The media have taken to the narrative that the Conservative party are struggling amongst women with gusto. A lot of this points, as evidence, to some analysis of aggregated MORI data from January to July for Resolution. Far less attention has been paid to this latest article by MORI themselves providing a more recent version of the data, also including data from August and September, which no longer shows the Conservatives strugging against women. Since the election now MORI now have Tory down down 1 point amongst women and 3 points amongst men.

Before the Conservative party pull themselves into a swift reverse and start worrying about the male vote, I should add that the evidence of the Conservatives doing badly amongst women hasn’t vanished entirely. A few months ago I put up a graph here showing the gender split in YouGov’s Sunday Times polls. I’ve updated that below, and with the YouGov polling the pattern remains.

graph

It’s worth being crystal clear about the position. The problem is not that the Conservatives have less support amongst women than men – both MORI and YouGov are showing very little gender difference. The problem is that the Conservatives have lost their previous advantage amongst women. Up until Christmas YouGov had the Conservatives doing better amongst women, a difference that has since vanished – for some reason, the Conservatives have been losing more support amongst women than men.

It’s not easy to determine why – certainly I’ve seen a lot of speculation as to reasons, but not much of it has the benefit of evidence to support it. It needs to be an issue that has arisen relatively recently (ruling out things like a comparative lack of female representation in the cabinet, though solving that would probably help!) and has too be something that alienates women more than men. For example, in the YouGov/Sunday Times poll at the weekend there were questions about whether people perceived the government’s policies on the economy, education, etc as being good or bad for women… which is fine in itself, but doesn’t tell us much about whether these things are factors in the different trends in support amongst men and women unless you have the same questions in regard of men (e.g. it showed people thought the government’s policies on the NHS were bad for women… but we can’t tell if that is just recording a general unhappiness with the government’s NHS policies – people may have given an identical or worse answer if asked about NHS policies for men!)

Polling evidence finds some difference of opinions or attitudes on political issues between men and women – for example, women are more negative about the earlier equalisation of pension ages, more negative about intervention in Libya, more supportive of tightening restrictions on sexualised music videos and adverts, slightly less likely to support the Nadine Dorries abortion amendment. This does not, however, tell us anything about the salience of these issues. Equally don’t read this list of differences and go away with the view that men and women have wildly different viewpoints on political subjects – they really don’t! On most topics like health,education, crime, etc, there is little obvious or consistent difference in male and female viewpoints.

My best guess remains that it is the economy, based mainly upon the timings – the Conservative advantage amongst women disappeared at around the same point that the economy went back into negative growth and economic optimism dropped. There is some evidence to back this up from YouGov’s regular battery of questions on attitudes towards cuts, which show women are less likely than men to think that the cuts are good for the economy, necessary or fair.


269 Responses to “The Tories and the women’s vote”

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  1. @ Top Hat

    “Mind you, I’m at an opposite you here, I suspect. I am vehemently against FPTP, and think it makes a mockery of politics. Possibly, it works in America where the two party system ensures that the whole plurality/majority thing isn’t an issue, but I think here, it is a huge burden on the Liberal Democrats which is vastly unfair to them.”

    I like FPTP because it is the simplest yet fairest way of determining an electoral winner. The most votes wins. It’s like a sporting event. Whoever has the most points at the end wins. For local elections, I’ve always had the French style runoff system. I happen to like this system for local elections and here’s why. As opposed to the state and federal level, local issues tend to not have the same partisan divides to them. Considering that local politics are often dominated by one party or another, it also helps keep government clean by keeping government officials on their toes (you can’t hide behind your party registration). It also gives all voters in those cities and counties a choice in who leads them and who represents them, not just those registered to the dominant political party.

    I do not believe that this is an appropriate tool for state and federal elections where there are real issues and real political divides.

    I think why the U.S. having FPTP and the Electoral College work better is because we have a whole system of checks and balances. You can have one party control every branch of government yet still the president will not be able to push through every peice of legislation he wants. Plus we have the courts. In the UK, whoever is the PM has pretty wide power.

    I like having a two-party system and I like a system that typically has clear winners and clear losers. And here’s why. I believe that ultimately there needs to be someone in government who is accountable to the public and in charge. When the Werhmacht is advancing, I don’t want negotiations between coalition partners of a bunch of different small parties about whether or not it would be good to stop them. I want one person in charge leading the effort.

