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posted on 28th February 2018

Senior Conservative and Labour strategists will today come together to declare the future of British politics is likely to belong to whoever can speak up for voters with an open attitude to the rest of the world

 

Speaking at the official launch of Global Future, a think tank seeking to make the case for immigration, freedom of movement and building an open and vibrant Britain that looks out to the world and succeeds in it, Andrew Cooper, formerly head of strategy to David Cameron, and Spencer Livermore, senior Labour adviser on four General Election campaigns, will set out new polling research showing:

  • The deep division between Open and Closed votes on a range of touchstone issues such as multiculturalism, immigration or nationalism is now cutting across old allegiances based on left and right.
  • Once-safe seats are expected to switch hands in coming elections, causing huge upheaval in UK politics
  • Values are starkly different between the internet generation of voters under the age of 45 and older people: (Younger people are ‘net positive’ about issues like immigration, multiculturalism, the EU and gay marriage. Whereas older voters tend to be ‘net negative’ about the same issues – with a net difference between the two groups up to 60%)
  • Values Finally that those attitudes are set to remain, indicating a clear future majority for Open attitudes

 

Launching the report, Open owns the future, Lord Cooper will say:

“Politics is no longer just a matter of Left versus Right: Open versus Closed is becoming more and more significant.”

“These days, a far better way of predicting how someone will vote is to discover whether they live in an ethnically and religiously diverse area, the density of the local population around them, how they define their national identity, or what their feelings are toward minority communities.”

“It means that lots of people who once were good bets to be Conservative now turn out to be Labour. And people that pollsters might have predicted would be Labour are now Tories.”

“This dramatic shift is not merely a British phenomenon. Over the last few years, similar cultural questions have cut across traditional dividing lines in elections and referendums across the developed world from the United States to France, Italy, Germany and Austria.”

“There is no good reason to believe the generation that has come of age in the last 25 years is going to change its world view as it grows older. Those whose life experience has led them to feel positive towards immigration, multiculturalism and internationalism are not going to suddenly reverse these positions when they get into their 50s and 60s. Their Open worldview is baked in; it is not a function of life-stage.”

“This means that while the gulf in values will continue, the age when Open voters outnumber Closed voters – currently at around 45 – will rise as the ‘Open Generation’ gets older and the ‘Closed Generation’ dies out.”

 

Lord Livermore will say:

“The Global Future analysis published here today by Andrew Cooper is by far the most compelling and rigorous explanation that I have seen for the 2017 General Election result. He shows where old alliances are breaking down and new electoral coalitions are beginning to be formed. He outlines how the real division in British politics now is not between Left and Right so much as being open to the world or closed. And he explains why there was such a significant swing to Labour, and away from the Conservatives, among voters under the age of 45.”

“The axis of British politics is rotating and, as it does so, it presents Labour with a huge opportunity. The route back to government is through the progressive, inclusive politics of our members and voters.”

“The Open side of this great debate will own the future. And if Labour gets the strategy right, our party can too.”

Global Future’s launch this evening will also feature a key speech from Andrew Adonis, the former Labour Cabinet minister and adviser to the Conservative Government as head of the Treasury’s National Infrastructure Commission.

 

Lord Adonis will say:

“Global Future are a much-needed new voice in the debate about our country’s direction. Those of us on the side of building a confident and open Britain have to get out there and win the arguments. Global Future will create a new space for thoughtful and innovative new research and help tip the balance back towards sanity. This report is a fantastic debut and I fully expect them to succeed.”

 

In Detail:

New Polling
New polling carried out by Populus on behalf of Global Future found that for a series of pairs of statements designed to illustrate Open/Closed values, a majority of those aged 18-44 put themselves on the Open side while a majority of those aged over 45 put themselves on the Closed side.

