Carl Sacklen

Tory Concern Over Local Election Landslide is Just For Show

The Conservatives were the clear winners in the recent local elections held earlier this week. Unlike Labour who lost 320 council seats, the Tories gained 558. This is a huge jump that was probably met with ambivalence in Conservative HQ.

The Conservative’s Fears

In the run up to the local elections, the Conservatives were keen to downplay any potential landslides in the local elections because they fear it will lead to voter complacency in June’s General Election; that is to say, people think the “Conservatives will win anyway” so don’t turn out to vote.

This is clever, but probably not very accurate, politics. It’s clever because it encourages Conservative voters to keep up and increase their campaigning. After some research, however, I suspect the Conservatives are inflating their fears.

Majorities and Turnouts

I looked at the impact of a party’s majority in a constituency on the subsequent turnout in the next election. This was to see whether voters got complacent and didn’t vote on the basis that the result already seemed obvious, whereby voting would seem like a waste of time.

Assuming the Conservative’s fears were correct, I was expecting there to be a clear correlation between an MPs majority and the turnout in the next election. What I found, however, was a different picture.

The Data

I plotted the graph below, of 650 constituencies. I used data from the Electoral Commission from the 2010 and 2015 general elections.

Graph showing relationship between turnout and majority

It clearly contradicts the Conservative’s fears. The gradient of the trend line is -0.0057, so the fear that a high majority impacts the subsequent voter turnout is not grounded in much but rhetoric. Yes, the data doesn’t show the impact of local election majorities on general election turnouts, but it is nonetheless indicative of a mindset that contradicts the idea that people won’t turn out to vote if the result already seems obvious.

What Does This Mean?

The Conservatives will keep pushing the line that the result of the election in June is not certain, although probably because they want to make gains not because they fear losses.

Interestingly, this data shows that majorities in constituencies don’t impact voter apathy to a significant extent. Causes of apathy are something I’m very interest in, so I’m glad I discovered this.