There is no better way to understand the power of the values prism than by exploring the alignment of voting behaviour and values. If the values theory holds water, there should be a clear relationship between core beliefs and voting behaviour. There is.
Many commentators portray politics as a left right continuum with a centre point. But this cannot explain why, for example, some voters who believe in a more equal distribution of wealth shift from Labour to Ukip.
Using the values prism helps us understand the complete picture. One of the main findings from the analysis is that since 2008 the centre ground has not shifted significantly there are just fewer people on it. More people believe passionately in fairness, more are anxious about social change and crave security and stability and more people think there are too many welfare scroungers. It is therefore harder for any major political party to build a broad-based coalition.
All three main political parties have become astute at chasing Prospectors (the aspirant and pragmatic voter). They all get more support from this values group than you would expect if their support were spread evenly across all values groups. However, in different ways they find it harder to speak to the other two main values groups – Pioneers (focused on society and generally more post materialistic) and Settlers (focused on security, identity and belonging).
The Conservatives have always struggled to reach the Pioneers with the loudest values (those who care most about fairness). After wooing them before the 2010 election with compassionate Conservatism they are now pursuing a strategy based on a tough stance on immigration, welfare and the economy, which is designed to build support among Settlers and Prospectors, but is also pushing many Pioneers away.
During its time in office, Labour lost support among all values groups but they lost most support among Settlers. Today Labour has garnered the support of many former Liberal Democrat Pioneers but still struggles to speak to the Settler.
Who will win the next general election? Quite simply the party that successfully builds a values bridge to the values group where it currently underperform. For Labour this means talking convincingly to the Settler, who have becomes increasingly detached from their old tribal loyalties. Above all Settlers need to be convinced that Labour understands their concerns about immigration and to do this Labour must talk about immigration not just as an economic phenomenon but also as a social and cultural one.