Are traditional party loyalties no longer so vital to voters?

Are traditional voting loyalties evaporating?

Are traditional voting loyalties evaporating?

Many people have already said this election is different from any other they have seen – for me the key feature is the loosening of traditional party ties.

I’ve spoken to many people who tell me this time they are voting in a pragmatic way – not necessarily for the party they think has the right philosophy or the right policies overall, but for the party they think will be best for them in 2015.

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a businessman who I know to have basically Conservative views. He told me, quite unprompted, that he would be voting Labour this time.

He said: “I’m a Tory, but my business would be in serious trouble if we pulled out of the EU. I’m worried that whatever the prime minister says a referendum will see us pulling out – and I can’t risk that.”

Interestingly he added: “I’d like to see the coalition continue, but there’s no point in voting Liberal in a general election around here.”

A commuter I know told me she would be breaking the habit of a lifetime and voting Conservative because she didn’t trust Labour policies on the rail line: “Ben Gummer is the first MP who has made the railway a priority – and as I spend 12 hours a week on the trains that’s pretty important to me,” she said.

What I’m not hearing is the fairly common mantra at this time: “I’ve always been a Tory/Labour/Liberal voter, but never again!”

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This time I’m hearing people saying they are very much voting on specific issues. They are clued in to what is happening – and when the next general election comes around their vote will be up in the air yet again.

You always get floating voters in elections, people who make up their mind at the last minute. But this year it feels different – there seem to be a lot more politically aware people out there who are making up their mind on issues and don’t feel that their loyalty to any one party or political philosophy should determine their vote.

And there are more people who seem keen to talk about their vote – and the thought process they’re going through.

I spoke to one former council officer who told me he felt the economy was doing well and the current government had done a good job generally – but couldn’t vote for them because his work with a foodbank had shown him how there were more people living in extreme poverty than there had been in the past.

All these conversations suggest to me that the parties have a tough job on their hands this year. Yes, there are their die-hard supporters and there are the traditional floating voters.

But there are also those looking out for specific issues who may have already made up their minds about those issues – and I’m not sure any amount of campaigning will influence them now.

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