Will Reform, Labour or the Conservatives inspire 'Left-Behind Patriots' to vote?

Our research into the British voter opinion landscape has identified a patriotic group with great distance from party politics.
Union flag in front of a building

Trust and confidence in the UK’s politics and electoral system is at an all-time low. And there’s a link between trust, certain political opinions, and whether people intend to vote. Will the most disenfranchised group of voters – the opinion segment ‘Left-Behind Patriots’ identified by NatCen – be won over by Reform UK, Labour or the Conservatives, or will they simply not bother voting? 

A record share of voters (45%) are now saying they “almost never” trust British governments of any party to place the needs of the nation above the interest of their own party. And trust is lower still if you’re economically left-wing but socially conservative. 

Our research into the British voter opinion landscape has identified a patriotic group with great distance from party politics. They are proud of Britain’s history, though not so much its present. This opinion segment sees Britain as unequal and many would support higher taxes on top earners, but a majority also believe that most people on the dole are fiddling it in one way or another. The group is more common in England and Wales than in Scotland, voted decisively for Brexit, and they often regard themselves as English or Welsh rather than British. They’re highly concerned about immigration, believe in stricter sentencing including the death penalty, and most feel equal opportunities for LGBT+ people have gone too far. We estimate that 15% of the electorate fit this profile, a group we refer to as Left-Behind Patriots

If you have this opinion profile, you’re even less likely to trust politicians than the rest of the electorate. Almost two in three (64%) Left-Behind Patriots don’t trust a government of any party to place the interests of the nation first, compared to almost half (45%) of people overall. When asked how much they trust politicians to tell the truth when they are in a tight corner, 85% of Left-Behind Patriots expect to almost never be told the truth. That’s a full 27 points higher than for people overall: 

British Social Attitudes question: And how much do you trust politicians of any party in Britain to tell the truth when they are in a tight corner? 

how much do you trust politicians of any party in Britain to tell the truth when they are in a tight corner?

This group is also less likely to intend to vote. And our research indicates that the likelihood of abstaining from voting is linked to a person’s political views. As such, it will distort which opinions are expressed at the ballot box. One in four (26%) of Left-Behind Patriots told us they wouldn’t vote for any of the political parties in a general election. To put that in perspective, that figure is less than one in twenty (4%) for the two voter segments Well-off Traditionalists (economically right-wing, social conservative) and Urban Progressives (economically left-wing, social liberals). These segments are particularly closely aligned with the Conservatives and Labour respectively.  

The Left-Behind Patriots that expressed a voting intention mainly mentioned Labour, the Conservatives and Reform UK or UKIP. And this opinion segment is likely important to Reform UK. Data from the most recent British Social Attitudes survey, which was carried out before the election campaign begun, indicate that this voter segment makes up a third (33%) of the party’s early supporter base. In the 30 seats where both the most recent YouGov and Ipsos MRP predictions give Reform a large share of the vote, Left-Behind Patriots are overrepresented alongside Middle Britons (in many ways the ‘typical’ British voter). We estimate that there are more of these two opinion profiles in 23 and 28 of these seats respectively. Well-off Traditionalists are about as common here as elsewhere, and other groups are underrepresented.  

According to our Parliamentary constituency opinion modelling, Left-Behind Patriots are especially likely to make up a large share of the electorate in the following locations: 

Constituency map - Left-Behind Patriots

The geographic concentration of this opinion segment is strongest in coastal areas in Northern England, pockets of the North West, Yorkshire and the Midlands, and the South Wales valleys. To explore the map yourself, visit:

Note the presence of Workington and Whitby on our map of the constituencies in which Left-Behind Patriots are overrepresented – locations that have been referred to as examples of the types of location for the Conservatives to target in different elections due to their demographic profile. Indeed, Left-Behind Patriots were identified by British Social Attitudes as the Conservatives’ third most important supporter group, making up 17% of the party’s support at the time. No other party aside from Reform had Left-Behind Patriots as one of their top three backers. 

The majority of people in the constituencies in which Left-Behind Patriots are plentiful voted for Brexit in 2016. Note Boston and Skegness – that’s the British constituency where most people voted Leave in the EU referendum in the country, with a 76% of the vote being in favour of cutting ties with the EU. On average, three in five (60%) voted Leave in the 75 constituencies where Left-Behind Patriots are especially likely to make up a large share of the electorate. 

The most recent British Social Attitudes data shows that levels of trust and confidence has fallen among former Brexit voters once again. Despite political trust having picked up among Leave voters following the resolution of the Brexit stalemate in 2019, those who voted to Leave were and remain considerably less likely than their Remain-supporting counterparts to trust the government or politicians. Political trust and confidence among Leave voters is now as low as it has ever been – and that same sentiment is likely felt by many Left-Behind Patriots.  

The falling levels of trust in politics among Brexit voters speaks against mobilisation of this political segment in the upcoming election. Whilst Reform UK might have provided a political alternative for some, the left-wing economic views of this segment means that it’s not a clean match.  

So, will they vote? This opinion segment is likely to be exposed to a fair bit of political campaigning in marginal constituencies like Boston and Skegness, Harrow East or Dudley, but might hardly notice attempts to inspire them to vote in places like Knowsley and Birmingham Ladywood which are widely perceived as far safer Labour wins.

It remains to be seen whether the choice primarily between Reform UK, Labour, and the Conservatives inspires this economically left-wing, socially conservative and patriotic voter segment to visiting a polling station on 4 July. We will assess how this and other opinion segments actually voted in this year’s (post-election) round of British Social Attitudes interviews and analysis. 

The full list of constituencies where Left-behind Patriots are likely to be highly overrepresented in England and Wales is Aberafan Maesteg, Aldridge-Brownhills, Barnsley North, Barnsley South, Barrow and Furness, Birmingham Hall Green and Moseley, Birmingham Hodge Hill and Solihull North, Birmingham Ladywood, Birmingham Perry Barr, Birmingham Yardley, Blackburn, Blackpool North and Fleetwood, Blaenau Gwent and Rhymney, Blaydon and Consett, Blyth and Ashington, Bolton North East, Bolton South and Walkden, Boston and Skegness, Bradford East, Bradford West, Clwyd North, Cramlington and Killingworth, Crewe and Nantwich, Darlington, Dewsbury and Batley, Dudley, Easington, Ellesmere Port and Bromborough, Gateshead Central and Whickham, Gorton and Denton, Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes, Halesowen, Harrow East, Houghton and Sunderland South, Jarrow and Gateshead East, Kingston upon Hull East, Kingston upon Hull West and Haltemprice, Knowsley, Leigh and Atherton, Liverpool Garston, Liverpool Walton, Lowestoft, Makerfield, Merthyr Tydfil and Aberdare, Mid Cheshire, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor, Normanton and Hemsworth, North Durham, Oldham West, Chadderton and Royton, Plymouth Moor View, Rawmarsh and Conisbrough, Rhondda and Ogmore, Rotherham, Scarborough and Whitby, Sefton Central, Sheffield South East, South Ribble, South Shields, St Helens North, St Helens South and Whiston, Stockton North, Stoke-on-Trent Central, Stretford and Urmston, Tamworth, Torfaen, Tynemouth, Walsall and Bloxwich, West Bromwich, Whitehaven and Workington, Widnes and Halewood, Wigan, Wirral West, Wolverhampton North East and Wrexham.