Labour is now the most popular party among all age groups except over 70s

17th June 2024

If you want to know how somebody is planning to vote in the General Election on July 4th, ask them their age. Over the last few decades, age has emerged as perhaps the most significant cleavage in British politics. A rudimentary model which knows nothing about voters except their age can nevertheless predict accurately which party they voted for in the 2019 General Election more often than not. And if anything, age has seemed more salient than ever in this campaign so far. While the Conservatives have pledged to protect the state pension from tax, Labour has promised to extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds. No prizes for guessing which generation constitutes the base for which party.

Our analysis of over 10,000 respondents from polls in recent weeks shows, predictably, that the older a voter is, the more likely they are to support the Conservative Party. Conversely, the younger they are, the more likely they are to back Labour. More surprising, however, is that the age at which a voter becomes more likely to support the Conservatives than Labour is now 71 years old. In 2019, the crossover age was 40 years old.

So why has the crossover age shifted by more than 30 years since the last General Election? Part of the answer is that voters of all ages are now much more likely to intend to vote Labour and much less likely to intend to vote Conservative. Support for the Conservatives has not fallen equally among all age groups, however. Rather, most of the supporters they have lost are older voters, who made up their base in 2019. Labour has benefited from this collapse in support, but a significant segment of these older voters has also gone to Reform UK. It is partly because the Conservatives have lost more support where they were previously strongest (among pensioners) that the age-range in which the they are the most popular party has been squeezed so dramatically.

In fact, the outlook is even gloomier than it seems for the government. The voters among whom their support has fallen the most are also the most likely to turn out on election day. The average 18 year-old reports that they are only slightly more likely than not to vote on July 4th. Meanwhile, on average, those aged over 70 say they are almost certain to vote. This pattern is borne out at every general election, and there is no reason to expect this one to be any different. The differential in likely turnout means that lost support among older voters counts for more in electoral terms than lost support among younger voters.

Examining the polls from the perspective of age reveals some telling insights, but the overall story is the same no matter how you slice the data. The Conservative Party has lost support at a historic rate, and its losses have been greatest where it was previously strongest. Rishi Sunak now has just seventeen days to reverse that trend.

Matthew PriceAuthor: Matthew Price