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Authoritarian Conservative backers ‘a breed apart’ on range of issues

The report found Tory members are significantly more authoritarian than other party backers.

More than half of Conservatives back the death penalty as punishment for some serious crimes, a major study of political activists has found.

Academics have branded Tories a “breed apart” after research laid bare stark differences between the party’s supporters on a range of issues and Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP backers.

Conservative members also appear to be the most disillusioned about how they are treated by the leadership, according to Grassroots: Britain’s Party Members, published by the Mile End Institute at Queen Mary University of London.

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Tim Bale, professor of politics, said: “Britain’s party members are the lifeblood and the footsoldiers of our democracy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they look like or think like their parties’ voters – or, indeed, look or think like each other.

“The Tory grassroots in particular are something of a breed apart from their Labour, Lib Dem and SNP counterparts.”

The report found Tory members are significantly more authoritarian than other party backers, with 54% in favour of the death penalty, compared to 23% of SNP supporters, 9% of Labour activists and 8% of Lib Dem backers.

Some 84% of Conservatives believe schools should teach children to obey authority, while 38% of SNP and Lib Dem members backed such a move and 31% of Labour members.

Just four in 10 support same-sex marriage, while at least eight of 10 members of other parties support the reforms, according to the report, which was based on polling by YouGov.

Only one in 10 Conservatives believe austerity has gone too far compared to 98% of Labour members, 93% of SNP supporters and 75% of Lib Dems.

On Brexit, nine out of 10 members of the other parties want the UK to remain in the single market, but only a quarter of grassroot Tories support that option.

Just 28% of Conservatives believe they have a significant say on policy compared to three quarters of Lib Dems and SNP members and 61% of Labour members, and were less likely to have stepped up campaigning for their party during recent elections.

Tory members “did less on almost every count than their counterparts in other parties” to help their party during the election and the difference was “particularly marked” for use of social media, the report said.

“That said, the Tories can take some comfort from the fact that they were, to all intents and purposes, on a par with Labour when it came to canvassing and reminding voters to vote, as well as when it came to delivering leaflets,” it adds.

“The Lib Dems will be glad to know that they are still very much the top dogs when it comes to pushing leaflets through our letterboxes.”

:: 4,117 members of the four parties were surveyed shortly after the 2017 general election

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