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Introduction

 

The Conservative Party suffered a historic defeat in the fourth of July general election – the worst electoral defeat in in the Party’s history thus far. After a 14-year-long wait, the Labour Party has come back into government, winning a landslide majority of over 410 seats.

We sought to find out: what the UK public’s expectations for this incoming Labour Government are; how those expectations match up with what the public’s own priorities are; their assessment of the previous 14 years under a Conservative Government; and which of the announced policies from the election manifestos of the main political parties the UK public think will be most helpful for the country’s younger generations.

Methodology

 

Polling was undertaken by Yonder Data Solutions and conducted between the 21st and the 23rd of June 2024. It consisted of a nationally representative sample of 2,063 United Kingdom (UK) adults.

The sample was derived using an online interview administered to members of the Y Live panel of 150,000+ individuals. Data was weighted to the profile of all adults in the UK aged 18 and above by 24 characteristics including gender, age, region, tenure, education, ethnicity, religion, marital status and sexuality to provide a nationally representative of the UK.

This analysis focuses on highlighting the differences in attitudes between different age groups. This is both because the differences in attitudes between different age groups are generally the most significant of all the differences in the attitudes we tested for between different socio-demographic groups; and also because we are particularly interested in understanding and mitigating intergenerational inequality.

We provide linear regression analysis of particular answers, but only when difference in age has the strongest impact on one’s probability of giving a different answer.

Chapter One: Views of the incoming Labour Government

 

First, we asked the UK public what they think will be the main policy priorities of the incoming Labour Government. Respondents could choose up to three answers.

As seen in Chart 1 below, a majority of the UK public (58%) think that the reduction of NHS waiting lists will be a top-three priority for the incoming Labour Government.

Chart 1. Views of the UK public on what will be the top three policy priorities of the incoming Labour Government.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

The other two policy areas that are viewed to be a top three priority by the incoming Labour Government include the improvement of economic growth (35%) and building more homes (22%).


Cutting taxes?

Twelve percent of the UK public think the Labour Government will lower taxes, a policy aim traditionally not associated with Labour.

Older voters are much less likely to think that Labour will prioritise lowering taxes, as can be seen in Chart 2 below. While 19% of 18-to-34-year-olds think it will be one of the potential Labour government’s top three priorities, the same is true for only 5% of over 55s.

Chart 2. The probability of viewing lowering taxes as what will be a top-three policy priority for the incoming Labour government, by age.

Base: 2,063 UK adults


Next, we asked the UK public what they think should be the main policy priorities of the incoming Labour Government. We did this in order to see how well what the UK public want from the Labour Government matches up with what they expect of the Labour Government. Once again, respondents could choose up to three answers.

Similarly to the previous question, a majority of the UK public (61%) think that the reduction of NHS waiting lists should be a top-three policy priority for the incoming Labour Government, as presented in Chart 3 below.

Chart 3. Views of the UK public on what should be the top three policy priorities of the incoming Labour Government.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

The other two top-three policy priorities for the UK public are improving economic growth (36%) and reducing immigration (29%).

Worth noting is that, while the UK public expect building homes to be a top-three priority for the Labour Government (as shown in Chart 1 above), they are much less likely to think that it should be, with it rating as only the ninth top policy that the public think the Labour Government should prioritise. Conversely, while the UK public expect reducing immigration to only be the sixth highest priority for the incoming Labour Government, they think it should be the Labour Government’s third highest.

The most significant disparity between older and younger respondents is on the question of whether reducing immigration should be a top-three policy priority of the incoming Labour Government, illustrated in Chart 4 below.

Chart 4. The probability of viewing reducing immigration as what should be a top-three policy priority for the incoming Labour Government by age.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Forty-four percent over 55s think reducing immigration should be a top-three priority for Labour, making it the second-most-chosen priority by them, as compared to only 15% of 18-to-34-year-olds, for whom it is only the ninth-most-chosen priority.

