Hidden Electorate Uncovered

13 Sept 23

Hidden Electorate Uncovered

New research from the Nuffield Politics Research Centre (NPRC) in collaboration with the Resolution Foundation has identified "family fortunes voters". The group is estimated to represent 17% of the overall electorate (people aged 40+ with younger relatives that are also struggling financially) and shows more support for state investment in childcare, education, and housing, and less support for the Conservatives.

The research, Family Matters: How concerns for younger relatives bridge generational divides, is based on insights from the first in-depth inter-generationally focused political survey of its kind. Designed by the NPRC, the survey asked more than 6,000 adults about living standards both current and future, financial security, the financial situation of family members, and their support for different political parties and policies.

Findings suggest that older generations concerned about younger family members who are struggling financially could be motivated in the next general election to support policies that help out the young. This includes free vocational education and childcare, as well as more affordable housing in their local area.

With a majority of the under 40s believing they will have a worse living standard over their lifetime than that of their parents, a majority of over 40s recognise the young are worse-off financially, and support policies aimed at young adults, even at the cost of higher taxes.

Dr Zack Grant, study author, Nuffield Politics Research Centre, Oxford, said:

‘Understanding the newly identified "family fortunes voters" group, which make up almost 1-in-6 people in the electorate, goes some way to challenging common views about political conflict between the generations. This substantial “hidden electorate” looks set to reward parties that improve the living standards of their loved ones, and reject those that do not.’ 

Professor Jane Green, co-author, Director of the Nuffield Politics Research Centre, Oxford, said:

Our findings should act as a warning to the Conservatives. Through a combination of family connection, concern and heightened awareness for younger family members’ economic experiences, substantial proportions of the older generation are aware of the economic disparities being felt across generations and are motivated to support policies that do something about them.’

Sophie Hale, Principal Economist at the Resolution Foundation, said:

Resolution Foundation research has highlighted the younger generations' struggle with insecurity at work and at home, along with decades of low pay growth and high housing costs. Exacerbated by the pandemic and recent cost of living crisis, these issues will loom large in the minds of younger voters. That doesn't mean they don't matter to older people though, many of whom have concerns about struggling younger family members, and are keen to see policies that will help them become financially secure. This intergenerational solidarity should put more pressure on politicians to address these issues.’

The report includes several important considerations for political parties and policy-makers seeking to craft greater intergenerational consensus in politics, for example:

  • The Conservatives may suffer a “double penalty” from rising costs of living and increasing economic insecurity among older adults; both through those voters own concerns and also through their concerns for younger close family members

  • Support is greater for initiatives that fund vocational and technical education and affordable housing than for university funding, and greater still if older adults have close younger family members who are financially struggling

  • While support for younger generations is evident, this would likely diminish if politicians or campaigners use accusatory tone, language, or blame on older generations

  • Responding and appealing to familial concerns is likely a fruitful way to generate intergenerational consensus for policies that advance prospects for younger generations


For more information please read the full report.


This research is funded by an Innovation Grant provided by the British Academy.