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Politics and International RelationsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

A first in the study of voting behaviour

Published: 5 January 2021
Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte
Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte

Staff Matters spoke to Dr Stuart Turnbull-Dugarte, Lecturer in Political Science, who has recently published the first study of voting behaviour of LGBT+ voters in the UK.

Could you tell us about the significance of the study?

It’s the first study in the UK on the role that sexuality plays in shaping electoral choices. There had previously been a lack of data on this subject. Using data from more than 10,000 people we now have statistically reliable information from which we can draw important insights. Understanding the divergent political preferences of this under-studied subsection of the electorate is important as it signals to parties the need to cater to the preferences of a small, yet growing, proportion of their potential voters.

What are its key findings?

My analysis of what is called a ‘sexuality gap’ between heterosexual and self-identified lesbian, gay and bisexual voters, shows that a large majority of LGB voters support socially liberal parties. The Labour Party is the main beneficiary of this support. While the Liberal Democrats were early advocates of LGBT rights in the UK, evidence suggests that strategic concerns mean they don’t translate support into votes. Unfortunately for the Conservative Party, their modernisation strategy, which was triggered under the leadership of David Cameron, hasn’t provided inroads with this electoral demographic. Part of this failure can be attributed to the mixed messages sent by the Tories to LGBT voters: Cameron brought the Same-Sex Marriage Bill to the Commons but a majority of his own MPs voted against it and Same-Sex Marriage only became law on the back of Labour and Lib Dem support.   

The report is called ‘Who wins the British lavender vote?’ which can be seen as pejorative. What’s your view on this?

The term ‘lavender vote’ was coined by Hertzog in the first groundbreaking study undertaken in this area in the USA in 1996. The title of my study is a mark of recognition to that, but it’s not a term to use going forward.

What were your motivations for pursuing this area of study?

As both an undergraduate and postgraduate there was no research that asked this question so it was something that I decided to put right by asking the questions and doing the research!

Fig 1

Do you have plans for developing this work?

Yes, I have applied for funding to expand the research with a comparative analysis of western European countries. Italy could generate some interesting results.

You can follow Stuart on Twitter @turnbulldugarte

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