Politics and tenure: the state of play

Whatever your views on it as a policy, the electoral success of Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy showed one thing at least: the way to voter’s hearts is very often through their home. A strong offer on housing can play a big role in parties showing they understand voter’s lives, needs and aspirations.

Which is why as the housing market changes and the private rented sector expands significantly (particularly in swing areas), it’s interesting to view which of the main parties successfully speak to the growing demographic of people who rent their home. Below, Ben Marshall from Ipsos MORI gives us an update on the state of play among the three main tenure groups.

The results are food for thought for the Housing Minister, Mark Prisk, who heads into the CLG Select Committee today to give evidence to their inquiry on private renting. Support for the Coalition among those who rent privately has fallen from 62% in 2010 to only 29%. There is still hope for the Government on this front, though. Labour has yet to make this group their own. The loyalties of renters are still very much up for grabs – will the Government seize the chance?

Ben Marshall, Research Director at Ipsos MORI says:

Last week we published our latest poll showing a three point Labour lead over the Conservatives among those certain to vote. Supplementing this with new analysis of aggregated polling data across the first four months of 2013 allows us to look in detail at the four main tenure groups. Two things are evident:

  • the voting power of owner-occupiers is stronger than that of renters; and
  • the trend since the turn of the year has been towards ‘other’ parties, most especially UKIP.

Every month we ask ‘How likely will you be to vote in an immediate General Election, on a scale of 1 to 10?’ In May 67% of property owners rated themselves as 10 (absolutely certain to vote), as did 45% of private renters and 49% of social renters. Broadening this out, 81% of owner-occupiers lay between 7 and 10 compared with 68% of renters.

This is important because it could have implications for the way the political parties treat the issue of housing. Adam Forrest recently wrote in the Big Issue; “Homeowners remain the favoured, mollycoddled children of politicians and much of the press. Generation Rent, meanwhile, is skint, restless and angry”. Even if true, will anger lead to electoral impact when renters are half as numerous as owner-occupiers and less likely to vote?

Looking at voting intention, our analysis in January found that the Conservatives had a 36% share among mortgage holders certain to vote, matching their share at the 2010 election. At the same time, though, they had lost support since the election among owners (-6), social renters (-6) and private renters (-10). Support for the Liberal Democrats had fallen by double digits among all four groups, while Labour and ‘others’ had gained.

Across the first quarter this year, the Conservatives’ share among mortgage holders certain to vote fell to 33%. It fell to 15% among social renters from 24% at the 2010 election. Meanwhile, among private renters the share commanded by the Coalition parties was 37% in 2012, down from 62% in 2010, and is now only 29%.

While Labour has strong leads among both renter groups, Ed Miliband is not yet cutting through. For example, in May his ratings were 38% satisfied versus 47% dissatisfied among social renters, although better among private renters at 36%-37%. And, as has been well documented, the main beneficiary has been UKIP: the party’s share between January and April among those certain to vote was 14% among owners, 13% among social renters, 10% among mortgage holders and 7% among private renters.

Of course, what people say they will do now is not necessarily what they will do in 2015. As well as watching vote shares and popularity, we should continue to keep an eye on likely turnout.


Follow Ben at @BenM_IM

Technical note: Ipsos MORI’s Political Monitor aggregate analysis (January to April 2013) is based on 4,052 interviews with British adults including the following numbers certain to vote: 719 mortgage holders, 813 owners, 254 private renters and 267 social renters.