Myth 1: People like Labour’s Policies
Okay, this isn’t a myth, but the idea extrapolated from it is.
There’s been a fair amount of attention on both social media and the mainstream media given to the fact that some of Labour’s policies have been polling well with voters, with promises like free school meals, and the triple lock on pensions tending to be quite well received. This then should mean that those voters, who like those policies, will want to vote Labour. But they don’t. Even after saying they love a ton of labour policies, they still say they’ll vote Tory. This is because they’re “sheeple”, right?
Well, no. There are a couple of other factors separate from the media that explain why they are not.
Firstly people might be voting for the package on offer, rather than specific policies. To use a culinary metaphor – (Yes dear reader, I wrote this while very hungry) – policymaking isn’t a pick n mix, it’s a meal deal. The policies come as one package.
Let’s say you’re a slightly older worker who lives far away from work. You commute. You don’t like Labour’s policy of rail nationalisation. You’re concerned – what if the trains are less efficient? So sure, you love Labour’s policy of free school meals for children, but you won’t vote for them because you’re scared they’ll make your commute even longer. People vote according to their own interests, so conflicting attitudes towards policies can be enough to put them off a party.
It’s also worth noting the social media “echo chambers” we live in. Much has been written on this, however the take-home headline is that though most of the people on our social media newsfeeds will likely be pro-Labour, and like Labour’s policies (I’m not discounting everyone’s Tory pals! I’m just saying that on the whole, young graduates tend to vote Labour and also tend to know many other people with mutual political views, on Facebook). YouGov opinion polls currently indicate that of the top five polices, four are Tory policies, of which two are essentially immigration-centred (e.g. make non-EU migrants pay more for NHS care polls at 70% positive, whilst reducing immigration to the tens of thousands polls at 58%, 2nd and 5th most popular respectively).
There’s another element to this though and one that I’d argue is more important, which is delivery. People don’t usually pay a huge amount of attention to manifestos. (It’s another form of a meal deal, to drag my terrible metaphor out yet further). Very often, they simply pick the leader they like best and trust them to run the country with their party in tow. So not only do you have to think about the notion of conflict of interest in terms of policy, you also have to consider that many people bundle the leader in with the party. The general consensus – accurate or not – is that Theresa May is a strong, decisive leader. The consensus on Jeremy Corbyn, however, is that he isn’t those things. May is viewed as 15% more in touch, 40% stronger, 3% more likable, and 33% more decisive according to YouGov. Meanwhile, in March, Corbyn was rated 25 points below ‘Don’t Know’ and 35 points behind May.
So let’s take a Labour policy that’s popular, and add the leader’s effect. People love bobbies on the beat – police generally make them feel safer. Most people want to see more policing. So tell them that there’s a party that wants to bring in 10,000 new police officers and they’ll think that’s a great idea. Tell them that Jeremy Corbyn wants to do that, and what can happen is people recoil from a policy they like, because they don’t trust Jeremy Corbyn to keep them safe owing to the fact he’s generally perceived as unpatriotic.
Alternatively, they won’t care, viewing Brexit or immigration as more important. Indeed, in terms of sweeping issues (which are what voters tend to consider when summing up leaders and parties) the Tories are at +26 on Brexit, +21 on the Economy, and +16 on Immigration. Labour are +11 on the NHS. Labour’s 11 point NHS lead, though important, is unlikely to outweigh the massive lead that the Tories have in many other key areas.
So where does that leave us for the election on June 8th? The polls don’t look great for Labour, but the polls have been wrong before. The only thing left to do is encourage all students to get as involved as possible in this election – after all, we’ll have to live with the results. No matter what party you support, there’s no reason to be disheartened and every reason to get out there, and for Pete’s sake vote. (Yes, my sake. I’ll be really upset if you don’t.)
All the predictions in the world are one thing, but nothing’s certain until the day of June 8th.