England & Wales Press Releases

LGIU Statement: LGIU says “Voters’ confusion of polling ID adds to lack of local government understanding”

Today, the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) has published exclusive polling data from Ipsos on UK attitudes and understanding of local elections, the work of councillors and role of local government, ahead of the local elections on May 4, where, for the first time, it will be compulsory to show a form of photo ID at the polling station. 

According to the new Ipsos research, there remains some confusion over the type of ID accepted at polling stations, with only four days left to apply for a voter authority certificate (deadline April 25). Of those registered in areas where there are elections, 85% of adults aged 18-75 are most likely to bring a correct form of photo ID to vote: 55% are most likely to bring a driving licence and 27% most likely to bring a passport.  

On Friday 21 April at 10:00, LGIU’s State of the Locals election experts virtual panel will bring together political and local government experts to share their predictions and ones to watch ahead of the 2023 local elections, reflecting on this new and exclusive polling. Speakers include Keiran Pedley (Research Director, Ipsos UK), Dr Hannah Bunting (Lecturer in Quantitative British Politics) and Jonathan Carr-West (Chief Executive, LGIU). You can RSVP here.

However, the polling suggests voters are confused over what other forms of ID will be accepted: more than a third of English adults incorrectly think a student card will be accepted (37%); 30% incorrectly think their poll card will be accepted (rising to 42% of 18-34 year olds and half of ethnic minorities); Nearly a quarter incorrectly think a council tax bill will be accepted (23%) and 19% incorrectly think the same of a utility bill. 12% of voters are ‘most likely’ to bring some form of ID that wouldn’t be allowed. Conversely, only 22% of adults correctly believe a Blue Badge would be accepted.  

41% of respondents had heard not very much or nothing at all about new voter ID requirements being introduced for the upcoming local elections in England. Despite the confusion, overall, half (49%) of English adults support voters needing photographic ID to vote in future elections in the UK and a quarter (26%) are opposed.

The annual survey also delves into voters’ attitudes and understanding of local government. More than half of respondents consider local councils to have the most impact on the quality of life in local areas (56%), far above the Westminster Parliament (13%). However, a good majority of respondents lacked knowledge and awareness about how councils work and what councillors actually do with 61% of respondents saying they know not very much or nothing at all about the work of their local councillors.

Local councillors (46%) and local council (49%) were trusted more to work in the best interests of people in local areas than the UK government (32%) or local MPs (42%). However trust fell behind that of other non-political players: more trusted are police (59%), local community groups (69%) and local businesses (70%).

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGIU said: “Nearly two thirds of residents are unaware of the work of local councillors or how local democratic decisions are taken, and that number is increasing. After more than a decade of funding cuts, it is no surprise that councils are relentlessly focused on delivering essential public services like caring for the elderly, safeguarding vulnerable children and investing in housing. But we must continue to tell their story because if voters don’t understand it, they can’t support it.”

“In spite of a public awareness campaign, 41% of people have heard little or nothing about new voter ID requirements being introduced for the upcoming local elections in England. As we head into local elections, it is essential that the British public understands and has access to the correct forms of ID so they can harness the power of their vote.”

Ipsos Research Director, Keiran Pedley, said of the research: “These findings show that the public are more likely to support the changes than oppose them. However, with polling day around the corner, there is still clearly some confusion about which forms of ID will be accepted to allow people to vote. Just over one in ten say they are most likely to produce ID that is ineligible at the polling station. Although it should be stressed that this does not mean individuals will have no valid ID on them, so the potential impact on people’s ability to vote is as yet unclear. “


Notes to editors

Ipsos UK interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,859 adults aged 18-75 in England. Interviews took place on the online Omnibus between 7th and 10th April 2023. The data has been weighted to the known offline population proportions for age and working status within gender, and for region, social grade and education, to reflect the adult population of England. All polls are subject to a wide range of potential sources of error.

For access to the polling data from Ipsos on UK attitudes to local elections, voter ID, the work of councillors and role of local government, contact [email protected].

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The LGIU – Local Government Information Unit – is a not-for-profit, non-partisan membership organisation. We are for local government and anyone with an interest in local democracy and finding local solutions to the challenges that we all face. Our resources, innovative research and connections are relied on by colleagues across the globe.