The Research Is In: Tactical Voting Works

The Conservatives cannot win an election by relying solely on supporters of Brexit, while Labour could get closer to its goal of majority government if it does more to peel off anti-Brexit voters who are still backing the Tories: these are two of the key conclusions of a new report we published on 24 October 2017.

The report – from independent data scientist Dr Abigail Lebrecht – shows that the Conservatives were successful in appealing for the votes of previous UKIP supporters and other leave voters but that was not enough to deliver victory in the face of a grassroots revolt by tactical voting supporters of remain.

Dr Lebrecht states that the evidence shows “the Conservatives cannot win on a leave only platform” and “we can say with some confidence that the grassroots anti-Brexit tactical vote denied Theresa May her majority.”

Her work shows that the Conservative’s vote rose in proportion to support for leave in each constituency but also fell in proportion to remain voters. Labour’s vote rose in proportion to the remain vote, but there was no clear relationship with leave votes.

In 2017, The Tories went for ‘peak Brexit’ and yet lost their majority – strongly suggesting that they cannot win by travelling further in that direction. Labour said little about Brexit during the campaign but were big beneficiaries of grassroots-organised tactical voting campaigns – including that organised by Best for Britain. B4B’s ‘tactical voting dashboard’ was visited over one million times during the course of the campaign – particularly in marginal constituencies.

Eloise Todd, CEO of Best for Britain, added:  “We did not issue a blanket call for Labour votes, but we did back Labour in many of the key marginals where Dr Lebrecht’s work suggests the outcome was determined by tactical, anti-Brexit, voting – such as Bristol North West and Kensington.

“We also endorsed Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru candidates in seats in which they were most likely to win and advised supporters where the Conservative candidate was likely oppose an extreme Brexit.

“The electorate has understood the power of their vote, the remain vote swung the 2017 election and both main parties will need to attract more of that floating vote if they want to get ahead and break the UK’s Brexit stalemate.”

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