Rural voters want change from next Prime Minister

A major survey of rural voters on the Conservative Party leadership contest has revealed deep frustration in rural areas.

Over 3,000 people took part in the online survey between 7-17 June. This has been the only national survey of rural opinion on the Conservative Party leadership contest.

The survey of Countryside Alliance members and supporters found that only 8.5% of people think that life in the countryside has improved in the last 5 years, and only 30% of people think the Conservative Party understands rural Britain.

One of the central tasks facing the next Prime Minister will be delivering Brexit. The survey found that less than 5% of people think that the interests of rural communities have been promoted in the Brexit process so far, highlighting what Countryside Alliance said to be, “the need to give greater importance to rural areas in the latest stage of the Brexit negotiations.”

Delivering a new agricultural policy emerged as the top priority for the next Prime Minister in the survey, followed by tackling crime and anti-social behaviour, and addressing the housing crisis in rural areas. Digital connectivity was a close fourth place.

The survey also found that 84% of people think it is important for the next Prime Minister to recognise the importance of hunting, shooting, and fishing to rural communities.

Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, commented: “These results should be a wake-up call for the Conservative Party and the leadership candidates. The rural vote cannot be taken for granted and the next Prime Minister must set out a clear vision for rural Britain which aims to close the gaps with urban areas in opportunities, services, and public spending.

“The next Prime Minister must implement a sea change of thinking in government by ‘rural proofing’ all policies to ensure they are appropriate for people who live and work in the countryside and set out a rural strategy for England, as recommended by a recent report from the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee.

“The fact that such a large number of people think it is important for the next Prime Minister to recognise the value of hunting, shooting, and fishing to rural communities shows that country sports are still integral to the rural way of life and a cornerstone for the economic and social life of some of our most rural communities.”

Rural communities are in a state of disenfranchisement with mainstream politics generally. Only roughly 8% of voters felt the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats understand rural Britain. 

The Conservatives’ 30% approval rating, while higher, still suggests that the rural communities of Britain are dissatisfied with the party historically viewed as most closely linked with the countryside and the rural way of life. 

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