The Conservative Party.
A three-time winner. Just. But is 2017 a last hurrah?

The Conservative Party has been the majority party in Parliament since 2010. Its hold on the powers that accrue to that position has been, and is currently, less than secure as it has been based on coalition/partnership/a small majority for that seven years. Theresa May’s (in retrospect) ill-conceived snap election in June 2017 was an attempt to gain more power over and a greater mandate for both national issues and international/European negotiations. This is important. The June 2017 election was not ‘legitimate’ - since, according to the Fixed Parliaments Act brought in by former PM David Cameron, General Elections should occur only every five years to a timetable set out in statute. June 2017’s election was a political ploy driven by party pressures to enable more power to accrue to a sitting government.

To be fair to the Party’s advisors, increasing a slim majority with Brexit negotiations in the wings must have seemed an attractive proposition. The polls had indicated that voters perceived the leader’s performance in a positive light, and her popularity was much higher than that of her main rival – daily battered by both mainstream and populist media and the subject of an on-going revolt against his leadership by his own Parliamentary colleagues.

That is the macro-view of the needs and desires of the Party and its leaders and the decisions it made, which were undoubtedly heavily influenced by conventional polling.

Only values-based polling can provide the ‘micro-view’ - and that micro-view is necessary to an understanding of an unexpected outcome.

CDSM Ltd has examined how the ‘voter journey’ moves from:-

  • positive feelings about the party (the ‘heartland’ in CDSM terms), to
  • intention to vote, or the thinking behind the decision, to
  • voting on the day, the doing that results from feeling and thinking.

This approach provides us with Values based insights not available to conventional pollsters.

So let’s take the voter journey to understand the Conservative party and its appeal from the point of view of those registered to vote.

Heartland support

Those who said they most identify with the Conservatives - who felt closest to them of any political party - represent 32.6% of the population.

They are slightly skewed towards men rather than women - 56.6% to 43.4% - and significantly skewed towards older people, with nearly 33% of this ‘heartland' support coming from the 65+ cohort. In addition, 44.6% of them are in Social Class AB. Based on demographic factors, the Conservatives’ heartland support is literally dying out.

But looking at the Values of this heartland vote we see they are still relatively healthy. The high penetration of identification with party is spread across two of the three Maslow Groups, Settlers and Prospectors, which indicates that they are a mass appeal party.

That appeal is largely Settler and moralistic - those who are resigned to the way things are and those who believe it was all better in the past. The most over- indexed Values Mode within the Settler Group is Brave New World. They can be typified as having a ‘coulda, shoulda, oughta’ approach to life – life could be better, should be better and ought to be better. They are not passive in their approach to a life they feel has not turned out the way they expected, unlike Roots. They are active in their discontent and can be negatively judgmental of those who do not share their world view. They are the most likely to agree that strict discipline is in the best interest of the child. Strong on issues of national security, they are also the most likely to feel unsafe in their area after dark - however ‘safe’ their neighbourhood actually is.

This is the group most likely to agree that ‘there are too many foreigners in my country’. They were the most likely Values Mode to vote Leave in the EU referendum – 46% more likely to vote this way than the population as a whole.

The Conservative heartland also is over-indexed among the Prospector Values Mode Golden Dreamers. They are likely to make up most of the 35-54 age group; it is Settlers who are likely to be older. A significant proportion of Golden Dreamers have turned from discontent to anger. Their anger is active and they feel a sense of betrayal - that all they held dear has been compromised and their dreams have been shattered. They feel that a strong leader is much preferable to a liberal or a caring leader. It is not so much that they want a return to the past – like their Brave New World brethren – as they want to take power for themselves. They want power both to protect themselves (from being powerless) and to control others.

This anger can be driven by a sense of entitlement (they worked hard, or are willing to work hard, to achieve their dreams) but it can also be driven by a sense that ‘others’ are taking advantage of ‘the system’ and preventing them from being recognised – and thus unrecognised, they are not getting the esteem from others that they need at their core.

Other documents on the CDSM site explore this area – the BOTUs, The Danger Zone, the Dark Triad. However, the main finding of the extensive research we have done in this area of the Attribute Map is that most Golden Dreamers are driven by an overarching need for esteem of others and can be highly energetic in pursuit of their idealised future.

This Values Mode has many positive virtues – Golden Dreamers are archetypically among the ‘hard working families’ the party applauds in its rhetoric – who believe that hard work will bring rewards. If these dreams are stymied they will initially work harder, or, among the younger age group, work smarter - but will leap to anger if they continue to be stymied.

This group is highly likely to judge harshly those they see as ‘the cause’ of their lack of success. They are likely to reject ‘PC’ solutions and language in their daily discourse. They are often attracted to socially ambiguous situations and language – seeing these factors as a way to differentiate their own lives from the boring, middle-of the-road robots, and those who prefer to be the same as everyone else.

