Northern Lights: Public policy and the geography of political attitudes in Britain today

Friday, 27 April 2012

Northern Lights: Public policy and the geography of political attitudes in Britain today


Politics and policy are intimately connected. Understanding what different voters want, and why, is pretty complicated. From day to day politicians and policy makers use conventionally understood terms which reflect their understanding of the electorate.

Northern Lights - Neil O'Brien & Anthony Wells

We think we know what we mean when we talk about parties competing for the “centre ground”, or what the “aspirational working class” is, or the “north-south divide”.  But do we?  Ideas about the electorate reflect different generations of academic research - including some long defunct ideas. Society is always changing, and with it, so does academic research and polling evidence. This report is an attempt to update our maps.

How should we understand geographical differences and the urban/rural divide?  Is there really a north-south divide, and if so why? What are different voters’ policy priorities? How do they think the parties should change?

To answer these questions this project brings together existing opinion research, and uses an extensive polling exercise, regression analysis and qualitative research to try and improve our understanding of public policy, and the geography of political attitudes in Britain today.

Appendix 1 - Polling Figures

Appendix 2 - Focus Group Transcripts

You can also see the slides from the launch event of the report here.

Special thanks go to Andrew Whyte/ for the report's excellent cover image.


"First of all I’d say congratulations to Neil and to Policy Exchange for what I think is an absolutely fascinating report. I spent ... four or five hours going through some of it yesterday and I felt I’d only just scratched the surface of what is in that report, and I think it’ll be a landmark report actually for a long time to come, people will study it and study it."

Tim Montgomerie - Editor, ConservativeHome


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