Who is still voting Conservative? How Brexit and age define the Tory party faithful

The sheer scale of the collapse in support for the Tories in the opinion polls poses a question as the election approaches. Who are the party faithful – that is, the voters who are still willing to back Rishi Sunak?

Recent polls have the Conservatives at around 19 per cent – less than half of the 43.6 per cent vote share of 2019.

The prime minister called an election for 4 July after months of speculation about an autumn date. Since then, the campaign has been plagued by scandals, from the PM missing a D-Day ceremony to allegations of betting by politicians and campaign officials.

With a resurgent Reform UK eating into the vote share under Nigel Farage, the Conservatives look all but defeated as the race enters its final week.

Who is still voting Tory?

While the odds are strongly against the party achieving a general election victory, one in every five voters is still planning to back the Conservatives.

The current average Tory voter is aged 62, voted for Brexit, and has voted Conservative in previous elections. Polling from More in Common shows that Conservative voters are slightly more likely to be white, and more than half are comfortable financially.

Ed Hodgson, research manager at More in Common, said many Tory voters are worried about Labour’s approach to the economy.

“Most current Conservative voters have real concerns about the idea of a Labour government,” he said.

“Many of them are instinctively cautious about Labour. They are receptive to arguments that Labour will increase taxes, mishandle the economy, or that a ‘supermajority’ will create an unopposed Labour government.”

He said those issues are raised in focus groups, where Tory supporters frequently mention the infamous “I’m afraid there is no money” note left by Labour’s Liam Byrne, chief secretary to the Treasury under Gordon Brown, in 2010 for the incoming coalition government.

Polling shows the Tories have no particular advantage among voters aged 55-64, of whom 18 per cent say they are voting for the party – just below the national average.

The strongest group of Tory supporters by far remains the over-65s, a third of whom say they will vote blue next week. This jumps to 40 per cent among the over-75 age group.

Around 1.3 million people who voted Conservative in 2019 have since died – nearly 10 per cent of supporters. With the majority of Tory support clustered in the older age brackets, the Tories may have a serious demographic problem, not just in this election but also in the next.

Despite apocalyptic projections by top pollsters of a Labour landslide, the Tories are still forecast to win with a margin of over 5 per cent in 106 constituencies, according to More in Common’s June MRP. These include large margins in constituencies such as Sevenoaks, Maldon, and Hinckley and Bosworth.

In national voting intention polls, voters in the North East of England are slightly more likely to vote Conservative, at 23 per cent compared to the national average of 19 per cent, as are those in the South East, with 21 per cent.

While there has historically been a gender gap among Tory voters, with more men voting Conservative (47 per cent) in the 2019 election compared to 42 per cent of women, that gap is now narrowing.

Support among men is currently at 20 per cent, compared to 18 per cent among women.

In fact, the real right-wing gender gap exists among Reform supporters. A much higher proportion of men (16 per cent) are turning to the more right-wing party, compared to the proportion of women (10 per cent).

Mr Hodgson said current Conservative voters are more positive about Mr Sunak than the rest of the country appears to be.

“They think he did a good job as chancellor, getting us through the pandemic, and tend to blame recent issues with the government on the Conservative Party not properly backing the prime minister,” he said.

“The same cannot be said for their views about Nigel Farage, who Conservative voters understand the appeal of, but [they] don’t like the tone in which he conducts his politics, and have an instinctive distrust of him.”

Of those who voted Conservative in 2019, 23 per cent say they will go over to Reform UK, 13 per cent to Labour, and 4 per cent to the Liberal Democrats. Half are staying loyal, and the remainder are undecided.

A separate poll by More in Common has shown that Brexit voters are split between the right-wing parties, with a third voting Tory and a third Reform.

When it comes to top issues on the ballot, all voters rank the NHS and cost of living as primary concerns, but the average Conservative voter is much more preoccupied with immigration and twice as likely to see the war in Ukraine as a factor that will influence their vote.