Press release

New research from NatCen defines six UK voter types ahead of General Election

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has today named six categories of UK voters, defined by their answers to twelve key questions.
A chess board with different houses resembling the game pieces
  • Publishing date:
    5 June 2024
  • The current UK electorate is made up of six distinct groups of voters, according to new analysis from the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen).
  • The research examines public views on a wide range of topics and provides a more nuanced insight into the major dividing lines in British politics.  
  • The survey method effectively captures the views of the whole electorate, including the less politically engaged and those less inclined to vote. 

The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has today named six categories of UK voters, defined by their answers to twelve key questions. The groups have shared characteristics – such as social class, gender, levels of education, and geographical location – as well as aligned views on key political issues such as the economy, immigration and climate change.

The underlying data comes from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, the ‘gold-standard’ in tracking British public opinion, the latest iteration of which will be released in full next week. 

The six new voter types, which have informed the BBC's 'Undercover Voters' project, are:

  • The Middle Britons: the largest group of voters, making up more than a quarter of the electorate (26%). Mostly in the middle ground across issues. Closest to ‘typical’ voter, no clear political affiliation, hard to win over and not that likely to vote. 
  • The Well-Off Traditionalists: 12% of the electorate. Highly politically engaged and likely to vote, many living in rural south-east, with socially conservative views that align with Conservative policies. 
  • The Apolitical Centrists: 17% of the electorate. The least politically engaged, generally on the right on economic issues but more centrist on social issues. Relatively young and low income. Many will likely not vote, but those that do will probably choose either Conservative or Labour.
  • The Left-Behind Patriots: 15% of the electorate. Patriotic, mostly voted for Brexit. Opposed to economic inequality but conservative in their social outlook. No strong allegiance to any party but more likely than any group to support Reform. 
  • The Urban Progressives: 16% of the electorate. Typically university educated professionals, lean strongly to the left on economic issues and in a liberal direction on social ones. Likely to support Labour or the Greens, and highly likely to vote. 
  • The Soft-Left Liberals: 14% of the electorate. University educated, politically engaged, liberal on social issues but more centrist on the economy. Likely to vote – for Labour, Greens or Lib Dems. 

The supporter base for each political party (in %, by type of voter)

Chart: Party support over the years

Professor Sir John Curtice, Senior Research Fellow at NatCen and Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, said: “Much of the commentary on the election focuses on questions of performance. But elections are also influenced by voters' values and their perceptions of politics and politicians. The electorate is not just divided between 'left' and 'right', but also between 'liberals' and 'authoritarians', while many people sit in the middle and are not especially interested in politics. This poses particular challenges for the two main parties who will have to reach out to voters well beyond their own 'comfort zones’ to succeed.”

This is new analysis of UK voters based on the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey. BSA doesn’t rely on people opting in, rather it randomly selects members of households across the country, thereby generating a representative picture of the current electorate, and avoiding biases around political engagement or affiliation. Similar methods are used in the Pew Research Center’s US voter typology, a popular framework for examining US politics beyond simple Democrat-Republican partisanship.

Lovisa Moller, NatCen’s Director of Analysis, said: “We need a more nuanced understanding of dividing lines in British politics. Crucially, we also need to ensure that the labels and groupings that guide our thinking don’t leave out those less politically engaged and less inclined to vote, who may not be so well captured by most polling data. It is our hope that this will help those interested in politics better understand how British voters think and feel about social and political issues that matter.”