Do the Conservatives have a millenial problem?


It is generally understood that as people get older they are increasingly likely to agree with conservative views. However, new data on millennial voting patterns suggests they are 15 points less conservative than the national average – in comparison, previous studies on Gen X and Boomers at the same age would indicate they should be just five points less conservative. Although the reasons for millennials’ reluctance are multi-faceted and deep-rooted, this could pose a clear problem for the Conservative Party going forward.

Millennials’ difficulty in getting onto the housing ladder since the 2010s is a clear factor in their lack of support for the Conservatives. Rapidly increasing house prices after the 2008 financial crisis combined with stagnant incomes have created a clear ‘renter generation’ of millennials in their late 20s and early to mid 30s. Rates of home ownership among those aged 25-44 are unprecedentedly low. Given that traditional Conservative policies advocating for financial stability and prudence tend to be more persuasive to homeowners, the Conservatives are struggling to win over this ‘renter generation’.

Similarly, as more millennials start to form families, the high cost of childcare has become a greater concern among millennials. This has been compounded by the closure of state affiliated Sure Start centres and youth groups arising from post-2010 austerity policies. For many, the cost of childcare has meant that it is more economically advantageous to act as stay-at-home parents rather than send children to nurseries, creating another policy frontier in which Conservatives do not seem to be convincing millennials.Given how the burden to stop working after having children falls disproportionately on women, this might not just raise age-related inconsistencies in Conservative voting demographics, but also exacerbate gender-related inconsistencies.

Conservatives are looking to win over millenials.

The most long-term issue the Conservatives have faced with enticing millennials to vote for them involves their legacy and reputation.

For the youngest cohort of millennials, now in their late 20s, the political fallout of raising tuition fees to over £9000 a year has created significant tensions in their relationship with the Conservative party. Coupled with this, nearly all millennials’ adult experiences of the Conservatives in government are rooted exclusively in the post-2010 period, with the seminal debates over austerity and Brexit (both of which millennials have tended to oppose) defining the legacy of the Conservatives for this age group.

Unless Conservative policies undergo a stark change, their difficulty in addressing key issues for millennial voters might weaken the electoral base for the Tory Party, especially in commuter towns surrounding London Birmingham, and other major UK cities. Parallel to this, the lack of growth in Conservative support among millennials has allowed Labour Party support among millennials to remain high, although there are peripheral benefits for smaller groups such as the Green Party, who enjoy higher than average support amongst the group. As long as the Labour Party acts as the clear electoral party du jour for millennials, the current first-past-the-post electoral system might suggest increased prospects for the Labour Party in the next general election as well as in those that follow.

Despite this, many Conservatives are looking to win over millennials. A focus on single-issue policies might persuade some millenials of the party’s credibility. Policies to lower the financial burden of childcare and expansion of financial aid to help young people get on the property ladder would encourage new voting patterns. More broadly, the Conservatives might have to undergo a public image rebrand in order to offset the alienation it has created in millennial circles.

Although the Conservative Party clearly does have a ‘millennial problem’, political analysts would not call it a new problem. Many millennials’ issues with voting Conservative are linked to decisions made over a decade ago, meaning that the issue is deep-seated and will require both policy and public relations changes to reverse electoral trends. It is possible that this pattern may not be sustained over the next few years, especially if home ownership rates increase, offering hope for Conservatives that their ‘millennial problem’ will be reversed.

Image: Mramoeba via Wikimedia Commons

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