• More than half of Conservative Party members oppose gay marriage and support the death penalty, academic research finds.
  • There is a significant gulf between Conservative Party members and those of other parties on social issues.
  • Conservatives “are something of a breed apart,” according to Professor Tim Bale.

LONDON – Conservative Party members are a “breed apart” from the loyal followers of other UK political parties on issues like the death penalty, same-sex marriage, and education, according to new research.

Academics at the Queen Mary University of London have found that a card-carrying Tory is much more likely to hold authoritarian views compared to Labour members and those of the Liberal Democrats.

The polling, published on Thursday, is the biggest ever into the views of British political party members. It is based on responses from over 1,000 members of each party since the June snap election.

The findings suggest that future Conservative leadership hopefuls from the moderate wing of the party, such as Ruth Davidson, could have a tough time trying to woo the membership, who ultimately crown the leader.

The research found that:

  • 59% of Conservative members do not support gay marriage. Over 80% of members in Labour, Lib Dems and the SNP support it.
  • 54% of Tory members support the death penalty. On the other hand, just 9% of Labour members, 8% of Lib Dems, and 23% of SNP members do.
  • An overwhelming majority of Conservative members (84%) believe schools should focus on teaching kids to obey authority. Just 31% of Labour members and 38% of Lib Dems and SNP members agree.
  • And 44% support the censorship of the media in the name of "upholding moral standards," which is significantly more than members of the other parties.

The results also exposed a huge gulf between Conservative members and the rest on the issue of austerity.

Just 11% felt that austerity measures had gone too far, compared to 98% of Labour members, 93% of SNP members, and 75% of Lib Dems.

"The Tory grassroots, in particular, are something of a breed apart from their Labour, Lib Dem, and SNP counterparts," Professor Tim Bale said.

It goes some way to explaining why Jacob Rees-Mogg, a socially conservative backbench Brexiteer, has been a popular choice among Conservative members to be a future leader in recent opinion polls. Mogg opposes gay marriage and abortion.

Tory members want a hard Brexit

On Brexit alone there were major differences in general opinion. Just 14% of Tory members want Britain to remain in the single market and customs union, commonly described as a "soft" Brexit.

However, 87% of Labour members want to stay in the single market and 85% want to remain part of the customs union.

Some 14% of Tories believe there should be a nationwide referendum on a final Brexit deal, compared to 78% of Labour members.