The Golden Dreamers were slightly less likely than the population as a whole to vote Leave and average in terms of voting Remain. A fuller analysis will be published elsewhere.

Summary: The Conservative heartland – the ‘base’ in campaigner’s language - is older than the population as a whole and contains many people actively discontented with life in general. Younger people of all Values Modes are not being attracted by this party.

Voting intention

When the election was announced but before the manifestos were published those intending to vote Conservative represented 35.4% of the population - greater than their ‘heartland’ support.

The demographics look very similar – as would be expected as there would be significant crossover between ‘heartland’ and ‘intention’.

Once again there is over indexing in the over 55s, who make up slightly over 50% of those intending to vote Conservative. The intention of the under 25s is even lower than it was with heartland espousers. This segment is slightly less skewed to male (index 116) and AB (index 129), but still highly indexed compared to the population.

In terms of Values Modes, the skew to Settler Brave New World is even more over indexed (144) than among heartland people (134). This indicates that the discontented are more likely to identify with, and therefore intend to vote for, the Conservative party than the rest of the population. This value-base is incomprehensible to Pioneers and illustrates perfectly the ‘values war’ being fought out in voting booths up and down the UK.

As with the heartland, support for this orientation is significantly low among Pioneers – who are also more likely to have rejected the party’s actions in government over the last seven years. This is a segment of the population that seems to be lost to the party of government because its values do not resonate with Pioneer values.

Who voted for the Conservative party

Those who did vote Conservative represent 34.4% of the population. Although the percentage vote is less than that indicated by voting intention it was still higher than the heartland orientation. This means that there was probably a group who voted for the Conservative party but actually ‘felt closer’ to another party. We will explore this in greater depth when we take a look at ‘tactical voters”.

The total group of Conservative voters is even more concentrated in older age groups – more than 54% of them were aged 55 or over. The ABs remained as the most likely demographic group to vote Conservative (over 44% and indexed at 125) and this base of voters continued to be more male.

The Settler Values Mode Brave New World increased its index (156) compared to the rest of the population and compared to the indices (134 and 144) in the previous two categories. Settlers comprised over 41% of all Conservative voters – though they represent only 31% of registered voters and slightly less than 25% of the population. Over the last 40 years the Settler segment has steadily declined as a proportion of the population and has gone from being the largest Maslow Group to being the smallest.

This is a voter profile that would seem to have a ‘sell-by date’ all over it.

Is this contention supported by other factors?

As with heartland support and voting intention, Pioneers are significantly under indexed in their support for the Conservatives. Why might this be?

In our British Values Survey research database of the UK population we measure two psychological factors that are shown to be the most divisive indicators within any society – and the UK is no exception. These two factors are the ‘need for power’ and the ‘need for universalism’.

The Pioneers’ prime differentiation from other Groups is their desire to live a life that incorporates openness, justice, compassion and a deep caring for nature (universalism). They rate this the number one factor out of the 108 psychological factors (Attributes) at the core of our research.

In contrast, Universalism is rejected by the Settler Brave New World, rating only 100th out of 108 choices. It is also rejected by the Prospector Golden Dreamers – coming dead last among the 108 factors.

The need for Power on the other hand is rated number 1 out of 108 by Golden Dreamers and a relatively high 38 out of 108 by the Brave New World Values Mode.

The need for power is not a factor for Pioneers – rated 101 of 108.

Pioneers are growing and Settler are declining in the UK and all economically advanced countries. As this growth continues, the importance of universalism in political rhetoric will increase, from an ‘outlier’ liberal ethical stance to an accepted mainstream orientation. The Conservative party cannot attract Pioneers with its current ethos and positioning.

The Conservative party made its appeal to Settler and Golden Dreamer values with its ‘strong, stable government’ rhetoric, undoubtedly drawing support from former UKIP voters reacting to the implosion of their party of first choice. They failed to gain a working majority of seats. That campaign would likely have worked at the turn of the 21st century but failed in 2017 because of the change in social values and the consequent rise oil the Pioneer vote.

CDSM Ltd predicted that the 2017 General Election was Labour’s to lose. Without the legacy of division within the Labour Party it might have gained the majority of seats - against all conventional pollster predictions. We will examine Labour and its voters’ journey in the next part of this series.

Summary: The Conservative party seems to have very similar profiles in terms of ‘think’, ‘feel’ and ‘do’.

Its core supporters (who identify with and intend to vote for them) are skewed to:-

  • over 55,
  • upmarket,
  • male, and
  • Settler with a fringe of Prospectors.

This configuration has won them three elections in a row - just - but their current appeal is not to a profile that could be considered sustainable.

The winds of change are blowing against them.