Red Wall Realists: the most politically important group of this Election Cycle
In March 2020, KSBR was commissioned by Unchecked UK to find out how first time Conservative voters in Red Wall constituencies feel about regulations, and how they might be convinced of the need to defend them.
The so-called ‘Red Wall’ is a group of constituencies which have historically been safe Labour seats, but switched to the Conservatives in the 2019 election. This makes these former Labour voters hugely important to anyone trying to influence government policy.
We focused on two constituencies - West Bromwich East and Heywood & Middleton - and designed a programme of research that would engage stakeholders from organisations like The RSPB and Save the Children at every stage.
We started by getting the respondents to create ‘video selfies’ so we could immerse ourselves in their worlds, then used these as inputs to an online workshop (in which stakeholders were ‘paired’ with respondents), and tested the messages created in a series of Teleforums.
Meet the ‘Red Wall Realists’
What united everyone we met was a feeling that they live in the ‘real-world’ where it’s obvious there’s something special about Britain but that standards are slipping, big business isn’t playing by the rules, and there’s a been a loss of respect. The problem, as they see it, is that politicians don’t live in the real world and the political process is all about over-complicating things and avoiding action.
As has been found in other studies these ‘realists’ are distinct from both the ‘average’ Conservative or Labour voter, in that they are left-leaning economically but socially authoritarian – which united them ‘against’ Jeremy Corbyn, who they saw as the opposite of the strong, strict leader Britain needs, as well as someone who is unable – or unwilling – to see what could or should be ‘great’ about Great Britain.
Five ways of framing regulations
Although not ‘anti-regulation’ in the first place, we found that it was possible to make Red Wall Realists really care about specific rules and regulations by framing them as the doing five ‘jobs’
(1) Protecting me and others like me
(2) Upholding British high standards
(3) Levelling the playing field
(4) Enforcing respect and decency
(5) Educating others to live better
This means, for example, you can talk about the way that Brexit is putting essential food safety protections are under threat from big, profit-hungry American companies, or you can talk about the need to stop Britain’s high standards being undermined by sub-standard products like chlorinated chicken.
Over the coming months we’ll be doing further work in Red Wall constituencies to refine our understanding of this audience and explore how to engage Red Wall Realists with specific topics.
If you’d like to hear more about this project, or to arrange a meeting to hear more about our proposition development techniques, you can contact us here
Here’s what some of the stakeholders who were involved in the project had to say
“It was hugely valuable to be able to gain an insight into the views of this particular demographic […] I’m really hoping that Unchecked will be able to build on this work, as it has huge potential to develop our understanding and to inform advocacy”
Kate Jennings, RSPB
“The Teleforum was incredibly enlightening – it helped me get outside the ‘Westminster bubble’ and understand people’s perceptions and values. It provided insights that aren’t available elsewhere and has helped inform Green Alliance’s strategy and work.”
Belinda Gordon, Green Alliance
“I found these really really useful. It's already informed some thinking about messaging and political strategy for Clean up the Internet.”
David Babbs, Clean Up the Internet