Gen­er­a­tion gap nar­row­ing on ev­ery­thing ex­cept our pol­i­tics

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

trans­formed per­ma­nently the views and lives of the min­ers’ wives, moth­ers and daugh­ters. In one of those clichés born out of truth, they’d come out of the kitchen, never to re­turn. For the rest of us, at­ti­tu­di­nal and be­havioural change took longer, as again the BSA records. In 1987, nearly half (48 per cent) agreed that “a man’s job is to earn money, a woman’s to look af­ter the home and fam­ily”, with just a third (33 per cent) dis­agree­ing. By 2008 it was 16 per cent and 58 per cent re­spec­tively, and in 2017 just 8 per cent agree­ing and 72 per cent dis­agree­ing. More­over, as on other so­cial is­sues – pre-mar­i­tal sex, same-sex re­la­tion­ships, abor­tion – the gen­er­a­tion gap on gen­der roles is now nar­row­ing rapidly. The gap be­tween the pro­por­tions of ‘dis­agreers’ in the 18-34 and 65-74 age groups had dropped in just five years from 27 per cent in 2012 to 8 per cent. There will, in­evitably, be those who dis­miss all such find­ings as ‘fake news’. The rea­sons most of us should have greater con­fi­dence than in the one-off, quota sam­ple opin­ion poll are partly the BSA’s sheer longevity, but above all its rig­or­ous method­ol­ogy of hour-long in­ter­views with ran­dom and metic­u­lously weighted sam­ples of 4,000 re­spon­dents a time. It’s gold stan­dard.

Re­turn­ing to the gen­er­a­tion gap, while it’s nar­row­ing on so­cial is­sues, po­lit­i­cally the re­verse is hap­pen­ing. There were age and ed­u­ca­tional di­vides on EU mem­ber­ship be­fore the 2016 ref­er­en­dum, but that vote and last year’s Gen­eral Elec­tion deep­ened both.

In last year’s sur­vey, 72 per cent and 63 per cent of the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups re­ported vot­ing Re­main in the ref­er­en­dum, com­pared to 37 per cent and 45 per cent of the 65+ and 55-64 groups. Which, with around 750,000 17-year-olds at any one time and some older vot­ers in­evitably dis­ap­pear­ing, has big im­pli­ca­tions for any Brexit-fo­cused ‘Peo­ple’s Vote’ we may be of­fered.

This year’s BSA sur­vey, cov­er­ing the 2017 elec­tion, con­veys a sim­i­lar mes­sage. In 2010 the 18-34 age group had split equally be­tween Con­ser­va­tive and Labour, 32 per cent for each.

In 2015 the re­ported split was 32 per cent blue to 39 per cent red, and in 2017 a rather stag­ger­ing 22 per cent to 62 per cent, a far higher gap than in any in re­cent mem­ory.

En­cour­ag­ing for Labour, ex­cept that the much higher-vot­ing over-65s al­most bal­anced the scale, their 55 per cent Con­ser­va­tive sup­port also be­ing sig­nif­i­cantly higher than in any re­cent elec­tion.

“Never be­fore”, the BSA con­cluded, “has there been so large an age di­vide in British elec­toral pol­i­tics”.

The “never” seemed un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally reck­less, but there is def­i­nite ev­i­dence that so­cial class, for decades the key di­vid­ing fac­tor in British pol­i­tics, is be­ing dis­placed at least by a com­bi­na­tion of age and ed­u­ca­tion.

The BSA are canny, as well as good, and they re­mind us of their key find­ings at ap­pro­pri­ate times, like the party con­fer­ence sea­son. Hence last week’s nudge, that “sup­port for more tax and spend is at a 15-year high”.

This year’s sur­vey showed 60 per cent favour­ing the Gov­ern­ment in­creas­ing taxes and spend­ing more on pub­lic ser­vices – nearly dou­ble the 31 per cent in 2010 and up from 49 per cent just last year. Those want­ing lower tax­a­tion and spend­ing were down to 4 per cent.

The ma­jor party di­vide is as ex­pected, but the gap smaller than some might guess.

The 60 per cent want­ing more tax and spend com­prises two thirds of Labour sup­port­ers, but also a ma­jor­ity (53 per cent) of Con­ser­va­tives – some­thing for Chan­cel­lor Philip Ham­mond to mull over be­fore his ICC speech to the party faith­ful on Mon­day morn­ing. Chris Game is a lec­turer at the In­sti­tute of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­sity of


So­cial class – for decades the key di­vid­ing fac­tor in British pol­i­tics – is be­ing dis­placed at least by a com­bi­na­tion of age and ed­u­ca­tion

> summed up a per­ma­nent shift of min­ers’ wives and women in gen­eral out of the kitchen

> Hugh Grant, right, in

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