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Voting Factors – Social Class

***This page only takes you up to 2015 but is useful for reference***

Although the dominant political science view is that social factors are not the main determinants of voting any more, there are significant variations in the groups that support the parties and this data will tell the parties which groups they need to win over next time:

Social class is not something that can be directly measured, except perhaps by asking people what class they see themselves as (about half see themselves as working class and half middle class).

Opinion polling uses six grades derived from the National Readership Survey.

A    Higher managerial, administrative or professional
B    Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional
C1  Supervisory clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional
C2  Skilled manual workers
D    Semi and Unskilled manual workers
E     State pensioners, casual or lower grade workers, unemployed with state benefits only
So A, B and C1 could be seen as the middle class and C2, D and E the working class although there is a problem with state pensioners who may previously have been in a different social grade.  A and B groups have increased from 12% of the population in 1968 to 27% now.
The Current Population Survey (previously Household Survey) and the Census of Population use an eight point gradation based on types of work and excluding pensioners and this is available for wards and constituencies so correlations with party support can be worked out but there is no direct information on how people in these categories vote

In 2010 the Conservatives led Labour by 39% to 27% in the middle class groups (roughly similar with ABs and C1s) and by 37% to 29% among the C2s, while Labour led among the DEs by 40% to 31%. The Liberal Democrat vote was about 20% throughout but higher amongst ABs than the other groups. Several points follow from this, especially if we compare the changes from October 1974 and 1992 which were also closely fought elections:-

  • In 1974 Labour had 49% of the C2s and 57% of the DEs so there has clearly been a process of class dealignment with Labour losing working class votes, though it still leads among unskilled workers. This has been a gradual process so that Labour had 40% of the C2s in 1992 and 49% of the DEs. They recovered some of this working class vote in the Blair years.
  • Class dealignment has worked in the opposite direction as well ,so that Labour now has a higher proportion of the professional and managerial middle class vote and this is a bigger group of the population. Labour only lost 3% of this group between 1997 and 2010. The Conservatives had 56% of this group in 1974 and have lost some of it to the Liberal Democrats as well as to Labour.
  • The C1s tend to be more Conservative but Labour did win a majority in 1997 and 2001 and was still performing significantly better in this group in 2010 than it did in 1992
  • The C2s have become the classic swing group so that Labour won by 40% to 33% in 2005 while the Conservatives won by 37% to 29% in 2010.