Politics and housing in 2014

As housing continues its meteoric rise up the political agenda – it finally broke through into the leaders debate at PMQs yesterday for the first time I can remember – it’s always interesting to see how the parties are doing among voters of different housing tenures.

With Ipsos Mori’s monthly poll out today, Ben Marshall from Ipsos has kindly provided us with an interesting update.

Ben Marshall, Research Director at Ipsos MORI.

This year is an important one politically. In May, we will be 12 months out from the 2015 general election and there are also European Parliament and local elections.

Last year we saw growing attention to the multi-faceted housing crisis. Much of the focus was the sharp rises in house prices, but the ‘bedroom tax’ also made front page news. Little wonder that our latest survey of MPs again found housing the top subject of constituency correspondence.

In August 2013 housing hit a five year high in our monthly Issues Index. And in October, a quarter of Londoners, 27%, said without prompting that the affordability of housing is one of the most important issues facing the capital. This put it above all other issues including transport (23%), crime (14%) and immigration (10%).

What about this year? While expected house price and interest rates rises look set to keep housing on the news agenda, politicians will continue to be interested in home ownership in particular because it meets a key British aspiration. Housing gives them the chance to connect to voters of all ages and situations on something that matters.

But for all this attention, there is a difference between an issue being salient and it being decisive electorally. An important pre-condition is voters recognising difference between the parties and we saw moves in that direction last year with much clearer dividing lines between the parties (and within the Coalition) on Help to Buy and the ‘bedroom tax’ in particular. At the same time, we have recently seen calls for the Conservatives to get closer to, even ‘trump’, Labour’s house-building pledges.

But who among the parties is making any headway? Our annual measure of ‘best party for housing’ in September found Labour leading the Conservatives but a plurality of voters answered ‘none’ or ‘don’t know’.

Our annual analysis of aggregated polling data across the year allows us to look in detail at the vote share among the four main tenure groups. Summarised in the table below, the progress of UKIP is clear while there has been a dip in the fortunes of the Conservatives among owner-occupiers since the 2010 election, and an upswing in support for Labour among renters.

Crucially, what has not changed is differential patterns in turnout; renters remain much less likely to expect to vote. Of course, there are still 14 months to the next election campaign starts, and a strong showing for opposition and ‘protest’ parties is to be expected at this stage in a Parliament.

Looking ahead, Labour will resolve to mobilise renters, the Conservatives to keep mortgage-holders on side while re-building their share among owners. But this will only take them so far; on housing, as more broadly, the challenge for both parties is to reach beyond their natural ‘tenure’ constituencies and broaden their appeal.

% Con

% Lab

% LD

% UKIP

% turnout

All Britain
2010 election

37

30

24

3

65

2012

33

41

11

4

55

2013

31

38

10

11

56

Owners
2010 election

45

24

21

4

74

2012

39

34

11

6

65

2013

36

31

10

14

65

Mortgage
2010 election

36

29

26

3

66

2012

36

41

11

4

56

2013

34

39

9

8

55

Social renters
2010 election

24

47

19

3

55

2012

18

60

7

3

45

2013

14

53

6

13

47

Private renters
2010 election

35

29

27

2

55

2012

25

47

12

3

43

2013

23

45

11

7

45

 

Source: Ipsos MORI election/monthly aggregates (n=10,000+ 2010, n=6,923 in 2012, n=6,158 in 2013)

Note: 2012 and 2013 vote share and turnout figures based on those 10/10 certain to vote at immediate general election

 

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