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March 11, 2015

How to win the general election

For the next 8 weeks, each political party will be out to woo voters with all manner of promises and pledges. These policy propositions will all be tailored to appeal to specifically targeted groups of voters – often relatively small numbers – without alienating their core vote. Recent research by Carnegie suggests there is one policy idea that some 14.5 million voters have identified as being a key vote winner. Now that’s got to be worth ripping up a manifesto for.


Devolving power over local services and local decision making could be a crucial vote winner for as many as 14.5 million voters* in this year’s General Election, according to new research released today by the Carnegie UK Trust.

One in three UK voters (32%) say they would vote for the political party that offered them more control over the public services that they receive. With a tight election predicted, championing the devolution of power to constituents could have a significant impact on the final result.  

There was some variation according to region. Respondents from the key battle grounds of the Midlands and the North of England were less likely to feel they had enough control over local services. Perhaps reflecting a feeling of disconnection with Westminster in the English regions, Bradford East, a 365 Liberal Democrat majority and Chesterfield, a Labour seat with just a 549 majority could both, potentially be influenced by a pledge for more local control.

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, Carnegie UK Trust said: “In an unpredictable and tight General Election race, marginal seats could be won or lost on a persuasive campaign that promises more powers for communities and individuals. Up to 14 million voters could be swayed by such a promise.”

“People want to feel a far greater sense of control over the public services they use every day. The party that offers a more enabling form of government could win out.

The Carnegie UK Trust poll revealed that younger voters in particular are persuaded by the promise of a more enabling state, 37% of 18 -24 year olds and 38% of 25-34 year olds said that they would vote for the party that offered them greater control over the public services that they and their community received.  

Martyn Evans added: “Young people are particularly receptive to the offer of greater control. Our research suggests a huge proportion of young people will vote for policies that devolve power back into local communities.”

National and devolved government policies such as the Localism Act have on the face of it offered individuals and communities a more active role in public services and decision making. However, most people polled by the Carnegie UK Trust (61%) felt that they had no more control over how public services are designed and delivered in their area than they did five years ago, with a further 29% suggesting their local decision making powers had actually diminished in that timeframe.

Martyn Evans added: “Of course just because individuals and communities are seeking more control does not mean that they wish to be involved in every detail of public service delivery and design. There are some areas of public service delivery where more control genuinely offers greater benefits and others were people are happy to devolve control to professionals.”

The ICM online poll of 2,000 nationally representative GB residents aged 18+ was conducted on behalf of the Carnegie UK Trust, which has been exploring the shift toward a more enabling state: the changing relationship between the state, citizens and communities in the UK can successfully give communities and individuals can have more control over their own wellbeing and the public services that they receive.  


Key results:

•32% of people polled would be persuaded to vote for a political party that offered them more control over the public services that they receive.

•When people were asked whether they felt like they had too much, too little or the right amount of control over public services that they received. Over half (55%) felt that they had too little. This was true regardless of social class or geography 1 .

•Respondents aged 55 or older in particular, felt that they had too little control over public services (for example 63% of respondents aged 55-64 felt that they had too little control compared with 49% of 18-24 year olds). 

•Most people (61%) said that the degree of control they had over how public services are designed and delivered in their area had remained unchanged over the last five years. 29% felt that they had less control.


•Respondents from the South East and West, Wales and Scotland were more likely to report that they had more control over public services now compared to 5 years ago than respondents from the Midlands and the North of England.


•When respondents were asked which areas of public service delivery that they thought could be improved by involving local people more in design and delivery the most frequently selected options were social care and local planning and development (45 % of respondents) in contrast just 9% of respondents felt that defence could be improved by giving local people more control.

•When it comes to their own personal quality of life, respondents consistently rated their own personal capacity and their family, friends and the community that they live in as having by far the biggest influence on their quality of life regardless of social class.

 1 With the exception of respondents in social class C2 respondents more than 50% of respondents from all social classes said that they would like more control.