Older respondents also generally think that reduction in NHS waiting lists should be more of a policy priority; while only a plurality (48%) of 18-to-34-year-olds think so, the same is true for a majority (74%) of over 55s – although it is the very top priority across all ages.

On the other hand, younger respondents are more likely to think that reducing poverty rates should be a top-three priority for the Labour Government, with 27% of 18-to-34-year-olds saying so as compared to only 15% of over 55s. Indeed, reducing poverty is the third-most-chosen priority among 18-to-34-year-olds, but only the fourth-most-chosen priority for the over 55s.

Having established which policy priorities the UK public would desire and expect the Labour Government to focus on, we asked them what policy challenges they think the incoming Labour Government will be able to effectively tackle.

As visible in Chart 5 below, the UK public is generally optimistic about the Labour Government’s ability to tackle a range of policy challenges. The challenge that the public are most likely to think the Labour Government will tackle is long NHS waiting lists, with a majority (63%) saying that the potential incoming Labour Government will tackle it net effectively – which includes both tackling it very effectively (13%) and somewhat effectively (50%).

Chart 5. Views of the public on what challenges the incoming Labour Government will be able to effectively tackle.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Other challenges that a majority of the UK public think the Labour Government will deliver net effectively on include the UK’s relationship with the EU (62%), poor economic growth (61%), the high cost of living (58%), the housing crisis (58%), UK regional inequality (53%) and poor social cohesion (53%).

Conversely, the issue that the UK public is least optimistic Labour will be able to tackle is the war in Ukraine. A large majority of the UK public (65%) think that Labour will not be able to tackle it at all. Other issues that a majority of the public think Labour will be unable to tackle at all include the channel boat crossings (57%), achieving net zero (56%) and high levels of government debt (56%).

Age has again proven to be the key discriminating factor, with older respondents much more likely to be sceptical about the Labour Government’s ability to tackle any of the listed policy challenges. The difference was most pronounced when asked about the challenge of Channel boat crossings – which is why we choose to illustrate it in Chart 6 below – with 60% of 18-to-34-year-olds saying that the incoming Labour Government will be able to tackle them effectively, as compared to only 26% of the over 55s.

Chart 6. Views on the ability of the incoming Labour Government to tackle channel boat crossings by age.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Chapter Two: Looking back at the last 14 years

 

We now compare the UK public’s assessment of the performance of the incoming Labour Government with how Conservative Governments have performed since they came into power in 2010. To do this, we asked them to judge how several things have changed – negatively or positively – since the general election in 2010.

This revealed a damning assessment of the progress the country has made in the last 14 years.  The UK public think that, across all policy areas we have tested for, things have become more negative since 2010. The most common policy issue, which the UK public believes got worse since 2010, as can be seen in Chart 7 below, is the cost of living. An overwhelming majority (81%) of the UK public note that the cost of living has changed negatively since 2010. Sixty percent say it has changed very negatively.

Chart 7. Views of the public on how things have changed since the 2010 general election.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Other particularly negative assessments include regarding the state of the NHS, with a large majority (80%) of the public thinking it changed net negatively – indeed a majority of the public (58%) think it changed very negatively; regarding the tax burden, with also a large majority (67%) of the public saying it changed net negatively; regarding the availability and quality of housing, where a majority (65%) of the public say it changed net negatively; and regarding the level of immigration, with a majority (65%) of the public thinking it changed net negatively.

The most positive responses were given regarding wages (22% net positive), the UK’s natural environment (15% net positive) and the quality of educational provision (15% net positive); however, for all of them, the majority response was still net negative – 52% for wages, 51% for the UK’s natural environment and 51% for the quality of educational provision.

Older people are more likely to think more negatively about the last 14 years, with older respondents less likely to give net positive and more likely to give net negative responses across all issues except for wages. The different is most pronounced when it comes to their thoughts on how the level of immigration has changed – hence why it is illustrated in Chart 8 below. While a plurality (48%) of 18-to-34-year-olds thought the change has been net negative, the same is true for a huge majority (81%) of over 55s.