    Now I will share with you another kind of voting system, which I like though I’m not sure actually makes for better governance. It’s called fusion voting. That is you allow more than one political party to nominate the same candidate. Now I’ve heard it exists in a few other states but it is most famously in use in the State of New York. New York actually, until recently, had a Liberal Party. They have a Conservative Party. They have a whole range of smaller third parties. Now these parties, which develop their own platforms and agendas, often nominate the nominees of the two major parties. But often enough, they’ll nominate their own. It’s kind of a way of keeping a two party system but allowing smaller parties and other issues to develop. And sometimes there are some very interesting results. In 1969, the Liberal Party won the NYC Mayoral Race. In 1970, the Conservative Party won a New York Senate seat. Recently, in a special election for a State Assembly seat, the Democrats nearly lost a safe seat even though there was no Republican running for the seat to a candidate from the Working Families Party. In the past, the Conservatives will normally nominate the Republican and the Liberals will normally nominate the Democrat. But not always, numerous Republicans got elected because they had the Liberal Party Line. A lot of Democrats would try and get the Conservative Party line.

    With that said. Although it’s a fascinating political system, New York has probably one of the most dysfunctional governments in the entire union. So I’m not sure that this system really makes things any better. But it is an alternative system that one can appreciate.

  2. statgeek @JOHN B DICK

    “Frankly I have never been furnished with believable figures from believeable sources for any of the pro or anti independence arguments.”

    Neither have I.

    I am influenced most by the fact that it might be better and won’t be a lot worse;Ttrident, and a parliament fit for purpose.

    A government wholly focused on Scotlands potential could develop renewable power and unexploited natural resources including plentiful clean water. The SNP’s current vision for fresh local (often organic) healthy food has a lot to be said for it for the future.

  3. @ STUART DICKSON

    @”In Sweden the situation for the Social Democrat leader just goes from bad to worse. It looks like Håkan Juholt is going to hold the record for the briefest ever leader of the once mighty party. He was only elected on 25 March this year.”

    Sweden’s “gentle” political right turn is a lesson for the Greeks .

    The repeal of wealth taxes and inheritance taxes. Reduced labor taxes that pushed almost all home repairs into the black market.
    The idea that work should pay better than benefits.

    A well executed privatisation programme which stimulated growth and raised revenue . The government set a goal of selling some $31 billion in state assets between 2007 and 2010. Major sales have included selling d V&S (Vin & Sprit AB) to French Pernod Ricard for some $8.3 billion, and the Swedish OMX stock exchange to Borse Dubai/Nasdaq for $318 million. Additionally, the government sold most of its 946 apoteket (pharmacy) stores and eliminated its monopoly on pharmacies. ( Yes-state chemists shops). The government has also approved the sale of Svensk Bilprovning (the Swedish Motor Vehicle Inspection Company).

    After long being a case study in jobless growth (except in the bloated public sector), Sweden has become a big creator of private-sector jobs. The government has narrowed the “tax wedge” that deters employment and whittled away at sickness benefits: Sweden no longer stands out for welfare excesses. The retirement age has risen to 67. Inheritance and wealth taxes have gone. .

    The Swedish economy emerged from the financial crisis as one of the strongest in Europe.

    Annual growth as high as 6.4% in 2011Q1. Unemployment falling fast. The budget in surplus this year. Public debt heading to below 40% of GDP.

  4. @ Top Hat

    “The Holyrood system doesn’t reward losers? As I understand it, 73 MSPs are elected by first past the post, which you seem to have no problem with, and then 56 MSPs are chosen via top-up, which takes into account local seating as well. You don’t do better by performing poorly, it simply makes sure that people who performed well in many areas, but not well in one concentrated area, get the support they need.”

    Here’s my problem with it. The 56 MSPs aren’t chosen proportionally. That would make sense and would be how the Germans do it (I think half their Bundesrag members are elected FPTP in single member constituencies and half are elected proportionally in order to maintain a healthy balance). Instead, you’re allocating seats not on what votes are received but instead on what the system thinks you should receive (you’ve done well in other seats, therefore you don’t get seats here). To me, that is completely undemocratic.

    However, I will admit to you (and to John B Dick) that I am something of a hypocrite on this matter because I support the electoral college and hope to keep it. And my reasoning isn’t that far off from why he (and I think you) like the Scottish list system. I like the fact that the system requires presidential candidates to win an election by carrying more than one part of the country. There is no single part of the country that every single state could give you a victory. It basically holds our winning candidates in the mainstream and forces more areas of the country to be involved in an election. Also, it’s this system (because a majority of electoral votes is required) that creates the two-party system. If we got rid of it and just went to a popular vote, we would see major political changes. But it’s not the most democratic system we could have. Still, the electoral college, for as old school and 18th century as it is, has always given us the winner of the most votes except for one occassion (there are technically four times this happenned but in three of the occassions, there is pretty strong evidence to suggest that the popular vote winner was also the electoral college winner as well).

