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of treaty agreements with the EU and announce a referendum sometime after his assumed re- election? But the facts revealed by the third wave of the online panel data of the BES are sobering. When controlled for general Left-Right orientations, the EU issue does not add much to our understanding of voting decisions; it adds least for the party of the PM. “Looking at the importance of Europe, there are three lessons. The first is that though ‘Left and Right’ is definitely a feature of European politics, this dimension is not integrated into all aspects of the political discourse. Second, the electoral potential of the Conservative Party is, surprisingly, the least affected by the question of Europe when compared to the other major parties, including Ukip. But third, Europe is still key to Ukip’s electoral potential, though other issues in the Left Right debate are equally important.” Professor Hermann Schmitt, University

of Manchester How is Ukip’s support evolving? “The third wave of the BES reveals that UKIP continues to hold on to many of the voters it picked up in the run-up to the 2014 European elections. Though the party has experienced modest declines in loyalty since early 2014, still more than one in two of the party’s 2014 voters say they would vote UKIP in a general election. And even though UKIP’s supporters continue to be motivated by concerns over immigration and Europe, the party has made gains among a wide range of groups in society, including groups where the party has traditionally struggled to gain support. Moreover, UKIP’s gains outweigh those made by the other major parties during the same period, which suggests that that party continues to mount a strong challenge to the established political system heading into 2015.” Dr Matt Goodwin and Dr Caitlin Milazzo, University of Nottingham

Meltdown: Can the Lib Dems avoid disaster in 2015? “Entering into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010 has caused electoral trauma for the Lib Dems and now fewer than a quarter of the people who voted Liberal Democrat in 2010 say they will vote for them again in 2015. However, as the 2015 General Election will not be decided by geography of the vote as much as by vote share, the Liberal Democrats are likely to concentrate their campaign on defending certain seats rather than trying to win new ones. The evidence seems to suggest that they stand a better chance of defending seats against the Conservatives than against Labour, and will try to fight a series of battles on using local records rather than national ones and trying to benefit from local campaigning and organisational strength and from incumbency effects and personal votes for the sitting MP.” Professor Andrew Russell, University of Manchester

The Liberal Democrats are likely to concentrate their campaign on defending certain seats rather than trying to win new ones

The idea that we really rate

our local MP whilst hating MPs in general is wide of the mark

Can the Conservatives win the ethnic minority vote? “Since 2010, Labour’s ethnic minority vote has collapsed, and the party can no longer take these voters for granted. In particular, just less than a quarter of Indian voters have abandoned the party: the numbers identifying with the Labour Party fell from 77 per cent in 1997 to 45 per cent in 2014. But it does not follow that those ethnic minority voters who abandoned Labour will turn to the Conservatives, despite Tory attempts to woo them. Ethnic minority voters who live in diverse areas, are rarely exposed to party campaigning and are aware of racial prejudice, are still unlikely to vote Tory.” Dr Maria Sobolewska, University of Manchester How satisfied are voters with their MPs? “The claim that while people don’t like politicians as a species they do like their own MP has now become a political truism. You hear it a lot from some MPs, for whom it has become a bit of a comfort blanket; battered by years of press and public hostility, they can reassure themselves that the animosity is nothing personal, that while other politicians may be disliked, they personally are OK. But the idea that we really rate our local MP whilst hating MPs in general is wide of the mark. Most BES data shows that people rate their local MP pretty much the same as they rate MPs in general, and a minority are a bit more positive about their local MP than they are about MPs in general. Whatever else is going on, there’s not a lot of love for them.”

Professor Phil Cowley, University of Nottingham i 16 SOCIETY NOW SPRING 2015

This article first appeared on the BES website. It summarises presentations made by the BES team at Westminster on 9 December 2014, when journalists, political scientists and party staffers were given a series of insights into the General Election.

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