Next UK election set to be most unequal in 60 years, study finds | Politics #election #set #unequal #years #study #finds #Politics

The next election is set to be the most unequal in 60 years thanks to a rising gap in voter turnout based on age, income, class, home ownership and ethnicity, a new study has found.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), a centre-left thinktank, found that the turnout gap was negligible between social groups in the 1960s, but that it had grown by 2010 to 18 percentage points between the top set of earners – who are more likely to vote – and the bottom set.

It rises to a 23-point gap between homeowners – who were more likely to vote – and renters, and a 15-point gap between graduates and those who did not go to university. There are 28 points between those aged 61 and over who were more likely to vote than 18-24-year-olds.

The IPPR found that nine in every 10 people in the top third of the income distribution voted in the two most recent general elections, compared with only seven in 10 from the bottom third.

The bottom third of earners were about three times more likely to say it is not worth voting than the top third, while renters are also more than twice as likely as homeowners to say the same.

The study also analysed those who have been in contact with politicians, finding that one in three university graduates has directly contacted a politician, compared with one in seven people without degrees.

The study did not look at whether the Conservatives or Labour benefit most from the gap in turnout, although older voters are more likely to opt for the Tories than Labour.

Dr Parth Patel, a senior research fellow at the IPPR, said one of the consequences was that government policy was more attuned to the needs of the older, better-off and those with higher levels of education.

“There are real differences in who gets their way in our democracy. Policy is more responsive to preferences of the well-heeled than of the worse off, and people know this – but it seems to be a blind spot for most politicians,” he said.

“No matter who’s in power, our democratic machine needs rewiring. If people are once again to be authors of their own lives, and to feel secure, they must sense their influence in the collective decision-making endeavour that is democracy.”

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Patel also said the outsize influence of the better-off is one way to explain the puzzle of rising inequality in UK democracy, as lower-income groups are more supportive of redistribution.

The IPPR said the problems were compounded by a concentration in party memberships, political donors and career politicians among people who are well-off and have higher levels of education.

It said the number of MPs entering parliament from working-class jobs has fallen twice as quickly as the share of the public working in similar jobs.

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Only 7% of MPs can be considered working class compared with 34% of working-age adults, according to IPPR estimates.

Its study said the UK risks entering a “doom loop” in which policy is “becoming ever less responsive to citizens, in turn stoking populism and further undermining faith in democracy”.

To counter this, it recommends a new wave of constitutional reform to spread power and influence in the UK, if living standards and life expectancy are to start improving across the board again.

Other countries have driven up turnout in elections with measures such as compulsory voting, automatic voter registration, weekend voting and mobile polling stations.

However, constitutional reform has long been downgraded as a priority in the UK due to the difficulty of getting changes through the House of Commons and Lords. The coalition government of Tories and Lib Dems held a referendum on changing the voting system in 2011, which did not get approval for any change, while they also dropped plans to reform the House of Lords.

Keir Starmer’s Labour has said it wants to replace the House of Lords but this is not expected to be an immediate priority, with smaller steps on reducing its size and changing its makeup more likely. The party does not support changing the voting system, but it supports the Gordon Brown commission’s aims of devolving power, wealth and opportunity throughout the country, as well as cleaning up standards and ethics in Westminster.

When the Brown commission report was published a year ago, Starmer said political reforms such as the abolition of the Lords were fundamental to the redrawing of the British economy. “The driving force of the report is this sense that politics is broken and the economy is broken and we need to fix both parts,” he said.

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