  5. @ Richard in Norway

    “But a justified war against iran would be great for obama’s reelection chances. It would also sink ron paul’s chances of taking the GOP nomination”

    I don’t think that way. War is not something I like or want. Even if that war winds up being politically beneficial to those I like, I’m no fan.

  6. See, I really don’t like that concept. I don’t like a clear winner. I would honestly prefer more consensual politics, even if it means that the dividing lines are more ambiguous. I think that partly comes from my political backgrounds. The Labour background is a little misleading – I’d vote Green, I’d vote Lib Dem, I’d vote Labour. I could possibly even vote SNP, though on the seemingly not uncommon basis that I wouldn’t support independence. Hell, take me back to the days of Harold Macmillan and you’d have seen me vote Conservative.

    I don’t think any of these parties have a monopoly on my views, and I don’t think any of those parties have a monopoly on the views of any segment of society really. To allow one the power to dictate just seems wrong to me. The very idea of “winners” and “losers” just seems an inappropriate notion in politics. Democracy is what the people want, there should be no win or lose about it.

    Now, obviously, the most votes means, most likely, the most people want it, it is most representative of the people. However, FPTP does an absolutely dreadful job of this. Imagine a system of 11 equal constituencies. In 5, Party A gets 100% of the vote, and Party B gets 0%. In 6, Party B gets 51% of the vote, and Party A gets 49%. In this scenario, despite winning only 27.8% of the vote, Party B has a majority of the constituencies! This has even been seen in American politics. Al Gore got more of the popular vote than George Bush, and still lost due to the FPTP system. it’s even worse here in the UK, where there is no two-party system (or at least, not to the same extent).

    FPTP to me seems to barely be democratic at all in many ways, and really does not reflect the view of the nation at all.

  7. Statgeek

    “What will the SNP become after independence?”

    Who knows? Who cares?

    From my standpoint (shared by many I know). in a different political construct, we will vote in different ways. We’ll all (discounting the authoritarian followers in all parties – including the SNP) vote for what seems best for the new Scotland.

    The critical question for Scots currently is which aspects of Scottish sovereignty (in Scots Constitutional Law that lies with people) we should exercise in Edinburgh, and which should be pooled with other multi-national governments – essentially UK/EU.

    I do understand your Scottish/British duality, but I’m confused why it isn’t a Scottish/European duality or a Scottish/British/European tripality, or even my own Scottish/British/European/world quadrilatity!

    (I may have invented some words there!)

  8. YouGov/Sun results 11th Oct CON 37%, LAB 41%, LD 8%; APPROVAL -29

  9. That’s

    minus 29 approval.

  10. OldNat

    Thanks for that Scotsman article. I’m a bit confused though because they keep referring to sea levels and the Loch of Stenness is freshwater. Still because of that disturbance should be small if there are archaelogical sites hidden under the silt.

  11. Bluejock @ John B Dick,

    “My party (politically in England) have less to lose, so one might suspect a double bluff going on there…….if you graced them the guile…..”

    Incompetence or conspiracy?

    Here, I have to admit predjudice.

    I once had a job where the first task of the day was to meet in the boss’s office to sort out the days prorities and defer what we had planned to do. I usually arrived late and my opposite number was in full flow explaining how others above us did not wish us to succeed and were subverting our efforts.

    My case in their defence was Occam’s razor, that there was abundant evidence that could not have any explanation other than incompetence. Our immediate boss had himself described them as “a disgrace to the profession”.

    Years later I met my former boss and he acknowledged that I had been winning the arguments.

    I imagine that there are many such debates in the banking industry.

    I take the same line with the question you pose. It’s my default assumption for Coulson, Fox, NI and the rest.

    Incompetence is everywhere. People say they vote SNP for “competence”. That’s sad. Competence should be the norm, a given not an exciting novelty.

    For Scotland’s sake it would be best that Murdo Fraser succeeds. Oldnat acknowledges that too.

    Otherwise the effective opposition is Patrick Harvie’s one man and his dog team. They do very well, considering their lack of people in the parliament itself. They don’t even count as a “party” as they have fewer than five.

    Stuart’s analysis is spot on and Davidson is a gift to the SNP while Jackson Carlaw wouldn’t be able to stop the gadual decline but either would ultimately be damaging for Scottish democracy and the SNP too.

