School of Politics and International Relations

Voters often know little but politicians can’t ignore them

19 September 2019

Professor Philip Cowley wrote an opinion piece for the Evening Standard on understanding British voters. He writes: “Like winter, an election is coming. If I had one piece of advice for those gathering at party conferences, or hunkering down in strategy meetings, it would be this: know your voters. Not as you want them to be, but as they actually are. Voters’ factual knowledge about politics and policy is often lamentable — or, as one of our favourite recent headlines put it: “British public wrong about nearly everything, survey shows.” Yet for all the criticism they get (and give), British voters respond fairly coherently to what governments do; they may not know the details but they reliably spot the direction of travel. And they are more demanding than before. The loyalties of the immediate post-war era, with voters always backing the same party, have been replaced in part by a Leave/Remain divide that parties are still coming to terms with.”

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