Guest blog: Mid-term (tenure) blues

We’re always fascinated to see how the kind of housing people have relates to their voting intentions. It’s great to have Ben Marshall, from the pollsters Ipsos MORI, blogging here on their latest analysis.

One stat really jumps out for me: that 62% of renters voted for coalition parties in 2010, but only 37% would now. Not surprising then that Ed Miliband announced a suite of policies for private renters on Saturday. If ever there was a reason for political parties to offer better policy for this rapidly growing group of swing voters, this is it!

Ben Marshall is Research Director at Ipsos MORI.

Fixed terms mean that we know with certainty that 2013 is mid-term year. Accordingly, the coalition parties published their ‘mid-term review’ last week, reaffirming their commitment to work together in government up until the 2015 election.

Historically, mid-term is a difficult time for incumbent parties. Ipsos MORI’s December 2012 Political Monitor recorded 44% of those certain to vote saying they would vote Labour at an immediate general election, 35% for the Conservatives, 9% for the Liberal Democrats and 7% for UKIP.

How does this play out by tenure given that analysis of Census data shows its electoral potential?

Aggregation of all of our Political Monitor polls throughout 2012 provides large samples with which to look at voting intention among particular groups of the population, and we can compare this data with similar aggregates of our 2010 general election campaign polls.

While the Conservatives have retained their 36% share among mortgage holders, they have lost support among other tenures: owners (-6), social renters (-6) and private renters (-10). Support for the Liberal Democrats has fallen by double digits among all four tenure groups, while Labour and ‘Others’ have gained among them all.

These patterns mirror those among the wider electorate. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are down 4 and 13 points respectively on their 2010 election shares, Labour up 11. But the coalition parties’ share has dropped more sharply among renters.

Social renters have always been strongly Labour but still, 24% voted Conservative in 2010, down to 18% last year. Private renters were marginally Conservative-leaning in 1987 but strongly Labour during the 1990s, although swinging towards the Lib Dems in the 2000s. In 2010, the vote share for the coalition parties among this group was 62% (35% Conservative) but it has now fallen to only 37%.

Meanwhile, Ipsos MORI’s Political Monitor in September 2012 found Labour 13 points ahead of the Conservative Party as ‘having the best policies on housing’. This lead was strongest among social tenants (+37) and weakest among those who own their properties outright (+2), but also strong among those renting in the private sector (+15).

Of course, Labour’s lead in our polls among three of the four tenure groups won’t be because of housing issues alone. Our monthly Issue Index polls have recently found 10-11% of the British public identifying housing as among the most important issue facing the country.

This is the most consistently salient it has been for several years, but it still comes way behind the economy, unemployment and other issues, and is a long way short of being an issue which the public say determines their voting.

There is still potential for the parties to stake their claim on housing issues, and among the different tenure groups. After all, two and a bit years is a long time in politics.