Why didn’t sleaze stories hurt the Tories more in this year’s elections?

Why didn’t the Conservatives appear to take that much of an electoral hit last week from the run of recent sleaze stories? Polling analysis newly released by YouGov gives some strong clues:


One group we have seen move away from the Conservatives in the last three weeks, however, is the very politically engaged. As well as weighting by demographic and past voting behaviour to ensure our samples are representative of the overall public, YouGov also weights by how much attention they pay to politics on a scale of 0 to 10. Anyone who self-reports themselves as an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10, we define as having a high political attention. Anyone answering 3-7 is defined as medium attention and 0-2 is low attention.

Amongst those who self-report paying a high level of attention to politics, our poll just two days before the local elections showed a five-point lead for Labour (38% to 33%). This was in stark contrast to the rest of our sample, which showed a 15-point lead for the Conservatives (46% to 31%), averaging out at an overall Conservative 10-point lead.

Looking at the trend over the last month, we also see two completely different stories depending on whether people are engaged in politics or not. There has been a dramatic shift amongst those with a self-reported political attention of 8/10 or higher, with the Conservatives collapsing from a 17-point lead on 13 April to a five-point Labour lead in early May. Amongst those with a political attention of 7/10 or lower, voting intention is virtually unchanged over this time.

In other words, sleaze probably did hit the Conservatives, but with only the aytpical chunk of the electorate who follow politics closely.

12 responses to “Why didn’t sleaze stories hurt the Tories more in this year’s elections?”

  1. One comment made last week by a French Fisherman who was part of the blockade which was blockading Jersey, was something that the Conservatives and their supporters have failed to grasp viz:- In every transaction there is a seller and a buyer. This Frenchman quite calmly said that 80% of the Jersey fishermen’s catch was sold to France. If we don’t buy they go out of business, as there is already a glut of English caught fish, which was previously sold to the EU, but not anymore. That is reality not dreaming of Sunny Uplands.

  2. This poll indicates ,to me,Whilst we really sell our local issues via our leaflets we should also have a bit on what is happening in other areas that affects them. the party has to push for more people (voters)to know what is going on.Our publicity IN ALL AREAS should continue to get voters to become political.

    • Good local campaigning is where we make a difference…no point trying to compete with national hot air.

      • Agree about the disconnect with the public. Having lived and worked in my neighbourhood for over a quarter of a century, which has awarded a large circle of acquaintances, one thing I know for certain is that what within the local and national party counts as the achievements of our council group does not cut through in the community. Nor does case work necessarily win votes (hugely depends on the outcome and therefore a double-edged sword). It is the presence in the community that does, the ear attuned to micro-problems (minding potholes and rubbish collection works!) and a nous in turning politics into bread and butter issues.
        Our councillors’ regular email updates on local measures and support networks during the lock down were more appreciated than all else they had done on this council. In part they are lucky to have been in the right place at a critical time, in part they deserve the appreciation because they got the content and the tone right. I suspect they got it so right because, in their minds, it did not involve politics, but was a social responsibility. And that is a road to local success, which in turn will build the base necessary for a revival on national level.

  3. Simple really, the public have been lulled into assuming that that is how all politicians are.. How often are we told ‘you are all the same’ or ‘you are only in it for what you can get’? That situation won’t change in the short term, so we really have to campaign on the things that matter to the ordinary voter. Conservatives got rewarded for having done well on the vaccines, the truth that the NHS were the ones who delivered it escapes them; instead of getting angry that nurses are getting a derisory pay award they say ‘well what about a pay rise for me?’.
    Even the Liberal Democrats suffer this dis-connect with the public, and campaigning on electoral reform and tax reform, however vital we know them to be, just doesn’t cut through to those who have been turned off from politics..
    We need to launch the ABC campaign..

  4. That’s still hopeful – opinion from the engaged group will, over time, affect everyone else. After all, it’s from that group that party members, canvassers and campaigners are drawn. And it’s those people who talk to their friends and family about politics.

