Whether there is still such a thing as “the Catholic vote” in UK elections is a moot point – no parties seem particularly keen to chase it, even if there is. Nevertheless, there are certainly millions of Catholic voters. Overall, self-identified Catholics add up to around 8 or 9 per cent of the population, though this varies from region to region. Significantly, some of the main battleground areas of Election 2019 – the so-called “Labour Leave” strongholds of the North and Midlands – also happen to coincide with several of the Church’s traditional heartlands. How Catholics vote may, therefore, have an important influence over this country’s political future.
My friend Dr Ben Clements, a political scientist at the University of Leicester, and I are currently working on a research project called “Catholics in Britain: Faith, Society, and Politics”, generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. One major part of this is a new, nationally representative survey of Britain’s Catholics, exploring all manner of things from demographics and social attitudes, to liturgical preferences and NFP usage. (Needless to say, Herald readers will be hearing much more about our findings in the fullness of time.) Our survey, with c. 1800 respondents, was administered by the leading polling organization ComRes during late-October and November.
Among the questions we asked were several about politics and voting behaviour. These included how respondents voted in the 2016 Referendum and the 2017 General Election, and how – “if there was a General Election tomorrow” – they would vote now. (The survey was designed before the Election was called, though the likelihood of there being one was widely discussed.) Of course, voting intentions can change over the course of a campaign, and perhaps especially in the run-up to Election Day itself. This survey wasn’t intended to be the kind of up-to-the-minute, lightning political poll we’ve become so used to seeing in the media.
That said, as a general guide to the “electoral mood” of Catholics in Northern England and the Midlands, Southern England, and Scotland (Northern Ireland isn’t part of our project; our Welsh subsample is too small to be usable here) the below graphs may perhaps be of some interest. Given the centrality of Brexit to this General Election, we’ve divvied the analyses up based on how people voted in the 2016 Referendum (‘Leave’, ‘Remain’, ‘Didn’t Vote’), then given a side-by-side comparison of how they voted in 2017 compared to how they’ve said they’ll vote in 2019.
We present them here without commentary. By all means offer your own on social media: join me on Twitter at @ssbullivant.