UCL Policy Lab


New report shows fundamental role of 'respect' in general election campaign

11 June 2024

A report produced by the UCL Policy Lab and More in Common has revealed that one of the biggest drivers of those who have switched their vote from Conservative to Labour since 2019 is a feeling that Keir Starmer and Labour are more likely to ‘respect voters like them’.

Respect Two

The report finds that voters are placing a “respect test”  on political parties. Its authors argue that ‘showing respect to ordinary people’ has emerged as the most important attribute that the public want in a politician.

One of the report’s co-authors, Marc Stears, Director at the UCL Policy Lab, explains that the report provides a clear insight into why voters appear to currently be choosing Keir Starmer’s Labour Party ahead of its rivals. 

“Keir Starmer has been building a new coalition of voters by convincing people that he brings something that has been lost in recent politics: a genuine respect for ordinary people, and especially for working people who have lived extremely tough lives of late.” 

“Labour’s strategic approach to the election has been based on an effort to demonstrate this respect. That stretches from the stories Starmer regularly shares about his own working-class upbringing to his scepticism of overly ambitious, grandiose visions that mean something to politicians but strike voters as pie-in-the-sky.”
“It is a compelling political strategy. But it also sets up important tests for government too. If Starmer wins power by convincing people that he respects them in a way other politicians don’t, then he will need to demonstrate that on the other side of the election too.”

At the same time the poll finds almost two in three Britons (64%) currently think Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party does not respect people like them. Key Conservative-Labour switchers report feeling significantly more disrespected by the Conservative Party under Rishi Sunak (84% say the Conservative Party under Rishi Sunak does not respect people like them) than they did under Boris Johnson (72% say the Conservative Party under Boris Johnson did not respect people like them). 

The ‘Respect Switchers’ 

In contrast to Sunak, the report finds that Keir Starmer and the Labour Party are currently passing the key ‘respect test’. Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, these Conservative to Labour ‘Respect Switchers’ were far more likely than not to say that Labour did not respect people like them (65% of these voters said Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour did not respect people like them, and only 14% said that Corbyn’s Labour did respect them).

For this group, that feeling has entirely reversed under Keir Starmer, with these switchers now significantly more likely than not to say they feel respected (69% of this group say Starmer’s Labour Party respects people like them versus 15% who say it does not).

Expectations for the next government - avoid chaos 

The report also explores what people want from the next government.  While it is clear that there is significant demand for change, the polling shows that after the instability of recent years, the public are more likely to favour everyday improvements to their lives, rather than bold or radical plans.

More than three quarters (78%) of the public say that stability should be the goal of the next government, higher than any other metric, while 74% simply want the government to ‘avoid chaos’. 

Some two thirds (65%) say the next government needs to bring about change and 72% want to see ‘fresh thinking’. 

Follow the Lab for more updates 

The UCL Policy Lab and More in Common are launching a brand-new index to measure how well the two campaigns are connecting and speaking with the hopes, concerns and issues of ordinary people.  Measuring five different dimensions of the public’s relationship with politicians, this new ‘respect index’ will track on a weekly basis the extent to which the two campaigns are managing to convince the public that they get it.