Does your demographic background affect how you vote? This is a question that’s difficult to answer, but it’s often a talking point following general elections. While we can’t gather exact data on how different groups of people voted, we can get a picture from national polling. We can also look at how parties performed in constituencies with different demographic profiles.
Organisations like Ipsos MORI and YouGov regularly poll before election night to collect data on voters’ backgrounds. Their data is limited by the accuracy of the polls but gives us estimates for voting patterns in Great Britain. Demographic data about constituencies also gives an idea of how national trends translated into seats.
We have to be careful when making inferences from constituency data. A lot of it comes from the 2011 Census, and some seats will have seen demographic changes over the last eight years. It’s also important to remember that statistics about a whole area don’t describe all of its residents. Constituency data alone can’t always tell us how a particular demographic group voted.
This Insight explains what we know about demographics in General Election 2019 and looks at how they varied in seats won by the three main parties that stood candidates across Great Britain: the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We focus on age, ethnicity and housing tenure as these are demographics polling companies have looked at, and for which we have robust constituency data.
Age and GE2019
Age was a strong predictor of how people voted. YouGov estimates that the chance of someone voting Conservative in 2019 increased by around nine points with every 10 years of age. Ipsos MORI estimates that the Conservatives had a 47-point lead amongst voters aged 65 and above. Meanwhile, Labour had a 43-point lead amongst voters aged 18-24 and a 24-point lead amongst voters aged 25-34.
Labour performed better in constituencies that had a younger population. Labour won in 88 seats where over a quarter of the population was aged 18-34. The Conservatives won in just 16 of these seats. Conversely, 65 seats where over a quarter of the population was aged 65 and above went to the Conservatives, while just two went to Labour.
The charts below show constituency results in more detail – click on the green arrow button to scroll through them.
Home ownership and GE2019
As in previous years, homeowners were more likely to vote Conservative in the 2019 election. According to Ipsos MORI’s figures, 57% of voters who owned their home outright voted Conservative, as did 43% of people with mortgages. By contrast, 45% of social renters and 46% of private renters voted Labour.
The 2011 Census tells us how many homeowners were in each constituency. At the time, around 64% of UK households owned their home, either outright or with a mortgage. 315 of the Conservatives’ 365 seats (86%) had home ownership levels above this average, compared with 53 of Labour’s 202 seats (26%). Nine of the Lib Dems’ 11 seats had above-average home ownership levels (82%).
What about house prices in these areas?
The Conservatives won in the three most expensive constituencies in England and Wales, but they weren’t the only party to win in expensive areas. Labour won 70 seats in areas with above-average house prices in England and Wales, many of them in London. All of the Lib Dems’ seats had above-average house prices.
The Conservatives also won in areas with lower-than-average house prices, though these tended to be areas with relatively high levels of overall home ownership. Labour’s seats in low-priced areas had a broader range of home ownership: some had a below-average rate of home ownership while others were substantially above average.
Ethnic minority groups and GE2019
Labour performed better than the Conservatives amongst ethnic minority groups. Ipsos MORI estimates Labour won the votes of 64% of all Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) voters, while 20% voted for the Conservatives and 12% for the Lib Dems.
Seats that had large BME populations at the 2011 Census tended to vote Labour. Labour won in 113 seats that had a larger-than-average BME population, while the Conservatives won 53 and the Lib Dems four.
These demographic groups overlap
A lot of these demographics are correlated at constituency level. Constituencies with a higher proportion of 18-34 year olds tended to have lower levels of home ownership, as well as higher proportions of people from BME backgrounds. This is not surprising: younger people are less likely to be homeowners, and the average age of people from BME backgrounds is younger than those from white backgrounds.
These demographic traits are also associated with people living in cities. If we limit our analysis to constituencies that cover the UK’s ‘core cities’*, we can see that these areas tended to have lower home ownership and larger young and BME populations. These seats were also much more likely to be won by Labour. Labour won 92 (71%) of these seats while the Conservatives won 24 (18%).
The demographic factors that we’ve looked at explain Labour’s performance in urban areas better than they explain the seats it won elsewhere. There are Labour seats that don’t fit the same demographic profile as its city seats. Sefton Central (Liverpool), for example, has a relatively small population of 18-34 year olds, a BME population of less than 2%, and one of the highest home ownership rates of all constituencies. But it has been Labour since 2010 – and with an increasing majority.
A few Conservative seats also bucked the demographic trend, mainly in London. Home ownership is low in the Cities of London and Westminster seat, and the population of young and BME people relatively large. The constituency did have the second-highest average house price in England and Wales, though – and as we saw earlier, the three seats with the highest average prices were Conservative.
* These are seats where the majority of the population lives in a core city: London, Birmingham, Glashow, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Nottingham, or Newcastle upon Tyne. Towns within wider built-up areas (such as Stockport) are not included. See our City & Town Classification briefing for more.
Election results: House of Commons Library analysis.
Housing: 2011 Census, Table KS402; ONS, House price statistics for small areas.
Ethnic groups: 2011 Census.
General Election 2019: full results and analysis, House of Commons Library.
See more demographic data about constituencies on our constituency dashboard.
About the author: Cassie Barton is a statistician at the House of Commons Library, specialising in demographic statistics.