For each of the following pairs of statements, which is closest to what you believe in?ALL18-4445+Difference: 18-44 v 45+
Internationalism48%58%39%
Nationalism52%42%61%38%
Net-4%+16%-22%
The UK should be outward-looking and engaged on global challenges50%54%46%
The UK should be inward-looking and focused overwhelmingly on our own national challenges50%46%54%16%
Net+/-0%+8%-8%
Multiculturalism has strengthened Britain53%68%42%
Multiculturalism has weakened Britain47%32%58%52%
Net6%+36%-16%
Immigration has changed Britain for the better49%64%37%
Immigration has changed Britain for the worse51%36%63%54%
Net-2%+28%-26%
The UK accepting asylum seekers46%58%36%
The UK not accepting asylum seekers54%42%64%44%
Net-8%+16%-28%
Immigrants help keep our public services going52%61%44%
Immigrants are a drain on our public services48%39%56%34%
Net+4%+22%-12%

 

In another set of questions, we asked people how positive or negative they felt about a number of things chosen to illustrate the same Open/Closed divide. Again, those aged 18-44 were much more likely to feel positive than those aged over-45.

NET POSITIVE (% feeling very/quite positive minus % feeling very/quite negative)ALL18-4445+Difference: 18-44 v. 45+
Multiculturalism15%40%-5%45%
The right of ‘free movement’, for people from EU countries to live & work in any other EU country12%33%-6%39%
The right of gay people to get married and become parents31%56%12%44%
Measures to promote greater equality for women54%65%45%20%
Measures to promote greater equality for people from ethnic minority groups19%41%3%38%
The increasing diversity of the UK11%33%-7%40%
Human rights laws31%51%14%37%

 

We asked similar questions about whether people thought that a number of things chosen to illustrate the same Open/Closed divide were a force for good or a force for ill, and found a similar divide between respondents aged 18-44 and those aged 45 or over.

NET ‘FORCE FOR GOOD’ (% saying ‘force for good’ minus % saying ‘force for ill’)ALL18-4445+Difference: 18-44 v. 45+
Immigration-3%28%-23%51%
Multiculturalism13%41%-7%48%
Social liberalism21%44%0%44%
Feminism43%50%31%19%
The European Union-2%34%-26%60%
Overseas aid-8%21%-32%53%

 

For another set of Open value statements we polled, 18-44s were again more likely to agree than those aged 45 and over, although the difference was not always great.

NET AGREE (% agreeing minus % disagreeing)ALL18-4445+Difference: 18-44 v. 45+
‎The right of people to move freely and to live and work in any EU country has been a great positive achievement of the European Union+23%+47%+4%43%
‎We are all citizens of the world, as well as being citizens of our own country+66%+67%+66%1%
We have a responsibility to care about people in countries around the world, not just in our own country+45%+58%+32%26%
Greater equality for people of different races, religions, cultures and ethnicities has made us a better country.+42%+60%+27%33%
Immigrants make a significant positive contribution to the UK+29%+41%+19%22%

New Research

This Global Future polling is supplemented by a demographic model built by Populus, based on census data rather than on polling. This model plots Security (covering factors such as income, occupation, housing tenure, health and benefit claimancy) and Diversity (covering factors such as ethnicity, immigration, density, age and urban/rural). Interlocking the two dimensions creates a vector map of four quadrants: high security/high diversity, high security/low diversity, low security/high diversity, and low security/low diversity.

This demographic model supplements the polling above. Not only is age a key variable in the model, but on a range of different attitudes and values questions, authoritarian and socially/culturally conservative and nationalist attitudes correlate very strongly with the demographics of the low security/low diversity (bottom right) quadrant, while socially and culturally liberal and globalist attitudes correlate very strongly with the demographics of the high security/high diversity (top left) quadrant. Clearly, the model does not claim that everyone within a given area has the same demographic characteristics or opinions.

We can illustrate how the model works by looking at the position of the average Republican and Democrat voter in US Presidential elections since 1980. It clearly shows the average Republican voter rotating from the high security/low diversity (top right) quadrant towards the low security/low diversity (bottom right) quadrant, with the average Democrat voter rotating simultaneously from the low security/high diversity (bottom left) quadrant to the high security/high diversity (top left) quadrant.

Rotation of US political axis

Movements in the average voter rotary position since 1980
Rotation of US political axis

Similar shifts, with traditional parties of the left increasingly appealing to more affluent, more diverse voters while traditional parties of the right increase their support from less affluent, less diverse voters, are apparent in other recent elections around the world.

In the UK, we can use the same demographic model to show what has been happening in recent elections. When we plot the seats Labour lost in England and Wales between 1997 and 2015 using this model, we can see that while it lost seats in all four quadrants, the greatest proportion are in the low security/low diversity (bottom right) quadrant. (Scotland is omitted from this because of the different party dynamics within its politics.)

