Home > Analysis, Electoral Reform > Voting Patterns in Devon

Voting Patterns in Devon

This post has been requested by @lonleywanderer , but it will be different from the original link. There is quite a bit of statistics so please bear with me.

The 2010 General Election produced, what amounted to, a hung parliament and Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition. What Devon alone created was, as good as, a Conservative majority.

The size of the electorate for Devon is 871,144, the proportion of the electorate that voted was 601,300 producing a turnout of 69.02%. This is a pretty good turnout considering turnout across the County varied quite a lot. Turnout is noticeably higher in rural/semi-rural constituencies where the highest turnout, for the County, was Devon Central with 75.66%. The lowest turnout, for the County, was Plymouth Moor View with 61.74%.

The highest turnout in an urban area was Exeter with 67.72%. The lowest turnout in a rural/semi-rural area was Devon North with 68.88%.

The reasons behind the variations in turnout are many and I will list a few. Rural areas, in Devon, tend to have a higher proportion of elderly voters compared to urban areas which tend to have a higher young population. Statistically speaking the elderly are more likely to vote than the young. If you think of any more reasons feel free to add them in the comments section.

The share of the vote across Devon is as follows:

Conservative – 43.05%

Liberal Democrat – 33.08%

Labour – 14.79%

UKIP – 6.17%

Green – 1.57%

Others – 1.34%

(I chosen the above five parties because they put up candidates in all twelve constituencies.)

As one can tell the Conservatives reign superior in Devon, as Devon is a largely rural County that relies upon Agriculture, Agricultural Industry and Tourism – all of which the Conservatives are trusted in maintaining.

The Liberal Democrats are second in the race, and a fairly close second at that. Despite the current arrangements at Westminster – the Liberal Democrats, for Devon, are the tolerable choice for those that do not agree with Conservatism. The Liberal Democrats are largely good for rural Devon – mediating the differences between the interests of urban and rural areas (I exclude Exeter and Plymouth from this analysis), a joke about fence sitting springs to mind…but that would largely untrue in Devon.

Labour does not really exist in Devon and is confined to the urban areas of Plymouth and Exeter. There is an increase in the poll for Labour in constituencies that abut the Urban constituencies but the biggest polling outside of Exeter and Plymouth is 12.42% in Devon South West – which is nearly Plymouth anyway.

UKIP is a distant Fourth place across the County but occasionally becomes the third party in some constituencies such as Devon North where it overtook Labour (5.2%) with 7.25% or Devon West & Torridge.

The Greens do not poll well at all in Devon with their biggest polling being Totnes with 2.47%.

The biggest Conservative poll was Devon South West with 55.97%. The Liberal Democrats biggest poll was Devon North with 47.36%. Labour’s biggest poll was Exeter with 38.17%. UKIPs biggest poll was Devon East with 8.19%. As mentioned earlier, the Green’s biggest poll was 2.47% in Totnes.

If PR was introduced across the County the Conservatives would have gained 5 seats, instead of 8. The Liberal Democrats would have gained 4 seats, instead of 2 admittedly they did lose 1 seat. Labour would have gained 2 seats, which they did, and UKIP would have gained 1, instead of none.

(PR is an assumed distribution of seats in relation to votes cast across the county regardless of political boundaries – no actual PR system used. I am lazy in that aspect.)

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  1. Peter Randall
    May 14, 2010 at 16:52

    Quite telling that Exeter accounted for a little over one-fifth of Labour’s total vote in Devon. Looking at the electoral map shows that the story of the election is how the Conservatives failed to make significant gains in urban areas – see for example Labour holding on to first place in London. If the Conservatives were going to win a majority then they needed to pick up cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester. So I’m going to ask my knowledgeable colleagues, what about the Conservatives means they appeal less to urban-dwellers than Labour?

  2. May 14, 2010 at 17:48

    Brilliant. Thanks so much for doing this, Ust. Very helpful to have.

    In relation to your question about turnout, I wonder if there’s a higher incidence of postal voting in rural areas? But I think you’re probably right about age being the major factor.

    It’s probably worth reiterating Ryan Cullen’s caveats about the difficulty of translating FPTP to PR.

    For example, I would guess that Labour would pick up many more votes with (say) STV, because there would no longer be any need for voters in seats where Labour is currently a distant third to vote tactically for the LibDems.

    On the other hand, I can also imagine that the Greens would pick up many more first preference votes, perhaps enough for a seat. It’s difficult to tell given our current system.

    And who knows which parties might do well out of redistributed 2nd or 3rd preference votes? The Tories might do well out of UKIP voters.

    However, I think there’s a fairly clear point to be made: It’s not fair that Tories currently gain two-thirds of the seats, with less than half the votes.

  1. May 14, 2010 at 16:42

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