Iain Dale is getting excited over the social class crossbreaks in the latest ComRes poll, which show a big Tory lead amongst C2s. I wouldn’t get too het up about it – voting intention in class crossbreaks jumps about wildly from poll to poll because of the small sample sizes, so it’s very easy to cherry pick one that looks nice. However, Iain is absolutely right to focus on the C2s.

The graph below shows the Conservative lead in each social class break in ICM polls since summer 2007 at the height of the first Brown bounce. I’ve used a rolling average of 4 polls to try and iron out the worst of the noise.


As you can see, back in Summer 2007 the Conservatives only led amongst the ABs. After the non-election and the end of the initial Brown bounce all social groups swung heavily back towards the Conservatives, leaving a good Tory lead amongst ABs and C1s, and the parties roughly neck and neck amongst C2s and DEs.

By the start of 2008 the Tories had pretty much sealed the deal with C1s, who have since been as staunchly Tory as ABs. The swing back towards Labour at the end of 2008 seems to have barely affected C1s at all. Similarly, DEs don’t seem to be moving much further towards the Conservatives – in summer 2008 as Labour collapsed into internal infighting they were reporting small Conservative leads, but realistically these are the most solid Labour voters and it doesn’t shift very far into Tory territory.

The movement in 2008 was amongst C2s. As Labour fell apart in Summer 2008 C2s shifted wholesale over to the Conservatives, recording the largest Tory leads of any social group. After the bank bailout it was the same C2s who swung massively back in Labour’s favour.

Have they now gone back the other way? Of course we don’t have an ICM poll since the recent reverse in the polls and, even if we did, as I warned at the top of this post, given the volatility of the class breaks in standard polls, we should never draw any conclusions based on a single poll. At the moment therefore, we don’t know whether the C2s are now swinging back to the Conservatives. What doesn’t appear to the be case however, based on last year’s polls, is that the difference between a hung Parliament and a Tory landslide will largely be down to how the C2s vote.

17 Responses to “C2s are the key to a Tory landslide”

  1. I’ll have to see what I can find from full Scottish polls about voting by A-E classification in Scotland, although I suspect there will be a dirth of data.


  2. I have been scathed for previously describing some sections of the electorate as susceptible and sometimes moronic.
    Judging by the wild variations in voting intentions among C2’s I don’t think I’m too wide of the mark.

    Who the hell changes their opinion of which party is best to run their country based on, what, the front page of a tabloid? On a week by week basis?!

    It’s scary.

  3. @ Ivan

    Sun Readers?

    As chiched as this sounds, I think that it is pretty true

  4. Ivan,

    it’s not scary at all. Without over generalising for all C2’s they may represent the people who well be most effected by the recession.

    They may well be on below average incomes possibly with proportionally larger debt, they will have modest houses that will have fallen in value and may well be more recent home owners with higher mortgages. Negative equity and redundancy could loom large for this group

    They may also have proportionally larger families and might well have been hit quite hard by utility and food inflation. As discretionary spending has been squeezed they have seen more income spent on high inflation essentials. many may well be pensioners.

    All these factors mean that more than those at the bottom, who have less to loss and no one but Labour to vote for, or the top, who have the income to see themselves through and probably are more inclined to vote Tory anyway, their everyday lives and standard of living have been impacted on by the credit crisis.

    For me what we are seeing here isn’t dim people acting like sheep, but the group who perceive themselves as having most to worry about as a result of economic events being split about who best to get them through it.

    Oddly enough far from being unthinking this group could be seen as the ones most actively focusing on where we go from here and who is best to lead us.

    It also gives us a good focus as to where the policy battle might well be in the next year or so running up to the next election.

    Then again give the rise since last year of the phrases “Hard working families, British jobs for British workers, and supporting key industries”, maybe the battle for the C2 vote has been with us for a while.

    I did a quick look for Scottish voting by class and could only get four decent samples and they merely split it ABC1 to C2DE.

