Every election campaign targets particular types of voters and some come to be defined by swing groups: Mondeo Man, Worcester Woman, Soccer Moms. Indeed, the political lexicon is awash with such groups "hard-working families", "the squeezed middle, "strivers" and "alarm-clock Britain" amongst others. As we hit the 18 month mark to the 2015 General Election there is, naturally, increasing interest in this electoral battleground with both Rachel Sylvester (£) and Archie Bland writing about how the major political parties are profiling the electorate.
Traditionally political parties and pollsters tended to analyse behaviour in terms of demographics like age, gender, or location. These, certainly, remain important. But pollsters and strategists increasingly think of voters' values and attitudes as being more important than simple demographics. There is a psychological battleground overlaid on the conventional marginal seat map. Understanding not just what people think, but why and how they think as they do, allows politicians and campaigners to target and manage their messaging to an ever greater extent.
To this end, Populus has developed a Portrait of Political Britain that identifies six different types, or segments, of voters:
This is not a simple left-right spectrum or one that describes low and high income groups, but rather identifies six clusters of voters that share similar views on issues like the role of business, attitudes to immigration and social change, and beliefs about progress and social mobility.
At the extremes are the two smallest groups of voters, that we've called Comfortable Nostalgia and Cosmopolitan Critics. Comfortable Nostalgia tend to be older, traditional male voters, and typically retired homeowners. While financially secure, they dislike the social and cultural changes they see in Britain. Core Conservative voters, some are defecting to UKIP. Cosmopolitan Critics, in contrast, lean heavily to Labour. Generally younger, urban, secular and highly educated this group worries about growing inequality and are more likely than other groups to be working in the public sector.
Calm Persistence occupies the centre of the Portrait and, in some ways, is both the most interesting group and the one all parties are looking to appeal to. Not aligned to any party, it is the largest group and one whose vote is split between all the parties. It contains the highest proportion of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic voters. This group are coping, just, with the ongoing economic difficulties - but don't see themselves as comfortable. They are hoping rather than expecting things to get better and so look for strong political leadership and want the Government to help with economic growth.
Rounding out the Portrait are three further groups:
- Optimistic Contentment: confident and comfortable, highly educated with higher incomes. They believe people can succeed in Britain today but expect too much from Government.
- Hard-pressed Anxiety: pessimistic and insecure, these people want more assistance from government. Sceptical about immigration & multiculturalism.
- Long-term Despair: Serial strugglers who feel they have little stake in the country or the economy and that no-one stands up for people like them.
This isn't the only way to look at British politics but it is one that is statistically robust, presents six distinct segments, and - crucially - is recognisable in the real world. As such, it offers a way to understand British politics, and the upcoming General Election, that transcends traditional left-right or marginal seat perspectives and is akin to the approaches being used right now in the war rooms and campaign headquarters of the political parties and strategists.
You can take a short online test now to find out which segment you fall into. Take the test using our online tool now.