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Jun 14th, 2024

“Grasping at straws”: Voters verdict on Conservative manifesto 

By Matthew McGregor

A snap study of voters suggests the Conservative manifesto has done little to change minds in favour of Rishi Sunak’s party, leaving voters largely unimpressed by central pledges on National Insurance and the NHS.

38 Degrees commissioned a rapid response voter panel study in the hours immediately after Tuesday’s manifesto launch, carried out by pollsters JL Partners using a pioneering update to traditional snap polling which gives same-day qualitative reactions to breaking news. We chose to poll voters in Yorkshire, in collaboration with the Yorkshire Post, because of the number of red wall and marginal seats in the region that could help decide the outcome of the election.

Results showed a fairly even split on the question of whether the manifesto would help people in Yorkshire, with around 40% saying it would and 40% saying it would not. Plans to build GP surgeries and expand childcare were welcomed, but there was concern about whether these ideas would actually be delivered. One former Conservative voter said “I believe they would [help people in Yorkshire] but I don’t trust them to implement [the pledges]”.

There was further scepticism on specific Conservative policies: fewer than 2 in 10 thought plans were sufficient to address the scale of problems faced by the NHS, and the 2p National Insurance cut failed to win over the majority of voters. Only around 1 in 3 voters (36%) said it would help them with the cost of living, and almost half said it would not (46%). Despite the focus on tax cuts, many Yorkshire voters said they’d rather see increased spending on public services – 48% would prioritise spending on public services, compared to 34% on tax cuts. 

Here are a selection of results:

Asked whether the manifesto’s policies would make life better for people in Yorkshire:

  • A 26-year-old male recruitment and HR manager, who voted Conservative in 2019 and now plans to switch to the Liberal Democrats, said: “No, ultimately the conservatives have had 14 years to level up the country and they haven’t managed [it].”
  • A 39-year-old male support worker and Labour voter said: “No as Yorkshire has been left so far behind London in terms of levelling up that it would take decades to see any improvement anywhere in the North”
  • A male IT manager, 52, who voted Conservative in 2019 but is now undecided, said: “I think it is imprudent and partly undeliverable so a moot point.”
  • A 31-year-old support worker, 31, who plans to vote Labour, said: “Yes, the provision of childcare, reduction of National insurance and Healthcare expansion will reduce the waiting time for patients.”

Asked whether a National Insurance cut would improve their experience of the cost of living:

  • A 33-year-old female nurse and Labour voter said: “I don’t think it would help me. I’d rather pay the national insurance and receive good services”.
  • A 52-year-old male building inspector, who plans to switch from Conservative to Labour, said: “It would help the people on higher incomes but for those on low income it will only make a minimal difference.”
  • A 42-year-old female civilian police worker, who plans to switch from Conservative to Liberal Democrat, said: “I imagine that would be cut but then just taken off us in another way.”
  • A male business consultant, 56, who plans to switch from Conservative to Reform UK, said: “It’s messing around the edge. Why freeze the personal allowance and then reduce N.I?”
  • A 21-year-old female programme officer who plans to vote Labour said: “I think it will help a lot of people right now as there are many people struggling financially.” 

Asked whether the election campaign and the manifesto had changed their view of Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party:

  • A 26-year-old male recruitment and HR Manager, who voted Conservative in 2019 and is currently a Liberal Democrat voter, said: “Not at all, I am incredibly disappointed that despite constantly promising a return to serious politics all we have had is more of the same.”
  • A female call centre agent, 19, who plans to vote Labour, said: “It has improved my view of him slightly.”
  • A retired female Labour voter, 66, said: “It has not changed my view at all, as I feel they are just ‘grasping at straws’”

Asked whether the manifesto pledges would be enough to address the scale of problems in the NHS

  • A 41-year-old male house husband and Labour voter said: “No. This will not even touch the damage they have already created in the past 14 years.”
  • A 50-year-old female project manager who voted Conservative in 2019 and is now undecided said: “No, the problems with NHS are much bigger”
  • A 52-year-old female customer service worker and Conservative voter said: “It would be a start.”

Asked whether a Government should prioritise tax cuts or spending on public services:

  • A 64-year-old retired female nurse, who plans to vote Labour, said: “I would prefer increasing spending on public services. The NHS has been broken due to lack of investment and resources.”
  • A 41-year-old male Labour voter said: “Cutting taxes. We are all feeling the pinch, and need more money in our pockets.”

While a small number of voters said policies in the Conservative manifesto had improved their view of the party “slightly”, the vast majority said the announcement had done little to change their minds. With just over 20 days until polling day, it is clear that voters are crying out for policies that are bold, believable – and leaders that are trusted to fix the cost of living crisis and scale problems in the NHS. 

The JL Partners/38 Degrees Rapid Response Voter Panel was used to ask a sample of 105 adults in Yorkshire online to share their instantaneous reaction to breaking news. In an update on traditional focus groups, JL Partners ask people to explain their views and dig underneath the surface of support or opposition. The sample is collected using web-intercept polling in accordance with MRS and BPC guidelines and data tables are available shortly after publication.

Fieldwork completed: 11/06/24

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