Boris Johnson is more popular among low-income voters than he is with the highest earners, a new study has shown.
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank into voting behaviour at last year’s election found the Tories established a 15-point lead over Labour among people on low incomes.
The report examined evidence from the British Election Study which found that in 2019, 45.4 per cent of low-income voters backed the Conservatives, with 30.6 per cent backing then-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Among high-income voters, the figures were 40 per cent for the Tories and 30.8 per cent for Labour.
‘Remarkably, the Conservatives are now more popular among people on low incomes than they are among people on high incomes,’ the report said.
Boris Johnson (pictured on Tuesday) is more popular among low-income voters than he is with the highest earners, a new study has shown
The report examined evidence from the British Election Study which found that in 2019, 45.4 per cent of low-income voters backed the Conservatives
‘The Conservatives are no longer the party of the rich, while Labour is no longer the party of the poor.
‘The Labour Party that Sir Keir Starmer recently became leader of is today just as popular among the wealthy as it is among those on low incomes. Both parties have inverted their traditional support base.’
The work, by Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent and Oliver Heath from Royal Holloway University of London, found that Mr Johnson’s promise to ‘level up’ the nation, combined with his support for Brexit, helped win over Labour voters.
But the report added that the Conservatives will ‘need to work hard to retain that support’.
For Labour, the challenge is to ‘urgently revive its offer – especially given tentative evidence that it is low-income voters who, unjustly, will be affected the hardest by the outbreak of Covid-19 and the accompanying economic crisis’.
Professor Goodwin said: ‘Most of the Conservative Party’s new votes from low-income voters came direct from Labour, with key factors including Brexit, negative perceptions of Labour’s leadership and economic plans, and a Conservative advance among working class voters, pensioners and non-graduates.
‘Both parties need to work hard to appeal to this group, which is now badly affected by the coronavirus crisis.
‘Labour is now just as popular among the wealthy as it is among those on low incomes, meaning that despite the change in leadership it still needs to reconnect with its traditional base if it is to achieve a majority in any future election.
‘Low-income voters remain crucial and their votes are likely to remain volatile as the country moves out of the coronavirus crisis.’
Research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank into voting behaviour at last year’s election found the Tories established a 15-point lead over Labour among people on low incomes (Pictured: Jeremy Corbyn)
The JRF called for the next stage of economic support from the Government to concentrate on maintaining spending power, and focus job creation in areas most likely to see a rise in the unemployment rate as the furlough scheme is wound down.
Ministers should also increase investment in basic, digital and vocational skills, improve in-work training and boost funding for local public transport schemes.
Meanwhile, the social mobility watchdog called for the Government to improve the apprenticeship system to help disadvantaged people, claiming the introduction of the apprenticeship levy on firms had skewed the system in favour of the better off.
The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) report found ‘the system is not working’ and ‘the main beneficiaries of apprenticeships are the people who do not need them’.
The work, carried out by London Economics, found that people from disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to be selected for an apprenticeship, and even if they did secure one it was typically in a less lucrative field.
There was a 36 per cent decline between 2015/16 and 2017/18 in apprenticeship starts by people from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared with 23 per cent for others.
Just 13 per cent of degree-level apprenticeships, the fastest growing and most expensive apprenticeship option, go to disadvantaged apprentices.
Report author Alice Battiston said: ‘There is a severe disadvantage gap throughout the entire apprenticeship training journey, and this has worsened over time.
‘Not only has the proportion of new starters from disadvantaged backgrounds declined over time, but they have also benefited less than their better-off peers from the shift towards higher-level programmes.’
Steven Cooper, deputy co-chairman of the SMC, said: ‘The apprenticeship levy, introduced in 2017, has disproportionately funded higher-level apprenticeships for learners from more advantaged communities, rather than those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds who would benefit more.’