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Cosmopolitan by Corbyn? A few notes to understand the British elections

Although almost all analysts and polls anticipated a comfortable victory for Theresa May's conservatives and a collapse of Labor led by Jeremy Corbyn at the time of the elections, the surprising recovery of the latter during the campaign Has put an end to the absolute conservative majority in the House of Commons. Here are some notes to try to understand what happened on Thursday in the UK.

1. Defeat of May, or Corbyn's victory?

It is undeniable that from the point of view of governance, May's strategy has failed miserably. The aim of the electoral advance was simply to take advantage of its rival's supposed electoral weakness to extend its rule over time and to consolidate its position of power both inwardly (its party and Parliament) and outwardly (in the face of negotiations with the EU). After Thursday, the House of Commons will be more hostile towards May. Conservatives now do not depend on themselves to legislate in Westminster, and disappointment with the results within their parliamentary group is expected to stimulate the noise of sabers within their party. Seen like this, May clearly has lost.

But this should not make us forget that in purely electoral terms, Theresa May has achieved spectacular results. Thatcher's victory after the Falklands War (34 years ago!) Has to be reversed to find a conservative vote rate as high as that achieved by May. The conservative party is advancing 5.5 points over the 2015 result, achieving no less than 2.3 million more votes than those then obtained by David Cameron, in what was interpreted at that time as an indisputable Tory victory. These are really extraordinary figures for any governing party in the current context. It will have to be confirmed with surveys, but everything points to this growth because they have managed to retain the bulk of their voters,

How then is it possible that the Conservatives lose the absolute majority despite winning in votes? The cause is twofold: first, the erratic British electoral system, which makes the percentage of seats dependent not only on the percentage of votes but on the distance from other candidates. And secondly, because this time May has faced a competitor much more competitive in electoral terms: the growth in percentage of votes of the Labor party (3.5 million votes and 9.5 points more than just two years ago) Is only comparable in magnitude to that provoked by the election of Clement Attlee in 1945. With a second match so close, winning in many districts becomes more complicated. It is therefore this that has failed in the calculation of May:

2. What did people think about when they voted?

It is quite possible that part of May's "miscalculation" has to do with Labor's success in changing the terms of the debate during the campaign. Until the London bombing, in which the issue of security jumped to the center of the political agenda to stay, the campaign has been a tug of war between two narratives. On the one hand, May has mumbled the message that these elections were to choose a strong leader (she, obviously) who could negotiate in a better position with the European Union. On the other hand, Corbyn has completely renounced competition in the Brexit affair, even though 48% of the electorate voted to stay in the EU. Instead, Corbyn has deployed a campaign focused primarily on social justice, social policies and inequality and, probably unexpectedly,

These two narratives have been reflected symmetrically in the electorate. The following chart shows the percentage of voters who ask the question "What is the main issue for deciding your vote?" Answer the Brexit or any of a series of social issues or policies. Respondents are divided between those who voted for the Conservatives in 2015 and those who voted for Labor.

As can be seen, there is a very marked divergence in the main issues that decide the vote of each group and this is very much in line with which each party to use as the central axis of their campaign. Among the Conservatives, Brexit is the main reason for their vote, while social issues dominate the Labor's decision.

Graph 1: Reason for voting decision

Yougov data, field work May 28-30

Note: Yougov data, field work May 28-30.

3. Where does labor growth come from?

It is too early to draw conclusions about the ultimate causes of voting distribution in this election, but the preliminary analysis of voting patterns by districts may give us some clues. The following graphs reflect on the vertical axis the increase in the Labor vote percentage minus the increase in the conservative vote rate (what the British call the "swing" over the previous election), which we take as a measure of whether the district (If the index takes a high positive value) or "more conservative" (if the index takes a high negative value).

Graph 2: "Swing" to Labor based on the presence of young people and the population density of the district.

Demographic measurements are from the British Census 2011, available from the British Election Study.

Source: Demographic measurements are from the British Census 2011, available from the British Election Study.

What the data seem to show is that there is a strong "demographic / residential" component in this change of district political preferences. They are the most densely populated (urban) districts and the youngest are the ones that have most turned to the Labor Party. It is harder to find evidence of the impact of purely economic variables (probably partly because conservatives, by attracting the bulk of the UKIP vote, have been "proletarianized" in economic terms).

As a curiosity, we show a curious finding: an indicator of the degree of "cosmopolitanism" of the district (the percentage of residents who do not have a passport) is strongly correlated negatively with the "swing" towards Labor. The most cosmopolitan districts are those in which Labor has further improved its results (we do not show it here, but data indicate that this is not just a consequence of UKIP's attraction of conservative voters).

Graph 3: "Swing" to Labor according to the degree of cosmopolitanism of the district.

Demographic measurements are from the British Census 2011, available from the British Election Study.

Source: Demographic measurements are from the British Census 2011, available from the British Election Study.

In short, in line with much evidence from polls during the campaign, Labor has managed to grow by attracting a young, urban vote, and resident in more "cosmopolitan" areas.

4. Scotland is different

Despite the collapse of Scottish nationalists, Scotland remains another world. Although the Scots have voted much more "British" parties than in 2015, the forces that explain this vote appear to be very different from their determinants in the rest of the union. An example is shown in figure 4, which reflects the relationship between the growth of the conservative vote and the percentage of UKIP votes in 2015. While in England and Wales the fact that there was a UKIP electorate two years ago Explains much of the growth of the Conservatives in 2017, in Scotland (where UKIP barely had presence) the Tories manage to grow for different causes.  

Graph 4: Vote to UKIP in 2015 and increase of the vote to the conservatives in 2017.

Vote to UKIP in 2015 and increase of the vote to the conservatives in 2017

Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, after seeing his victory in his constituency

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