour lost thought that the priority should be to ‘seek greater efficiency and end top-down control’ in the NHS, compared to just under a third (31%) of voters Labour retained.
More than one in three (35%) of voters who left Labour at the last election felt “people should  have more choices and control over local services”, compared with just over one in four (28%) who stuck by Labour. Almost one in five (19%) of voters Labour lost felt “central government interferes too much in local services,” almost twice as many (12%) as those who remained loyal Labour voters.
More that one in four (27%) of voters that Labour lost said they saw government as ‘part of the problem not the solution,’ compared with just over one in ten (14%) voters that Labour retained. More than half (54%) of voters who stuck by Labour at the last election, consider government to be ‘a force for good’ improving their lives and the lives of their family but among voters that left Labour this view fell to just one in three (33%).
The poll also evidences a North/South divide, with more than a third (35%) of voters in the North seeing government as ‘a force for good’, compared with just over one in four (27%) seeing government as ‘part of the problem’ not the solution’.

Richard Darlington, Head of the Open Left project at Demos, said:

“What has got lost in the election post-mortem is the ‘listening’ bit of ‘listening and learning.’ This poll will be a wake up call for Labour’s leadership candidates. Labour’s next leader needs to support public sector cuts and embrace the ‘Big Society’ agenda if they are to be heard by the public.
“Labour didn’t have the funds to do private polling in the run up to the last election on anything like the scale they had done in previous elections. So Labour was limited to testing voter opinion in very small sample focus groups. This post-election poll shows that Labour’s defence of services against spending cuts was falling on deaf ears.
“While Labour has consistently argued that spending cuts should not go too far or too fast, this poll shows that a significant number of voters recognise the need for cuts. That includes many people who had recently voted Labour, many of whom felt that Labour was spending too much, too wastefully, with too little benefit for them and their families.
“In 1997, Labour needed to prove it had the economic credibility to be trusted to govern but the next Labour leader needs to show voters that Labour can be trusted to reform the state, not just fight the cuts.”



Notes to Editors

The full data is available on request, please contact Beatrice Karol Burks as below.


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Beatrice Karol Burks, Press and Communications Officer
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