Suppose they held an election and nobody came?

David Reed, director of research and editor-in-chief, DataIQ

Back in 1997, the Labour Party under Tony Blair was elected with a landslide total of 418 seats, beginning a 12-year period in power. Notably, 71 per cent of the electorate cast their votes, a level which fell sharply in subsequent elections, although it has since recovered to reach 66 per cent in the 2015 count. 

With a late surge of enthusiasm for Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, many of its supporters have even started to dare to dream of an upset victory. Boundary changes and the rise of the Scottish National Party, however, make this a much tougher proposition.

One aspect of the campaign could prove to hold the key to whether Corbyn can oust Theresa May from Number 10 - just how many voters aged 18 to 34 go to a polling booth. It is worth pointing out that voting intention is not spread evenly across the population. With an average registered voter age of 48.5, the UK (and especially England) has a built-in Conservative bias. Especially given the 56 seats which the SNP took in 2015, most at the expense of Labour, this makes getting young votes critical to the outcome.

According to Ipsos Mori, the political leanings of those aged 18 - 24 are clear - 43% went Labour in the last election, compared to 27% who voted Conservative. At 25 - 34, the difference is less, at 36% to 33%. But, crucially, only 43% of the youngest group who were registered to vote actually did so, while 54% of the next age band showed up.

So Labour suffers from an age deficit both in terms of the total demographics of the electorate and also the active participation of its youth vote. Yet, given that it attracts at least 50% more Millennials than the Tories do, an upsurge in popular support among the young, if translated into votes cast, would have a real impact.

To find out how much, DataIQ examined 25 marginal seats where the sitting MPs had a majority of under 1% to see whether the demographic profile could work in Labour’s favour. In six constituencies, the low average age of voters means increased turnout in this group could hand the seat to Labour, while in two, the higher average age would shift it to the Conservatives, giving a net Labour gain of plus four.

Across the UK as a whole, there are 110 constituences where the 2015 election yielded majorities of under 10%. But a swing of that size seems unlikely even in the wake of voter shock and dismay at recent events and the more engaged response they have triggered. Instead, if 5% more voters turn up, taking the overall turnout back to 1997 levels, then around 50 seats could be affected. A significant increase in voting by Millennials could then make a big impact.

Assuming that the remaining 600 constituencies follow their 2015 voting pattern, therefore, DataIQ predicts the following share: Conservatives 322, Labour 240, SNP 56 and LibDems 9. When Sinn Féin, the Speaker and two Deputy Speakers are removed, this would leave May with a working majority of just one. 

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Knowledge and strategy director, DataIQ
David is developing the framework for soft skills and career development among data and analytics practitioners. He continues to be editor-in-chief and research director for DataIQ.