Voters in ‘red wall’ seats overwhelmingly think the UK should prioritise working with Europe over the United States on trade and coronavirus, according to a massive new opinion poll.
The poll was conducted by focaldata between 29 May and 5 June for Best for Britain.
As trade talks intensify with the EU and the US this week, more than 5,000 people across 44 so-called ‘red wall’ seats and 56 seats which flipped from Labour to Conservative at the last election were asked who the UK should ‘work most closely with on issues like coronavirus and trade’.
70% of voters in these ‘red wall’ and switcher seats said they wanted the UK to prioritise working with Europe, compared to just 20% who said the UK to work most closely with the United States.
In order to test the views of voters in individual ‘red wall’ constituencies, Best for Britain also commissioned focaldata to conduct an MRP (multilevel regression and post-stratification) analysis of the 44 red wall seats. Focaldata was the MRP provider for the Conservative Party at the last general election.
An MRP analysis was conducted on red wall voters’ appetite for a trade deal with the EU, as well as what they thought would happen to the cost of daily essentials in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The study found that 9 in 10 ‘red wall’ voters thought securing an EU trade deal was either important (‘33.9%’) or ‘very important’ (55%). In Bolsover, the seat previously occupied by former Labour MP Dennis Skinner and which was taken by the Conservatives on a 11.5% swing at the last election, 88.3% said they thought securing a trade deal was ‘important’ or ‘very important’. In Dudley North, taken by the Conservatives on a 15.8% swing, 87.8% said they share that opinion, just under the red wall average, whereas the figure for Workington is 89.5%.
Among those who voted Conservative at the last election, 54.8% said they thought it was ‘very important’ that the government secured an EU trade deal, rising to 57.2% for those who switched from Labour to Conservative in December. This second group of voters are thought to have a critical part to play at the next election, with each vote that returns to Labour essentially counting twice against the Conservatives.
‘Red wall’ voters were also very concerned about the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the cost of living. Respondents were asked to choose whether the cost of daily essentials would get ‘better’ or ‘worse’ if the UK ‘left the transition period without a trade deal’.
68.3% of ‘red wall’ voters said they thought daily essentials would be more expensive if the UK left the transition period without a deal, rising to 71.8% in Tony Blair’s former Sedgefield seat. A majority of Leave voters (51.1%), Conservative 2019 voters (52.6%) believed the cost of these items would increase. 'Red wall' women were slightly more concerned than the average for these seats, with 71% fearing the cost of daily essentials would get worse.
Most significantly, close to 60% of voters in these seats who switched from Labour to Conservative at the last election also said they thought the cost of living would rise (58.3%).
The findings come after a report for Best for Britain by the independent Social Market Foundation found that the North West and Midlands would be among the most severely exposed UK regions to the double economic hit of coronavirus and a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year.
Commenting on the findings, Best for Britain CEO Naomi Smith said:
"The data is clear: so-called 'red wall' voters, particularly those who switched from Labour to Conservative in these key battleground seats during the last election, are ready to punish the government if it fails to fulfil its manifesto pledge to secure a trade deal with the EU.
"With the UK in recession, these voters are scared about a double whammy of coronavirus and a no-deal Brexit. That's understandable given the increase in bureaucracy that would still be required even despite the government backtracking on its desire to implement full border checks.
"This feeling of economic vulnerability will only grow as we enter the final months of talks, meaning the pressure is on for the government to secure a trade deal by the end of the year or u-turn and extend the transition period."
About the MRP analysis
Focaldata poll, 29 May-5 June. Focaldata was the MRP provider for the Conservative Party at the last election.
Social Market Foundation report
The Social Market Foundation (SMF) report was commissioned by non-partisan advocacy group Best for Britain. It examines, in the context of ‘U-shaped’ recovery from a coronavirus induced recession, the economic impact of both a new Free Trade Agreement and leaving the European Union without a trade deal. It seeks to provide an understanding of which sectors, regions and local areas in the UK will be most exposed to both supply-side shocks. Its main findings include:
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place on 31st December 2020, the manufacturing, banking, finance and insurance sectors would be severely exposed to a double economic hit from Brexit and coronavirus.
While London and the South of England would be highly exposed to the double economic hit caused by Brexit and coronavirus under an FTA, leaving the EU without a deal in place would create pockets of severe disruption across the country, and particularly in the North West and Midlands regions. 50% of local areas (NUTS3) in the North West are placed in Category 5 (the highest) and a further 40% in Category 4 for their exposure to a double economic hit based on the gross value added of sectors locally.
Analysis of local area impact based on employment shows there are 66 local areas in the most severe category of impact if the UK leaves the EU without a trade deal at the end of the year. One sixth of these areas have more than a third of their labour market working in either manufacturing or finance, banking and insurance etc. (the two industries most impacted). Four of the 66 areas have more than 100,000 jobs in these two industries.
The full report, ‘Assessing the economic implications of coronavirus and Brexit’, can be downloaded here. You can find a methodological note for the report here. A recording of Best for Britain's webinar to launch the report, including lead author Kathryn Petrie and Sam Lowe from the Centre for European Reform, can be found here.