New polling published today (Thursday) by parents' website Mumsnet and gender equality charity the Fawcett Society finds that women whose votes are up for grabs in the next election feel ignored by the Conservative Party. Just 24% of Mumsnet users surveyed who are undecided, or are Conservative swing voters, say that the party is putting real effort into attracting women’s votes. This polling comes as national voter intention polls repeatedly show the Conservatives lagging significantly behind Labour when it comes to women’s votes, even as they are neck-and-neck among men.
The data shows that the issues focussed on in the leadership election are leaving women cold. Just 37% of Conservative swing or undecided women said that an income tax cut of a penny in the pound would make them more likely to vote Conservative, and just 21% said a corporation tax cut would do so. But investment in public services was far more likely to influence their vote:
83% said investment in the NHS would make them more likely to vote Conservative
79% said extra spending on social care would make them more likely to vote Conservative
81% said investment in education would make them more likely to vote Conservative.
Just 21% said that the Conservative Party’s policies support families like theirs.
Among these women, 35% said the Labour Party was most likely to tackle the cost of living crisis, compared to 19% for the Conservatives and with 43% saying neither party. The data suggests this lack of confidence in the Tories’ ability to tackle the crisis is because of both leadership campaigns’ failure to focus on the solutions that women feel would be most effective.
Asked what policies would be most impactful in tackling the cost of living crisis across the country, more Conservative swing and undecided voters ranked support with energy bills in their top two priorities (82%), and slightly more put support with childcare costs (31%), free school meals (30%), and higher Universal Credit payments (31%) in their top two as selected tax cuts (26%).
Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said: “The data is clear that whether we get an election in 2024 or before, it will be on the votes of women that it is won or lost – but this survey shows women don’t feel like the leadership election is speaking to their priorities. "It will be the party that speaks to women’s experiences and priorities that wins: from public service investment to childcare and the cost of living, our leaders need serious answers to the challenges hitting women hardest.”
Justine Roberts, Founder and CEO of Mumsnet, said: “As they battle to win over an Conservative Party electorate that is overwhelmingly male - and in doing so ignore the concerns of vital women voters - it seems that Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak risk throwing away the next general election before they’ve even had a chance to fight it.
“Millions of women across the UK are bearing the brunt of a cost of living crisis, and it's clear from our research that from childcare to public services to the culture at Westminster, neither candidate is tackling the issues that matter to this vital group of women swing voters. If the next Prime Minister fails to address their concerns, he or she is likely to find that their stay in Downing Street will be a short one.”
On the question of whether candidates have something to offer women, 7% of Conservative swing or undecided women said Rishi Sunak did compared with 31% for Truss. Asked the same about the political parties, 13% said Labour had something to offer, 21% said the Conservatives did, and 10% said the Lib Dems did, but a clear majority of 57% said that none of the parties had anything to offer women.
The data also shows that:
Women whose votes are up for grabs are more likely to say that they are turned off by politics in the UK, with 64% agreeing.
77% of Conservative swing or undecided women agreed that the political culture in Westminster is sexist, and 65% said a new leader needs to prioritise tackling sexual harassment in Parliament.
37% of Conservative swing or undecided voters support keeping tax levels as they are, rather than cutting public spending, while 35% support a rise in their taxes to pay for public services and only 14% support a cut in their taxes if it means cuts to public services.
About the polling
Mumsnet surveyed 1,118 users between 22 July and 16 August. Responses were collected online and are unweighted. Full dataset is available on request.
33% of respondents were in the “Conservative swing or undecided voters” group – those women whose votes we describe as being up for grabs by the party at the next election. This group includes those who have voted Conservative or intend to vote Conservative (but have not done so consistently), from 2017 to present, and those who 'don't know' who they would vote for in an upcoming election.
Voter intention polling
We state that Labour are ahead of the Conservatives among women by significantly more than among men. This is based on:
Redfield and Wilton, 7 August - Labour ahead with men by 3%, women by 8%.
YouGov, 5 August, Conservatives lead men by 2% points but lose women by 9% points.
Redfield and Wilton, 4 August, Labour lead men by 4% points but women by 12%.
Techne 4th August, Labour led men by 2% but women by 9%.
Ipsos Mori, July, Labour 5% point lead among men but a 16% lead among women.
The Conservative Party won by 18% points among men but just 5% points among women in 2019.