 

Labour seat losses 1997-2015

Each dot represents one Labour seat lost in this period
Each dot represents one Labour seat lost in this period

Looking at 2017, the seats the Conservatives lost – predominantly to Labour – sit mostly in the high-security/high diversity (top left) quadrant, and the seats Labour lost to the Conservatives sit mostly in the low security/low diversity (bottom left) quadrant – indicating a similar rotation of the model, with Labour picking up voters in more affluent, more diverse areas and losing votes in less affluent, less diverse areas.

 

UK General Election 2017: seat losses by party

UK General Election seat losses by party

If this rotation continues in future elections – and there is every reason to think that it will, as the Open voters who dominate the 18-44 age group get older, making Open attitudes increasingly common in higher and higher age groups – then constituencies in the high security/high-diversity (top left) quadrant will be harder and harder for Closed parties to hold.

On their current trajectories – although different approaches are available to parties of both right and left – that means Labour looks set to be increasingly competitive in more affluent constituencies, while the Conservatives look to make gains in the low security/low diversity (bottom right) quadrant. In 2017, this worked far better for Labour than it did for the Conservatives. In the future, with Open attitudes on the rise, a strategy of appealing to Closed voters looks less and less viable.

 

Open owns the Future

As the generations of young people who have grown up comfortable with a diverse, multicultural Britain get older, we can expect to see Open voters becoming the majority in older and older age groups in future. The British Social Attitudes survey has found evidence that different attitudes towards a range of social issues across the population are more likely to be due to a ‘generational effect’ (generations retaining similar views over time, with older more socially conservative generations being replaced by younger, more socially liberal ones) than a ‘lifecycle effect’ or ‘ageing effect’ (people becoming more conservative in their views as they get older), so that on certain issues, ‘in general there is a clear generational divide, with younger cohorts tending to be more liberal than older ones. And this is true across time; in general each generation retains similar views over time’1. BSA research has found that ‘attitudes to sex before marriage, same-sex relationships, abortion and pornography have all become more liberal’2 over recent decades, as well as recording a decline in support for traditional gender roles.3

So if this rotation continues in future elections then constituencies in the high security/high-diversity (top left) quadrant will be harder and harder for Closed parties to hold.

On their current trajectories – although different approaches are available to parties of both right and left – that means Labour looks set to be increasingly competitive in more affluent constituencies, while the Conservatives look to make gains in the low security/low diversity (bottom right) quadrant. In 2017, this worked far better for Labour than it did for the Conservatives. In the future, with Open attitudes on the rise, a strategy of appealing to Closed voters looks less and less viable.

 

Notes to Editors

The full report can be found here

Global Future is a brand new think tank launching today (Wednesday 28 February). Its founder and CEO, Gurnek Bains is a leading psychologist. For more information visit https://ourglobalfuture.com/ and follow us @GlobalFutureCIC

Lord Andrew Cooper and Lord Spencer Livermore are members of the Global Future Advisory Board.

Andrew Cooper is a Conservative Party strategist and founder of the London-based research and strategy company Populus, where he works with a wide range of major UK and international business clients as well as political campaigns, including the No campaign in Scotland’s 2014 referendum on independence and the Remain campaign in the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership. From 2011-2013 he was Prime Minister David Cameron’s Director of Strategy in 10 Downing Street.

Spencer Livermore is a Labour Party strategist with twenty years’ experience advising multinational companies, government leaders, and political campaigns. He has worked as a Partner at insight and strategy consultancy Britain Thinks, as Director of Strategy at business reputation advisory firm Teneo Blue Rubicon, and as Senior Strategist at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi. Prior to working in business, he served in government for ten years, in the Treasury as Chief Strategy Adviser to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and then in 10 Downing Street as Director of Strategy to the Prime Minister. He was also a senior adviser on four General Election campaigns.

Please feel free to reproduce any and all diagrams from the report. Please credit Open owns the future by Global Future

 

  1. http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/39147/bsa34_moral_issues_final.pdf
  2. http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/media/39147/bsa34_moral_issues_final.pdf
  3. http://www.bsa.natcen.ac.uk/latest-report/british-social-attitudes-30/gender-roles/a-generational-shift-in-attitudes.aspx