Five years ago, with a general election looming, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) polled low-income voters on how they viewed the major political parties.

Almost 8 in 10 (78 per cent) voters living on the lowest incomes told us they had never met or spoken to their local MP. Over half of these voters also told us they hadn’t heard from any of the parties in the last year, despite candidates gearing up for a general election campaign. It was probably not surprising that 60 per cent of these forgotten voters told us that “no political party really cares about helping people like me”.

Fast forward to today, just weeks away from a general election, and not much has changed:

  • Over three quarters (76 per cent) of voters living on the lowest incomes (a household income of less than £21,000) told us they had never met or spoken to their local MP.
  • 57 per cent of low income voters told us that “no political party really cares about helping people like me”.

These are very small changes over five years.

In fact there is absolutely no change across the five years in the proportions of low-income voters who think the Conservative and Labour parties don’t understand what it’s like to struggle – 44 per cent and 22 per cent respectively in both 2019 and 2024.

Five years ago, a broad disillusionment with the political parties was reflected in tight polling figures a few weeks out. But with Labour surging ahead this time around, the national polls tell a very different story at this stage, and likewise there is one major difference between our two pieces of research.

Five years ago voters on the lowest incomes overwhelmingly viewed the Conservative Party as ‘uncaring’ and only interested in ‘the rich’. While the Labour Party was viewed as the most “out of touch” by the voters they have traditionally viewed as their ‘core’ vote. Neither of the two big parties came out well in our survey.

This time round there has been a big shift. Labour’s predicted vote among this cohort has increased by 14 per cent according to our research.

Five years ago Labour was the most “out of touch” party. They did not speak to people on low incomes and the problems they faced. The proportion saying that Labour are out of touch this time round has fallen to 27 per cent – a drop of 18 points – while the Conservatives have gone up by 6.

At the same time, Labour has seen a rise of 9 points to 36 per cent of low income voters thinking “the party cares about people like me”, while the Conservatives have fallen back 3 points to just 11 per cent.

In short, the shift we are seeing in the national polling reflects the way low-income voters feel that the parties are addressing the reality of their lives. The more they feel listened to by a party, the more in-touch the parties are, the more likely they are to vote for that party.

As an independent think tank, the CSJ is neutral on the question of which party will best address the concerns of low-income voters. However, the CSJ is not neutral on poverty. We have put together this analysis of low-income voters to encourage all parties to make social justice their priority. Not simply because it is the right thing to do, but to show that any route to government will be hard to win without it.

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