Peter Kellner: Business’s influence on electorate ‘more subtle’ than open letters

YouGov's chief pollster on the public's perception of business and likely election outcomes.

The electorate’s voting intentions in the General Election are most influenced by the indirect benefits of a strong business community, according to YouGov pollster Peter Kellner.

In an exclusive chat with Growth Business, Kellner said that open letters such as The Telegraph’s, which supposedly carried the support of 5,000 small business owners, have no tangible effect on the polls.

However, he said that people are influenced by what they see as the benefits to them of strong businesses and employers. This is despite the public’s view of business leaders remaining poor following the economic crash.

“Very few people out there are saying ‘we mustn’t upset business’ because people think they’re doing pretty well as it is,” he said.

“But there’s a more subtle point, which is if people think that one party or another will lead to people investing more or investing less; creating more or fewer jobs or paying lower or higher wages – you’ll have an instrumental judgement.”

This judgement would not be about “sympathy for business per se”, rather the parties’ effect on business behaviour and the knock-on influence on people’s daily lives, according to Kellner.

He went on to say that business leaders are largely torn over support for the main parties due to two diffuse business issues. Firstly there is “tax and regulation” on which the Conservatives are more trusted.

But business owners fear the UK leaving the EU and believe that Labour’s stance is more likely to mean this won’t happen, says Kellner.

On the wider election results, he believes that there will likely be a late swing to the incumbent party but this may still not be enough for Cameron to hold on to power.

“In the last few weeks every singe one of the YouGov polls has been within the accepted margin of error – showing only tiny Labour leads or tiny Conservative leads,” he said.

“Until two of three weeks ago I expected the Conservatives to be quite clearly ahead of Labour and probably to remain in power. I did expect a swing to the Conservatives to come earlier but that hasn’t happened.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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