Conservative and Labour voters more likely to support death penalty than their MPs, study reveals

 Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (left) and Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer during filming for the BBC One current affairs programme The Andrew Marr Show at New Broadcasting House in London.
The parties of Boris Johnson, left, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have different views to their voters. (PA)

British voters are far less liberal when it comes to social issues than the MPs who represent them, a study has found.

The Mind The Values Gap survey, carried out by pollsters Ipsos Mori for the UK In A Changing Europe think tank, revealed there is a considerable gulf in views between politicians and the public.

Researchers questioned more than 15,000 people to examine the values of the two main parties’ members, MPs and voters.

There was a wide discrepancy between the public and MPs on the issue of capital punishment.

While not one Labour MP said they supported the death penalty, 11% of its party members were in favour of it, as well as a sizeable 31% of its voters.

Two-thirds of Conservative voters back the death penalty for some crimes, the survey said, compared to just 21% of its MPs.

Last year, an exclusive poll by Yahoo News found that a third of Tory MPs want to bring back the death penalty.

Voters are not as liberal as their representatives, the poll found (UK in a Changing Europe)
Voters are not as liberal as their representatives, the poll found. (UK In A Changing Europe)

The UK In A Changing Europe study also found a significant gap between Tory supporters and their party’s leadership when it comes to the economy, with MPs having much more right-wing economic values.

When asked if there is one law for the rich and one for the poor, just 5% of Tory MPs and 22% of members agreed, compared to 58% of Conservative-voting public.

And the same percentage of Tory voters (58%) believe “management will always try to get the better of employees if it gets the chance”, a view held by only 5% of Conservative MPs.

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The research found that MPs and members from both main parties are more socially liberal than their voters.

About a quarter of Labour MPs and members agree there is a need for tougher sentences for people who break the law, but that is a long way behind the 53% of the party’s voters who believe the same.

Almost one in ten (9%) of Labour MPs said young people don’t have enough respect for traditional British values, but this rose to 46% among Labour voters.

When asked the same question, 44% of Conservative MPs said young people do not respect traditional British values, far behind the 85% of its voters who also agreed.

MPs and their constituents have differing views on a range of issues (UK in a Changing Europe)
MPs and their constituents have differing views on a range of issues. (UK In A Changing Europe)

The think tank said the results of its survey indicated challenges ahead for Boris Jonson.

Professor Anand Menon, director of UK in a Changing Europe, said: “The Labour and Conservative parties clearly have an interest in focusing political debates on very different issues.

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“For the former, values are a way of holding their coalition together, while continuing to appeal to 2019 Labour-Tory switchers. For Labour, the focus must be on economic policy, not least given intra-party divisions on values issues.”

Philip Cowley, professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, said: “The fact Conservative MPs so strongly reject widespread perceptions of structural unfairness hints at the challenge the Johnson government will face if the shock of COVID-19 triggers public demand for economic redistribution and reform.

“If a sense ‘there is one law for the rich and one for the poor’ begins to take hold, then the gap between Conservative Party people and voters could prove deeply problematic for the Johnson government.”