Chart 8. Views on how the level of immigration has changed since the 2010 general election by age.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Chapter Three: Supporting younger generations

 

We also wanted to find out more about what the UK public thinks about each of the specific policy proposals that the major UK parties (Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats) made in their recent election manifestos. In particular, we wanted to know whether they think those proposals will be able to support younger generations that will be living through the impacts of the recent general election for decades to come. As such, we asked the UK public which of the policy proposals of the three major parties – as detailed in their recent election manifestos – could best support the under 40s. Respondents could choose up to three answers.

As can be seen looking at Chart 9 below, a plurality of respondents (43%) chose building more homes as their answer.

Chart 9. Views of the public on what three policy proposals can best support the under 40s.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Other common responses include lowering Stamp Duty on first-time buyers (34%) and renewing the Help to Buy scheme (29%) – both policies included in the 2024 Conservative Party’s manifesto, but not in either the 2024 Labour or Liberal Democrat manifestos.

The biggest differences in views on how to best support the under 40s again occur between different age groups. As can be seen in Chart 10 below, surprisingly, a smaller plurality – as compared to the general UK population – of the under 45s (37%) think that building more homes is one of the top-three best policy proposals to support the under 40s.

Chart 10. Views of under 45s on what three policy proposals can best support the under 40s.

Base: 848 UK adults

The second-most popular choice for the under 45s for a policy to best support the under 40s is lowering the rate of National Insurance (NI) contributions, chosen by 28% of the under 45s. Renewing Help to Buy and lowering Stamp Duty on first-time buyers, however, are still popular, chosen by 27% and 25% of the under 45s respectively.

Conversely, the least popular policy for the under 40s among the under 45s is mandatory national service for 18-year-olds – a 2024 Conservative policy favoured by only 9% of the under 45s. Other policy proposals that are favoured by under 45s less than by the general UK public include the 2024 Conservative proposals to ban smartphones in school (20% vs 14%) and to shut down ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees (17% vs 10%). On the other hand, lowering National Insurance (28% vs 23%) – also a 2024 Conservative proposal – making flexible working a day-one right (16% vs 25%) and increasing Statutory Maternity and Shared Parental Pay (16% vs 22%) – latter both being 2024 Liberal Democrat proposals – are all relatively more favoured by the under 45s. Indeed, making flexible working a day-one right is the most correlated between age and the probability of one favouring it as a policy proposal for supporting the under 40s of all the policies we tested. This correlation is illustrated in Chart 11 below.

Chart 11. Views on making flexible working a day-one right as a top-three policy proposal for supporting the under 40s by age.

Base: 2,063 UK adults

Conclusion

 

The public is united in its poor assessment of the previous 14 years of Conservative Government. With older people even more likely than young people to think negatively of the changes that the UK has undergone since 2010, there is ample explanation for the heavy defeat that the Conservatives suffered.

On the other hand, the public are somewhat optimistic about the change of guard. Some of the very policy areas that the Conservatives are perceived to have performed the worst on – the cost of living, state of the NHS and the housing crisis – are also the policy areas on which the incoming Labour Government is expected to deliver.

Indeed, across almost all policy priorities, the public’s priorities are well aligned with what they expect of the incoming Labour Government. The one major exception, where the UK public believe it will be less prioritised than they would like, is immigration.

Yet, for the younger generations, housing is the top policy priority. The Labour Government is firmly expected to prioritise it. Moreover, there is consensus that supporting young people’s housing aspirations – be it through building more homes, renewing Help to Buy or lowering Stamp Duty for first-time buyers – are the best things that could be done for young people.

People – and especially young people – are generally optimistic about the incoming Labour Government. It is up to it to deliver.

Authors

Bartek Staniszewski is a Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue.

Sarah Kuszynski is a Researcher at Bright Blue.

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Ryan Shorthouse for his editing and feedback, as well as Emily Taylor for her communications work around this piece of analysis. I would also like to thank Daniel Singham and the Yonder Data Solutions team for their hard work carrying out the survey.

Raw data tables from Yonder Data Solutions.