    In the short run Davidson would be ideal for the SNP and maybe the short run is all there is till independence.

  12. @Colin – bit naughty that, quoting articles without reference and ignoring bits of the article that don’t suit your case.

    The Economist article on Sweden does indeed quote those growth figures you mentioned, and is well disposed to its right leaning government, but it also says that Sweden has had a good deal of luck this year as a major exporter and benefiting from a devaluation that helped it’s main industries.

    It will be interesting to see how Sweden performs in the next year or so as exports become harder to find.

  13. Colin @ STUART DICKSON

    “A well executed privatisation programme …”

    For a UK resident that’s too difficult a concept at this time of night.

  14. Top Hat

    Donald Dewar designed the Home Rule parliament for exactly the reasons you cite and I have not seen such an accurate succinct account nor heard one except from him when he was around your age.

    You might not have liked Harold Macmillan at the time, but he seems preferable to anything we have had in the last 30 years. He had better justification for the Murdoch excuse than Murdoch in that he could only pick his ministers from the selection constituency parties and voters presented him with, and like John Major, deserves some consideration and sympathy on that account.

    By keeping Scottish Christian Democrats, Manchester Liberals and Primrose League English nationalists on the butskillite consensus with little more than an air of patrician authority he managed something that Kinnock, Blair, Thatcher and Major all failed at.

  15. @ Top Hat

    “This has even been seen in American politics. Al Gore got more of the popular vote than George Bush, and still lost due to the FPTP system. it’s even worse here in the UK, where there is no two-party system (or at least, not to the same extent).”

    Let’s just have a reality check here. Had every single one of Florida’s counties been recounted by hand with a uniform standard, either a liberal one or a conservative one, Al Gore had more votes than George W. Bush. Also, we know that even without that, several thousand voters mistakenly voted for Pat Buchanan who intended to vote for Al Gore, more than making up for Bush’s margin. So while the legal system may have made Dubya president, the electoral college didn’t really deny the popular vote winner the presidency (it’s manipulation did).

    The same thing occurred in 1876 when Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but had several southern sates (which undoubtedly voted for him over Rutherford Hayes) were awarded to Hayes after disputed ballot counts.

    In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the most popular votes but because there were four presidential candidates running, no candidate actually got a majority of the electoral college and Congress, not wanting a working class, uneducated hick for a president, chose John Adams as president.

    In all three cases, the electoral college was manipulated but the electoral college did not serve to rob the popular vote winner of the presidency in an and of itself.

    The only election that stands out as an outlier is 1888 when Benjamin Harris defeated Grover Cleveland. Even that one had some weirdness (a California Republican decided to pose as a British expat and wrote a letter to the British ambassador asking who he should vote for because he wanted to vote for an American president who would best serve British interests. The British Ambassador actually responded by letter and told him that Cleveland would be best for British interests. This set off a firestarm that caused a number of Irish voters, who Cleveland typically relied upon, to abandon him and vote against him). Okay, so that doesn’t mean that the electoral college did not rob the popular vote winner in that one particular instance.

  16. @ Top Hat

    “See, I really don’t like that concept. I don’t like a clear winner. I would honestly prefer more consensual politics, even if it means that the dividing lines are more ambiguous. I think that partly comes from my political backgrounds. The Labour background is a little misleading – I’d vote Green, I’d vote Lib Dem, I’d vote Labour. I could possibly even vote SNP, though on the seemingly not uncommon basis that I wouldn’t support independence. Hell, take me back to the days of Harold Macmillan and you’d have seen me vote Conservative.”

    My background colors are confusing too since I’d vote for Earl Warren and Tom Kuchel if given the opportunity to do so today. Both were Republicans.

    By having one person in charge, I don’t mean to say that I want an elected dictator. When it comes to certain matters though, I want accountability and I want someone who can make an executive decision. If federal agencies screw up, I know who’s fault it is (Obama’s). If there are foreign enemies to deal with, I know who’s our executive in chief (Obama). Economic matters and other social matters are a little different but in times of emergency, I want a strong executive.

    Now I realize that in a Parliamentary system, you don’t have a separate executive and that you have instead a hybrid between legislative and executive. If you have multiple parties though who always wind up in coalitions, the executive’s power is limited and it’s never entirely clear that the executive can act when they need to with certainty. Plus when there are screwups, the voters don’t know who to blame. And when you have elections with unpopular incumbents, voters can vote only to see those incumbents come back in as a result of backroom negotiating. I say to hell with that. If I don’t like my executive, I’m voting his ass out of office and I don’t want him coming back through some backroom European style dealings.

