It's plain to see that the Conservative party has a youth problem. Millennials are turning away from the party in their droves. But what is actually causing this dire Tory performance among young voters? There are eight reasons, any of which on their own would present a problem. Together, their combination is creating a conveyor belt towards oblivion for the party.
Part of the reason why youngsters are not voting Tory can be explained by the higher number of them who come from an ethnic minority. Only two in 100 voters aged 85 or over are black or ethnic minority; this compares to around 20 per cent of those aged 29 or under. Such voters tend not to back the Tories. So part of the reason why the age curve – which shows that old voters opt for the Tories, but younger voters don't – is simply a consequence of the changing ethnic make-up of Brits.
The Tories have Tony Blair to thank for the second factor behind their current difficult situation. The expansion of higher education under New Labour has dramatically shifted the life outcomes, values, debt levels and world views of different generations in a way which makes them less likely to vote for the Conservatives. Almost the entire difference in propensity to vote by age in the EU referendum is explained by education levels and qualification. A similar split also determines which party such voters are likely to back at the ballot box come election time.
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That young people are increasingly being drawn to cities should be another concern for the Tories. Small towns end up gutted of their working age population; those left behind see little reason to be optimistic about the future, making them unlikely to vote for a party that has presided over this downturn. This failure to create rural opportunity has political consequences. And for those who move to the city, living in urban areas has demonstrable effects on long-term voting patterns, shifting them to the left.
A big driver of voting Conservative is home ownership. So the growing gap between house prices and wages ratio – which has left many unable to get on the property ladder – is another clear driver of support for Labour away from the Conservatives. You can get a good steer on the long term Tory fortunes between 2010-2017 by each seat by looking at average house price versus income ratios. The higher the ratio, the worse the Tory performance.
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A further problem is how tuition fees are coming back to bite the Tories in an unexpected way. Their introduction was, of course, the turnkey for collapse in Lib Dem support. This helped David Cameron in 2015. But in the long term it has decoupled 25 per cent of the electorate (who are disproportionately young) from their political anchoring. By 2017, many of them jumped on the Jeremy Corbyn bandwagon.
The financial crash in 2008 has also given Jeremy Corbyn a boost by dramatically altering views on capitalism. Where past generations had the Winter of Discontent or the fall of the Berlin wall as their lodestar, this new generation has corrupt banks, tax-dodging companies, and soaring fat cat pay as their formative political context. Corbyn's pitch inevitably goes down well with such an audience; and the Tories are offering little in response to those still unhappy about the fallout from the downturn.
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Brexit is the seventh big problem for the Tories. Put simply, young people do not like Britain's withdrawal from the EU. The Conservative party is becoming the party of Brexit and so young people are increasingly turning against the Tories. Just six per cent of 18-24 and 18 per cent of 25-49 think that no deal is a good outcome for the UK. Even if the Tories do manage to ensure a smooth Brexit, it is unlikely that younger voters will thank them for it.
Finally, its almost always Tory MPs who stand against progressive issues, such as assisted dying or same-sex marriage. These are ethical and political propositions disproportionately supported by the young. In time, they will be backed by the majority of society. And the Tories will be left stuck in the past.
James Kanagasooriam helped run the data strategy for the Scottish Conservatives 2015-17. He now sits on the board of centre-right think tank Onward and is a management consultant at OC&C