FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephen Gilmore: +32 498 07 78 19; media@makevotesmatter.org.uk
London, 7th October 2023

Appetite for political reform is overwhelming, with voters that have abandoned the Conservatives since 2019 much more strongly in favour of democratic reform than current Conservative voters, new polling conducted for Make Votes Matter has found.

Toplines:

  • Only 1 in 10 people think Parliament is in touch with ordinary people. 

    • Of the remaining ~90%, just over 7 in 10 – rising to 9 in 10 among Conservative switchers – think Parliament would be more effective in dealing with the big issues if votes cast at general elections matched seats gained.

  • Only 1 in 25 people (4%) think the UK’s political system does not need reform at all, falling to 1 in 33 (3%) among Conservative switchers.

  • Proportional Representation (PR) for the Commons is by far the biggest priority in terms of political reform, seen as nearly 3 times more important than Lords reform.

The new findings emphasise the extent of the “distrust and alienation” – Labour’s words in a recent policy document1 – that many people feel vis-à-vis the political system, and suggest that among so-called Conservative switchers – who are even more dissatisfied with the state of politics than the average voter – a bold offer on political reform could be a vote winner.

Building on this, the new survey reveals a strong sense among the public that PR would be by far the most impactful way to address Westminster dysfunction, and would deliver governments more able to deal effectively with core issues such as the cost of living.

Commenting on the survey, Klina Jordan, Chief Executive of Make Votes Matter, said:

“The demand for change is deafening. Despite intense political polarisation, the country is united on the need for political reform – even the Prime Minister has admitted that Westminster is not working.2 Based on these results, the public clearly sees our electoral system as a big part of the problem.

“Keir Starmer is right that we need a new way of governing, but it’s not credible to acknowledge the consequences of our flawed electoral system – as party policy now does – without promising to do something about it. These results show clearly that if Labour wants to win over Tory switchers – as well as Lib Dem, Green and other voters – they need to take political reform seriously, especially PR.

“Far more than Lords reform, PR is seen by voters across the spectrum as most likely to tackle the complete loss of faith in a political system that is seen as out of touch with people’s needs and unable to manage the big issues.”

An opportunity for Labour

The survey found only 1 in 25 people (4%) think the UK’s political system does not need reform at all, falling to 1 in 33 (3%) among Conservative switchers – those that backed the Conservatives in 2019 but will not do so again at the next election. Strikingly, 9 in 10 of this group feel that Parliament is out of touch with the needs of ordinary people.

Support for reform is also particularly pronounced in the North, in Wales and in Scotland, regions the Labour Party is looking to make major gains at the next election. Indeed, the results highlight that the people least likely to feel dissatisfied with the current system are those planning to vote for the incumbent governing party. Switchers, by contrast, are more likely than most to back reform.

In a potential opening for the Labour Party, the survey found that by a margin of more than 3 to 1, Conservative switchers back replacing First Past the Post with PR over reform of the House of Lords, seeing the former as the most impactful solution to the problems of public “distrust and alienation” that Labour itself has recognised1.

In fact, the poll results show that across the board – whether Conservative switcher, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green or Reform voter, Remainer or Leaver – PR outstrips any other reform option, with Labour’s current proposals to extend the franchise – to EU citizens and 16 and 17 year olds – lagging way behind. According to the survey, 8 in 10 likely Labour voters that don’t see Parliament as in touch think it would be more effective in dealing with important issues – notably the cost of living crisis – if elections were held under PR.

Senior Labour leaders in the regions, including First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, and Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, have repeatedly called on the Party to bring in PR3. The findings of this new survey strengthen their case, with the sense that the political system is out of touch most pronounced outside of London, highlighting the extent to which Westminster, underpinned by what is widely seen as an ineffective First Past the Post system, leaves people feeling alienated from the political process.

With Starmer looking for ways to secure his party’s lead in the polls, this new survey strongly suggests that the Labour Party in particular would be likely to gain support from Conservative switchers, as well as Lib Dem and Green voters, by committing to PR.

-ENDS-

Sources:

1 In a recent policy document arising out of the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum process, the text explicitly acknowledges “the flaws in the current voting system are contributing to the distrust and alienation we see in politics”: https://www.labourforanewdemocracy.org.uk/news/fptp-flawed-and-damaging

2 “There is the undeniable sense that politics just doesn’t work the way it should … a feeling that Westminster is a broken system … It isn’t anger, it is an exhaustion with politics. In particular, politicians saying things, and then nothing ever changing.” Speech by Rishi Sunak to Conservative Party Conference, Wednesday 4th October: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/oct/03/sunak-to-tell-tories-of-britains-broken-politics-amid-chaotic-conference

3 Labour Party Conference last year also voted overwhelmingly in favour of a manifesto commitment to introduce PR, supported by a large majority of trade unions and Labour members.

Notes to editors:

Make Votes Matter is a single-issue campaign for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons. Working with all parties to generate irresistible demand for PR, we aspire to a truly democratic UK in which everyone has an equal voice, power is shared fairly, and decisions are made for the common good.

On behalf of the Make Votes Matter, Opinium polled a politically and nationally representative sample of 2050 UK adults between 20-22nd of September 2023 to understand their views on the UK political system. The full data tables can be found here. A range of visual charts prepared by Make Votes Matter are also available to download here.

The Alternative Vote – on which the UK had a referendum in 2011 – is not a form of Proportional Representation and can be even more disproportional than First Past the Post.

For more information, please contact Stephen Gilmore, Media Manager at Make Votes Matter on +32 498 07 78 19, or email media@makevotesmatter.org.uk. A full pdf version of the press release can be viewed here.