At the Centre For Towns we make no apology for wanting our political parties to focus on the challenges our towns face. We see advocacy for our towns as one of our defining aims. To that end, we have repeatedly emphasised how any political party hoping to win power in a general election must win dozens of marginal constituencies comprised exclusively of voters in towns. The upcoming general election is no different. With the Conservatives piling up large leads in rural communities and Labour performing best in our largest cities, the remaining vote in our towns becomes the decisive battleground.
In the upcoming election, voters in a number of marginal towns will go a long way to deciding who will win. Places like Derby, Lincoln, Mansfield, and Northampton in the East Midlands; Bedford, Ipswich, Norwich and Peterborough in the East of England; Blackpool, Bolton, Carlisle, Southport and Workington in the North West; Crawley, Hastings, Milton Kenynes, Oxford, Portsmouth and Reading in the South East; Plymouth, Exeter and Cheltenham in the South West; Stoke, Telford, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley and Worcester in the West Midlands; Doncaster, Grimsby, Wakefield, Rotherham and Scunthorpe in Yorkshire and The Humber; Wrexham, Rhyl and Newport in Wales. All crucially important barometers for how the general election will go.
So, how do our towns (and cities) intend to vote in the upcoming general election? The chart below shows how places voted in 2017 according to the size of the population. As we can see, the Conservatives stacked up large leads in villages, communities, and small and medium sized towns. Labour were just two points behind in large towns and held a huge lead in the Core Cities.
The chart below shows how those places now intend to vote in the upcoming general election. We can see how the rise in support for the Lib Dems and Brexit Party has weakened support for the Conservatives and Labour, but the Conservatives now hold very large leads in villages, rural communities, small, medium and large towns. Labour's lead of twenty three point in the Core Cities in 2017 has now collapsed to just five points currently.
At the Centre For Towns we also categorise places according to their characteristics. We use six main types of towns based on those characteristics: Ex-industrial towns; University towns; Market towns; New towns; Commuter towns; and Coastal towns. Ex-industrial towns included here are important election target towns like Kirkby- and Sutton-in-Ashfield, Barnsley, Bolton, Bury, Burnley, Crewe, Doncaster, Dudley, Hartlepool, Heywood, Mansfield, Redcar, Rotherham, Walsall, West Bromwich and towns across the south Wales valleys. Coastal towns include Barrow-in-Furness, Blackpool, Workington, Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Morecambe, Southport, Rhyl and Llandudno. University towns includes places like Canterbury, Cambridge, Chester, Huddersfield, Lancaster, Loughborough, Poole and Preston.
The chart below shows how each of these places voted in 2017 according to YouGov. Labour performed very well in university towns and ex-industrial towns in 2017, whilst the Conservatives did very well in coastal towns, commuter towns, market towns and new towns.
The chart below shows how each of these places now intend to vote in the upcoming general election. Labour now trail the Conservatives in every place type. Perhaps remarkably, the Conservatives now hold five-point leads over Labour in both ex-industrial towns and university towns whilst extending their leads in the other place types. The Lib Dems are now in second place in commuter towns and market towns.
There is still over a month left in the campaign. Time for both Labour and the Conservatives to publish their manifestos and make their pitch to voters in our towns. We have been pleased that the major parties are now focusing heavily on the challenges facing our towns. We expect to see our towns referenced heavily in their policy offers to the electorate, and to play a leading role in the campaign. We are also pleased at how the media are visiting many of our towns; another small example that the towns agenda is cutting through. The Conservatives would be foolish to believe the leads they currently hold are secure, whilst Labour have some time to regain their position in our towns. All of which should mean a higher profile for people in our towns; and that can only be a good thing.
We will be uploading the full tables [HERE] on Monday morning.
Note on methodology: The YouGov poll used in this report is a megapoll of 11,590 respondents which took place between the 17th and 28th of October, 2019. At the time the Conservatives were on 36 per cent, Labour 22 per cent, the Lib Dems 19 perc cent and the Brexit Party 12 per cent nationally. The Centre For Towns provided YouGov with lookup tables matching 4-digit postcodes to the thousands of places included in the Centre For Towns database. YouGov then used this lookup to assign a place type to each of their poll respondents. YouGov then provided the crosstabs included here to show the current voting intention and 2017 general election voting behaviour of each of the Centre For Towns place types.