Stack Hub

Segmentation and social housing

What are the different views of Britain's political tribes on social housing?

The cost of living has risen up the political and media agenda in recent months, as the rate of inflation increases and forces energy and food bills up. Housing costs have also played their part, with house prices continuing to grow throughout the pandemic.

Over the past year, Stack Data Strategy has worked with the Centre for Social Justice to understand one part of this puzzle; the role that social housing can play in providing families a home that they can afford, and which is of high quality.

To understand attitudes towards this question, Stack polled a representative sample of 5,000 individuals to understand their views on housing, social housing, and the type of policies the government should pursue.

Social housing is part of solving the housing crisis

The vision of Britain as a property-owning democracy is alive and well, and being an owner-occupier remains the goal of most Brits. However, given rising rents, social housing is viewed as much more preferable, with a particular emphasis on its permanence, how long-lasting it is, and its affordability.

Figure 1: All responses to the question: ‘What do you think the primary goal in housing policy should be?’


In short, Brits are increasingly aware of those who can fall through the gaps of the current housing system, and view social housing as an option for those who have fallen on hard times, and who are unable to afford basic housing.

There’s a path to building more, but it’s complicated

Amongst supporters of all political parties there is net support for the building of more social housing to be a priority. The more affordability was emphasised, the more support tended to increase.

The difference in political opinion comes on the question of borrowing - Conservatives generally are more wary of borrowing to fund social housing, and tend to think of it as primarily a local responsibility, whilst supporters of other parties tend to think the government should take a stronger role. However, even within the Conservative party this view is not uniform, and within parties there are significant differences in opinion. 

Stack’s approach to segmentation

To understand this, Stack conducted a segmentation of the British public, using ‘spoke’ questions to identify their underlying attitudes and beliefs. 

These questions are designed to tease apart the attitudinal tribes in British politics, testing their views on issues such as the level of foreign aid spending that they supported, their views on different social issues, and their overall preferences on the size and scope of the state. 

These views are then used to determine the faultlines of UK politics; economic and social liberalism, and how each of our respondents fell across that political spectrum. This distribution is shown below, and from it we could determine the different tribes that make up British politics.

Figure 2: All responses to the question: ‘What do you think the primary goal in housing policy should be?’

The results for the Conservative party were most interesting; the results showed that the majority of its coalition split between “Shire Tories” - who were mostly opposed to developing new social housing, and “New Conservatives” who had recently switched to supporting the party and were much more in favour of higher spending, including on social housing.

Running Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP) - a process for determining the geographic distribution of different opinions or groups, showed that these groups were concentrated in extremely different places, with “New Conservatives” more prominent in swing seats and the “Red Wall”, whilst “Shire Tories” were, unsurprisingly, concentrated in safer rural Conservative seats.

Much has been made recently about how the Conservative party keeps voters who newly switched to it onboard at the next election. The use of these techniques to segment the UK population and map their views can provide vital insight into such questions and, for the first time in a long while, social housing may be part of the answer.

You can read the Centre for Social Justice's report here.