    The averages are;

    Lab 35%/39%, Tory 19%/14%, LibDem 16%/10%, SNP 26%/34%, Others 4%/4%.

    Not surprisingly Labour and the SNP do best at C2DE, but oddly the LibDems are proportionally more ABC! than the Tories. The SNP seem the most working Class, although that may well be because the upper class vote is more widely spread.

    Labour and the SNP have 73% of the C2DE vote as opposed to 61% of ABC1’s.

    I’d have expected the Others vote to be more C2DE with the likes of the SSP but it could be balanced by the Greens although with only 4% across 4 samples it’s probable just to small a sample.

    Equally there isn’t enough information to discern any trends.


  5. Peter Cairns. You refer to “full Scottish polls”, but we never seem to see them. When was the last one and how regular are they? They would help considerably in interpreting the UK polls.

  6. Collin,

    Check the right hand side where Anthony has his “Scottish section”. they are few and far between but that and averaging sub samples is pretty much all we’ve got.


  7. An excellent reply by Peter to Anthony’s interesting analysis.

    The C2’s may be erratic currently. However, if they swing to Tories now I suspect they may stick with the Tories this time.

  8. @Sunbeam

    It does seem to follow the narative of a disinfranchised working class. Again I think a landslide is there to be lost for the Tories and not won.

  9. The Guardian has just released their ICM poll that shows the Tories on 44%, Lab on 32% and the Lib Dems on 16%. Wonder whether the class breakdown will confirm that the C2s are swinging behind the Tories? I assume so as the Tories have a 12% lead.

  10. ICM Poll finally out.


    Cons up 6 points on last ICM poll.

    See political betting . com

  11. I agree with Peter, good analysis.

    The C2s being skilled manual workers are I would say more likely than average to lose their jobs in a recession or to have pay reductions (through the loss of overtime). They also have more relatively at risk than the poorer DEs and less financial reserves than the more affluent ABC1s.

    They are also a group which has perhaps suffered most due to increasing migrant workers (Polish plumbers etc).

    I wonder how the C2 voting intentions correlate to their economic optimism?

  12. Is there any Polling evidence of which Social Grouping BNP are getting their support from?

  13. What happened in March 2008? The delta-C spikes vertically for almost everyone just then.

  14. Alex – that’s the 2008 budget. Essentially it was the first time that the economic downturn became “real”.

  15. Hmm, a lot of the news was still denialist even then. Remember the fuss when Alistair Darling said things might be really bad?

  16. Colin,

    I don’t know about the polling evidence, but I get the impression that the BNP get their support from all along the class spectrum, but mostly from the C2DE end. That is purely based on my observation that they tend to gain from Labour mostly – and C2DE tends to be more Labour supporting.

    Of course I cannot back up what I am saying (I possibly could but right now I am too lazy). Another possible reason why they gain from Labour most is that Labour support tends to be concentrated in urban areas, and the issues which the BNP address are most keenly felt in urban areas.

    It would be interesting to have analysis of voter intention for the “others” including the BNP. Perhaps we will get that in the run-up to the council elections in June, where they will surely be a force to be reckoned with.

    I think that the BNP will be a party that will do better in elections than in the polls, as a lot of people who would vote BNP would perhaps not admit it. I certainly know people who vote BNP, who do not admit it to many people, but tell me in hushed tones, as they know I am open-minded (I am not a BNP supporter). I find this quite comical, but on the other hand it does highlight the serious issue that the BNP are really marginalised by the media, without any discussion of their views, they are simply branded as “racist” and ignored. But I think the main parties will increasingly have to engage with the concerns of people who are inclined to start voting BNP.

  17. Thank you Neil-very interesting.

    Yes-it was the observation that C2s are moving to the Tories which set me thinking about the source of BNP’s support-which I thought might be from the same group.

    I agree that there is a conspiracy of silence about BNP, and I think there will be some shock gains by them in the areas where people feel abandoned by the main parties.