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The policy mood and the moving centre

Polling station
Published: March 2015

Aim

Where the public sits on a left-right spectrum is of particular interest as we approach a General Election. 

This report tracks the British public’s average position on a left-right scale using all the available survey data, including the findings from our 32nd British Social Attitudes survey. 

Findings

The British public have become more left-wing since 2010

  • the “political centre” has oscillated left and right over the past 50 years but has shifted to the left since 2010;
  • by 2014 the average position was back to where it had been in 2006, the year after Labour won its third election victory in a row

Implications for the election

  • Labour’s problems may be the result of its reputation for economic competence and leadership and the Conservative Party’s ability to portray itself as moderate;
  • the Conservatives must be careful not to allow their opponents to characterise them as hostile to key public services

The grass is always greener

  • governing parties that achieve their party’s preferred policies cut the electoral ground from beneath their own feet;
  • the shift to the left suggests that arguments about the need to shrink the state, reduce waste and cut income taxes will have less traction than in 2010

Methods

The model is based on a macro-analytical approach, taking into account hundreds of questions from a range of different surveys and methods. This reduces dependence on a single method, questioning technique or survey organisation; and ensures that the results of a wide range of issues are incorporated.

Read the report