In an exclusive poll for the Property Chronicle Electoral Calculus and pollster Find Out Now ran an MRP regression poll on how people attitude to property development in their own neighbourhood.
The Government has announced plans to make it easier to build new homes, which has attracted some controversy both within and without the Conservative party. Former leader Iain Duncan Smith has argued against "unwanted and unwarranted development". But what do the public think? Do they want more homes and lower house prices, or are they happy as things are?
To find out, Electoral Calculus and pollster Find Out Now conducted an exclusive poll of public opinion for the Property Chronicle. In the first part of the poll we asked over 1,000 people what they thought of the idea of building more homes with the aim of lowering house prices and making homes more affordable. Because people are often in favour of that as an abstract ideal, we asked them particularly about their own neighbourhood and if they wanted to see more development there. This allows people to express their own degree of nimbyism.
The results show a country which is starkly divided on this question.
Overall 32pc of people agreed or agreed strongly that more new homes should be built near them, but 31pc disagreed or disagreed strongly. Within the poll's margin of error, that is a dead heat. A further 37pc were neutral or unsure.
We also asked a follow-up question about whether people were in favour of more development elsewhere across the country. This was much more popular, with 49pc in favour and 17pc against, and 34pc neutral or undecided. But this is probably misleading as to pro-development sentiment. For any actual development, the people who care will be those who live locally. So people's attitudes to local development are the most important.
Our poll also shows which groups of people tend to take one side or the other. Of those who already own their own homes (with or without a mortgage loan), there was a net 13pc against more building and lower house prices. However those in private or social rented housing were in favour of more building by a net 30pc.
There was also relative support for development from younger voters, and from those living in London (particularly), Scotland, the North East and the East Midlands, those in areas with lower house prices, working-class voters, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, and those who voted Remain in the EU referendum.
There was relative opposition from Conservative voters (strongly), those living in the South and East of England, older voters, professionals, Leave voters and those living in higher house-price areas.
Much of this is to be expected. Those already established with a good home of their own are not enthusiastic for more building and lower prices. But those who are younger or not so fortunate think that action needs to be taken.
The Conservative government has a delicate situation to manage. If they do nothing, they worry that a perpetual 'generation rent' may fail to evolve into property-owning Conservatives like their predecessors. This concern suggests that more home building is a political investment to harvest future votes. But their current Conservative and Leave voters are not really in favour of building. How can the government keep both constituencies on board?
To explore this, we also conducted a more sophisticated additional poll. This uses newer statistical techniques, called MRP or regression methods. They have the advantage both of being a bit more accurate, and also of giving much more detailed geographic granularity. In other words, you can estimate what people in each local area think about a particular question. In our case, this shows at fine geographic detail, which areas support or oppose more home building.
We ran one of these regression polls exclusively for the Property Chronicle, which asked the same questions as our initial poll. The second poll had a larger sample of over 9,400 people taken across the whole country.
The map shows our estimates at a district council ward level, of where supporters and opponents of development live. Supportive areas are shown in green (darker green meaning more supportive), and opposition areas are shown in red (darker meaning more opposed). Neutral areas are shown in yellow.
We can see that support for local development is in London, South Wales, Scotland and crucially parts of the 'Red Wall' areas and the West Midlands. The 'Red Wall' includes areas around Manchester, South Yorkshire, Sunderland and Teesside, which are Conservative strategic targets.
This may explain why the government's plans for development include 'zoning' some areas of the country for development, and others for protection. Here's one fairly safe prediction: expect the development areas to include those parts of the country which are favourable to more home building, and are Conservative target areas. And don't expect much pushing for new development in the leafy shires of southern England.
Our polling shows that the country is divided on the important question of whether to build more homes to increase supply to the housing market. But it also shows how support or opposition breaks down by demographic group. And crucially, the regression polling shows how support is distributed in different areas of the country. Tools like regression polling can be very useful to central and local governments as well as to developers to show where local support for potential development might be.
For the first poll, Find Out Now interviewed on 18-19 May 2021 a sample of 1,090 GB adults which was weighted to be nationally representative by gender, age, social grade, area, housing tenure and political characteristics. The regression poll was based on the same initial interviews plus additional interviews, giving a total sample size of 9,433 GB adults taken over the same dates.
Find Out Now is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.