Anti-austerity protest in Dublin, October 2013. Image: Tony Webster.
Anti-austerity protest in Dublin, October 2013. Image: Tony Webster.

We shouldn’t ever put too much weight on the findings of a single poll. However, there’s some very interesting stuff in here about why people voted the way they did on May 7th.

54% of voters want an end to the Government’s austerity measures – including more than half of UKIP voters and even 1 in 6 Tory voters(!). This matches with other recent polls that have shown support for austerity steadily falling since 2010.

So how have we ended up with a Government that will now try to push through even harsher cuts and privatisation? The first-past-the-post voting system is the reason why the Tories have a majority on just 37% of the vote, but the deeper problem seems to be that many simply trusted the Conservatives more on the economy. When asked their top three reasons for voting Tory on Thursday, only 49% of Conservative voters said that the party’s promises (i.e. their policies) were a significant reason. In other words, half of Tory voters thought that other factors were more important than policies – they just trusted the party more in general, or preferred Cameron over Miliband as Prime Minister.

I find this both depressing and encouraging, in different ways. The depressing bit is that the Tories have managed – with the help of the corporate media – to set the terms of the debate, present themselves as generally more trustworthy than the other parties, and persuade a lot of people that – whatever you might think of their specific policies – they’re just “safer” to vote for when it comes to the economy, jobs and so on (despite the fact that in reality they’re actively destroying these things). Many seem to believe they were helping improve conditions for the vulnerable and defending the NHS by voting Conservative, because however bad things were now, a Labour (or Labour/SNP) government would be worse. This is unbelievably frustrating, but does mean that not all Tory voters are necessarily cruel and heartless; many are just misinformed. Not that a Labour government would have been *that* much better, but still.

The encouraging bit is that Thursday’s vote didn’t represent the ringing endorsement of austerity that the Tories will now pretend that it did. This is important, because it means that when we take to the streets, the picket lines and the occupations to fight back against against the horrific cuts and privatisations that the Tories are about to throw at us, we know we have the support of the majority behind us. More than half of voters – including 83% of Labour voters, 54% of UKIP voters and even a sixth of Tory voters – want austerity to stop. If we include all the non-voters in the equation, the majority against austerity is probably much higher.

The scariest poll result is that 41% of voters put “controlling immigration” as one of their top three priorities for the country, and 29% even believe it is one of the top three issues affecting themselves and their family. To change this, we’ll need to get out of the echo chamber of social media and into our communities, finding ways to support people who are struggling and to challenge the creeping racism and xenophobia being whipped up by politicians and the media. If we want a different sort of government (rather than a choice between Tory and Tory-lite), we need to start building the kind of society that we want to see. Start by changing people’s hearts and minds, challenging the media lies, building new hopeful narratives and supporting each other, and the politics will follow.

See you out there folks… xxx