  5. Those who are less engaged in politics are influenced mainly by mainstream national media reporting of events in their headlines. Until we get a less sycophantic and right-leaning press and media we will continue to struggle to get critical messages reported widely – the ‘bodies piled high’ stories may have been prominent for one or two days but were quickly replaced with wars with French fishermen and, on election day, ‘Gunboats to Jersey’!

  6. Is ‘Medium Attention’ and ‘Low Attention’ to politics another way of saying that you’re only interested to get a buzz from supporting winners? It doesn’t matter how that’s done, politics is a dirty game… ‘Brexit’ felt to have been carried on as a zero-sum sport – the *objective* was to spite the ‘other’ team and so sweep up votes from the less politically aware.

    So Labour’s difficulty is being over-analysed, I feel. The party’s problem with a large part of the electorate is just not being seen as (potential) winners. Overall it’s a depressing way of making sense of what’s happening – straining to find cooperative solutions to help the whole community is just a meta-activity towards (or mostly not) being seen as ‘winners’, but is, in itself, considered worthless.

    And if Labour suffers from this populist approach to politics, we’re in a much worse place! My tuppence worth is that a Progressive Alliance is the way forward.

  7. Good salesmen early on in their career learn that the key question the buyer asks him/herself when faced with a buying decision is “What’s in it for ME”. More formally the potential customer is asking the question “If I buy this product/system/idea/political philosophy what benefit will I get?”. As political activists we often get so enamoured of our own political views that we fail to get a convincing message across to our potential customers, (voters), and tell them how wonderful/cleaver/philanthropic/et al we are. What they really want to hear is “If I vote for you, what are you going to do to make my life better?”. Brexit is a prime example of we remainers failing to appreciate this and ran a poor campaign based of facts/economic assessment/trade relationships/et al. Boris, by contrast cashed in on years of anti EU propaganda by Nigel Farage and the tabloid press and gave two propositions to the voters “£26,000,000 a month to the NHS” and “Taking back Sovereignty”. Although both these propositions were actually dishonest enough voters in England and Wales answered the question “What’s in it for me?” by voting for Brexit. Then his whole election promise was “Vote for ME and I will get Brexit DONE”. The result we are living with today. Good salesmen also stick to the iron law of selling “Sell Benefits NOT Features”, in other words if we are to succeed in our endeavour to gain political power we must “SELL” to the electorate the benefits that will accrue to them from voting Liberal Democrat and not simply tell them what wonderful people we are and that they should vote for us. I have looked at a number of campaign leaflets, of all parties, from the recent election and in none of them did I see a clear statement of the benefits that the voters could expect to get if they voted for a particular party. We need to find the Lib Dem equivalent of Boris’s “Get Brexit Done”.

  8. It’s interesting that, e.g. in Hartlepool, the voters drew a line between a Labour Council and poor health & social services – typically felt more keenly in a poorer community like Hartlepool.
    But they failed to draw a line between the Tories’ de-funding of the NHS and local councils, that caused the issues. IMHO *that* is a key reason why they have been Teflon, they have recognised the inability of a disengaged public to join the dots, and managed to shift blame for bad outcomes onto the local council.
    Sneaky, cynical and ultimately very dangerous, as we’ve seen.
    So the key policy questions should be around raising awareness of the chain of events, or finding a route back up that lays responsibility on the bar stewards that caused our social ills in the first place.

  9. The vaccine programme is Johnson’s “get out of jail free” card. When combined with the (incomprehensible to most of us) attractiveness of his personality and the absence from Labour and (sadly) the Liberal Democrats of any coherent programme to make people’s lives better, winning elections is clearly not too difficult.

  10. In troubled times or stormy seas there is a widespread conviction that rocking the boat doesn’t make sense, we should stick together and not to do so is unpatriotic and unwise. Those less engaged politically now have an even hazier and rosier notion of past political history. There is this idea that Britain unified behind Churchill and so gained victory (forget US and Soviets, we won the war, I’ve seen the film!) and that’s what should happen now. Boris is seen as Churchillian in being top drawer but an oddball and not a man in a well fitting suit. At present he is riding high on the success of the vaccines and the NHS, especially among the older voters who have received it and it is a success in comparison to problems in EU. This is very basic human nature, you have a big investment in wanting the man at the wheel to be steering in the right direction.

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