Labour and Tory voters 'disgusted' by one another

The levels of contempt and disgust expressed by citizens towards those who vote differently from them are terrifying
- Professor Michael Bruter
Protest Angry
I'm so angry I made a sign Caroline Gunston, Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A new survey finds UK citizens hold extremely negative attitudes about the atmosphere of the UK general election and show high levels of hostility towards politicians, parties and other voters.

The results were part of the fourth wave of the Hostility Barometer conducted in the run up to Thursday’s UK General Election by The Electoral Psychology Observatory at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and insight agency Opinium.

Full Findings

  • UK citizens believe the atmosphere of the 2019 General Election is best described as frustrating (66%), uncertain (65%), divisive (62%) and hostile (60%). 
  • By contrast, only 13% of citizens characterise the atmosphere of the election as pleasant and 15% as friendly. 
  • Citizens tend to hold very negative feelings towards those voting for parties that they dislike. For instance, 48% of Conservative voters say that they feel some disgust towards Labour voters, 49% some contempt and 57% feel distrust. 
  • Conversely, 65% of those intending to vote Labour and 57% of those planning to vote Liberal Democrat feel angry towards Conservative voters. Sixty-eight per cent and 51% respectively feel disgust towards those Conservative voters. 
  • The levels of hostility expressed by citizens also threaten the way people live together. Twenty-three per cent of those intending to vote Conservative could imagine insulting someone because they are voting Labour. 
  • This is even more obvious in the other direction with 38% of those intending to vote Labour who could imagine insulting someone because they are voting for the Conservative party. Twenty-five per cent of citizens intending to vote Labour would also refrain from inviting people for dinner if they knew them to be Conservative voters. 

‘Frustrating’ and ‘poisonous’

Commenting on the barometer results, Dr Sarah Harrison, Deputy Director of LSE’s Electoral Psychology Observatory (EPO) said,The verdict of young British citizens towards the state of electoral democracy is severe. With nearly two-thirds finding the atmosphere of this week’s election ‘frustrating’ and nearly half describing it as ‘poisonous’, this is an entire generation feeling disappointed by democracy before they even get a chance to shape it”

James Endersby, CEO of Opinium said: “Our joint Hostility Barometer with EPO shows that voters are very negative about the atmosphere of the current election, as we appear to be growing further apart from one another rather than coming closer together. We look forward to continuing to monitor the state of electoral hostility across the UK and in the US in our joint EPO-Opinium Hostility Barometer.”

Professor Michael Bruter, Director of EPO at LSE said: “The levels of contempt and disgust expressed by citizens towards those who vote differently from them are terrifying. It shows that across the political spectrum the toxicity of electoral politics now affects the relationship between citizens themselves, and the way they interact on a daily basis.”

The full Hostility Barometer data tables are available to download via


Behind the article

The Hostility Barometer consists of 6-10 questions and runs approximately 8 times a year. It tracks levels of hostility amongst British citizens, perceptions of electoral atmosphere, levels of democratic frustration as well as their expectations about the future. The Barometer will also be launched in the US in coming months.

 Wave 4 of the Hostility Barometer was run 26-28 November 2019 with a sample of 2,006 UK adults (weight to be nationally representative) using an online questionnaire.

The Electoral Psychology Observatory at LSE is directed by Professor Michael Bruter and Dr Sarah Harrison. The team leads the “Age of Hostility” project which conceptualised and modelled electoral hostility and develops unique measures to capture it in 27 countries. The team also studies the atmosphere of elections, democratic frustration, the psychology of voters, and the experience of first time voters. Further information can be found on

Opinium is an award winning strategic insight agency built on the belief that in a world of uncertainty and complexity, success depends on the ability to stay on pulse of what people think, feel and do. Creative and inquisitive, we are passionate about empowering our clients to make the decisions that matter. We work with organisations to define and overcome strategic challenges – helping them to get to grips with the world in which their brands operate. We use the right approach and methodology to deliver robust insights, strategic counsel and targeted recommendations that generate change and positive outcomes. Further information can be found on