The Conservatives must move towards the centre ground to reclaim millions of young voters who currently support Labour, a major report released today has said.
Senior Tory cabinet ministers and backbenchers have backed the call of centre-right think tank Onwards to make the party’s next manifesto focused on young people.
The study revealed that if a general election were held today, 60 per cent of under-35s would vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party, with just 16 per cent plumping for the Conservatives.
The “tipping point age” at which a voter is more likely to vote Conservative than Labour is now 51 years old, whereas before the 2017 campaign the tipping point was 34 years old, Onward said.
The findings of Onward’s report, the result of a sample poll of 10,000, will trouble the Conservatives, whose vote is “dangerously skewed towards older voters”, the think tank said.
To win back younger voters, Onwards have urged the Conservatives to occupy a “new centre ground” of public opinion by balancing policies such as controlling immigration and keeping taxes low with the protection of the environment and punishing irresponsible companies.
Tories will take heart in the study’s finding that younger generations are most in favour of lower taxes, with nearly two-thirds of 18 to 24s believing that people should be “allowed to keep more of their own money”.
Meanwhile, 58 per cent of 18-24s say they want a government that “prioritises living within its means” compared to 42 per cent who want a government that “prioritises borrowing to invest in the economy”. For over 65s, the figure was 77 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
The think tank said that Labour’s problems with older voters, who are more likely to vote than young people, “are equally significant”. Of over-65s, 56 per cent would vote Conservative if an election were held today, whereas 24 per cent would vote Labour.
The Tory party faces a challenge in turning these beliefs into success at the ballot box, however, as young people overwhelmingly voted for a Labour party that said it would raise taxes and increase public spending at the 2017 general election.
Will Tanner, director of Onward, said: “Everyone is focusing on Brexit, but the growing age gap in vote intention is a bigger threat to the Conservative party’s future. The only way to regain a majority is to focus on winning over a younger generation of voters. If the Conservatives do not, they risk being pushed to the sidelines, unable to govern.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: “This research tells it to us clear and straight: we have to work harder to bring people with us as we work towards a positive, optimistic and outward-looking future for the UK.”
Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, said: “Our focus on enterprise, public services, family and home ownership are values we hold in common with younger people. It’s up to us to demonstrate our priorities are connected with the lives of young people today.”