    Actually, in the legislative sense, this has occurred sometimes where voters in a state vote one party out of power and vote in another and that party’s leader attempts to cling to power by bringing over some others. Usually this backfires and fails and results in negative consequences. For example in 1994, when California voters voted out a Democratic majority and voted in a Republican majority in the State Assembly, then Speaker Willie Brown attempted to control the chamber anyway by nominating Republican Assemblywoman Doris Allen as Speaker. She found one other Republican to go along with her and she bacme the Speaker with all Democratic support. The voters of her constituency and the other Republican’s constituency promptly voted to recall them from office.

    “I don’t think any of these parties have a monopoly on my views, and I don’t think any of those parties have a monopoly on the views of any segment of society really. To allow one the power to dictate just seems wrong to me. The very idea of “winners” and “losers” just seems an inappropriate notion in politics. Democracy is what the people want, there should be no win or lose about it.”

    I don’t care so much about parties (or their rights) and care far more about individual elected officials. No party dictates the views of society. There is such a thing as pluralism and lobbying. When it comes to someone being in charge though, I like that there is a determined winner and a determined loser.

  17. “By having one person in charge, I don’t mean to say that I want an elected dictator. When it comes to certain matters though, I want accountability and I want someone who can make an executive decision. If federal agencies screw up, I know who’s fault it is (Obama’s). If there are foreign enemies to deal with, I know who’s our executive in chief (Obama). Economic matters and other social matters are a little different but in times of emergency, I want a strong executive.”

    See, I think otherwise – and, to an extent, I even think you are wrong about the decision you’ve already made. If federal agencies screw up, how much to blame is Obama? Honestly, really? There are an innumerate number of federal agencies which perform a myriad of tasks. To expect one man to be able to ensure that every single agency performs well seems ludicrous – there are too many other people involved on too many levels. To think that one person has all the authority in any given situation seems to be creating a disaster in the works – you’re deliberating trying to make a system with easy scapegoats. What kind of politics is that?

    People, and politics, is multi-faceted. When a federal agency does something wrong, Obama was probably only minutely responsible a personal basis. Additionally, I would not want to make him personally responsible for everything in that manner – that’s too much for anyone to cope with. You’d have to be inhuman to manage all those tasks. I think the electorate are smart enough to be able to understand that responsibility can be shared, and therefore to allocate blame between multiple people as their judgement would see fit, and that means consensual party politics.

    “Now I realize that in a Parliamentary system, you don’t have a separate executive and that you have instead a hybrid between legislative and executive. If you have multiple parties though who always wind up in coalitions, the executive’s power is limited and it’s never entirely clear that the executive can act when they need to with certainty. Plus when there are screwups, the voters don’t know who to blame. And when you have elections with unpopular incumbents, voters can vote only to see those incumbents come back in as a result of backroom negotiating. I say to hell with that. If I don’t like my executive, I’m voting his ass out of office and I don’t want him coming back through some backroom European style dealings.”

    At the moment, our legislative is an irrelevancy. Any move by the executive is generally guaranteed to work. This is a problem. However, I think that in America, you have it worse. Your executive is hampered by the worst kind of obstructionism. A two-party system encourages one always to seek to damage the other at any cost, there’s no reason to approach things on an adult basis. The amount of filibustering the Republicans threaten and the unwillingness they have to compromise is a key example of that.

    I think that coalition executives strike the right balance. They do not have the essentially unstoppable powers of a parliamentary majority executive, but they don’t have the obstructionism present in the presidential system. You don’t mindlessly seek to block someone you may have to work with tomorrow. Additionally, I dispute the fact that Europeans can come back by backroom deals. If, in a coalition is in government, it represents the fact that they represented someone sufficiently to be there. They may not represent you, but their views are required to make sure the executive represent a majority! If you removed them, then the executive would not reflect the nation at all. Yes, this leads to deals between the parties, but this is not unaccountable. If you don’t like a deal your party has made, you simply don’t vote for them next time! We can already see this happening to the Lib Dems.

  18. @ ALEC

    “Sweden has had a good deal of luck this year ”

    I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that you will be seeking evidence that the demise of a sclerotic SocDem administration & its replacement by structural economic reforms , have no connection with Sweden’s success.

    The Greeks need “luck” like this-but they need politicians to “implement” it :-)

  19. Top Hat

    Please move to Scotland.

    The Scottish parliament needs people who understand how it is meant to work, especially in SLAB, but join any party that will make you leader.

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