Long-term factors

Factors that influence the way people vote

North-south divide

Some political commentators argue that there is a 'north-south divide' in UK voting behaviour. Results from UK elections consistently show that the further north and west voters live the less likely they are to vote Conservative. This pattern increases as an area becomes more urban.

The main reasons to explain the north-south divide relate to employment, income and wealth (which also relate to social class). People in the south/south-east of the UK tend to be better off as employment rates and incomes are higher. Therefore people living there are more likely to vote Conservative.

For people in the north/north-west of the UK (including Scotland, Wales and cities such as Liverpool and Manchester), employment opportunities and income levels are generally poorer. This explains why people in these parts of the UK are more likely to vote for parties other than the Conservatives.

Urban and rural differences

Another important geographical pattern in voting relates to urban/rural divides. Labour tends to do better in large cities, particularly cities where there is a large University, while the Conservatives do better in rural country areas. People in large cities tend to be more supportive of high taxes and high public spending. This could be because in large cities people are more likely to witness the effects of poverty, and also because students generally tend to be more supportive of left-wing parties.

Analysis of the 2017 UK general election results shows the Conservatives dominated the south, south west and south east of the UK apart from inner London. Labour was stronger in the north and west of England and the south of Wales as well as in large cities. The SNP won in Scotland holding 35 of the 59 seats albeit with only 37% of the vote.

Ethnicity

There is a link between ethnicity and voting behaviour. The Labour Party has tended to benefit more from the votes of people from ethnic minority groups. This may be because the Labour Party has been more closely associated with equality legislation or support for immigration.

It is also the case that most ethnic minority groups experience lower income levels and higher unemployment compared to white groups, therefore ethnic minority support for Labour could be due to social class. In the 2017 general election the Conservatives secured only 19% of the ethnic minority vote whereas Labour secured 73%.

Gender

Although there is little overall difference between the way men and women vote, electoral statistics show that in the 2017 general election, marginally more men voted for the Conservatives across most age and social classes, than women.

One explanation of gender differences in voting is Labour's greater support for welfare and families from which women may benefit more directly, eg tax credits or the minimum wage.

Men, on the other hand, tend to earn more on average than women and as a result may be more attracted to Conservative policies of lower taxation.