A Portrait of Political Britain - Populus

A Portrait of Political Britain


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The Psychological Battleground for 2015


Populus has today launched the results of a new survey of public opinion that provides a fresh way of looking at the voters that will matter most in 2015.


The Portrait of Political Britain groups voters not by traditional categories such as class, gender and region but according to the shared attitudes and outlook that bind people together. The result is a new political typology that makes sense of the issues, attitudes and opinions that will shape the outcome of the next general election.


All Politics is Coalition Politics


Wherever there is politics you will find coalitions, whether within political parties or between some of them. The alliances or more usually the discord between different elements of any given coalition is the very essence of politics. However, most political coverage tends to focus on the conflict between real leaders and the self-proclaimed ringleaders of factions, wings and rebellions rather than the actual voters that all claim to stand for.


Working away from the media spotlight modern political campaigns seek to build for victory by painstakingly stitching together collections of voters often with quite disparate concerns, priorities, voting histories and personal circumstances.


All politicians, at least the ones who aspire to succeed rather than just to survive, spend much of their time trying to appeal to or reassure people who often lie way beyond their traditional support base.


This is not a new process. Whether it is Nick Clegg lauding “Alarm Clock Britain”, David Cameron appealing to “strivers”, or Ed Miliband standing up for the “squeezed middle”, reaching out to groups like these represents an attempt to win over new voters that goes beyond the geographical confines of target seats. We know where the 2015 General Election will be won and lost; the question is who will it be won or lost among?


The Six Segments that Matter


In today’s world of continuous political polling it is easy to fixate on the constant stream of headline voting intention figures at the expense of understanding the individual circumstances and feelings of voters which ultimately drive their political decision making. Understanding voters’ frames of mind is important.


With this in mind, Populus set out to map the mood of the British public through a nationwide poll of more than 4,000 people. We wanted to explore the public’s anxieties and ambitions and to find out where they stood on a series of issues that might underlie political behaviour but which were not directly related to party politics. We then took people’s answers to these questions and applied a statistical technique known as “cluster analysis” to break down the public as a whole into distinct groups of people who showed similarities in the pattern of the answers that they gave to the questions we posed. We divided the electorate up based on their attitudes towards business and government, their views on inequality, immigration and social mobility, their belief in progress and how they see their lives to date and the future prospects for their families and themselves.


The result – our Portrait of Political Britain – provides a spectrum of voters that is statistically robust and, crucially, recognisable in the real world. It identifies six core groups of voters:






This is not a traditional left to right political spectrum or a spectrum based predominantly on income or class or any other straightforwardly demographic or geographic distinction. Political life in Britain is more complicated and this model of it is hopefully more interesting than that. So while a good proportion of those grouped as Comfortable Nostalgia vote Conservative it is possible to find a small number of Labour supporters among them. Similarly Tories are thin on the ground in the Long-term Despair and Cosmopolitan Critics groups but they do exist.


However, the Portrait is rooted in the way people actually live their lives, form their views, and make critical decisions such as how to vote. It is not the only picture we could have painted but in our opinion it is the most convincing one. It aims to sketch the psychological battleground that will determine the result of the election in 2015. And it seeks to explain what the key swing voters look like, what is likely to move them and where they fit in to the main parties’ broader coalition of likely voters.


This is an extract from a longer essay about the Portrait of Political Britain written by Populus Director Rick Nye. For the full article, please click here.


You can also download a PDF summary of the Portrait here.


And you can take the test online now to find out which segment you fall into. Take the test using our online tool now.

For more information on the Portrait and the methodology used, please contact info@populus.co.uk.