As of March 2017, Labour has 517,000 members and the Liberal Democrats has 82,000 members as of February 2017. As of July 2016 the SNP had 120,000 members, the Green Party (England and Wales) 55,500, UKIP 39,000 and Plaid Cymru 8,300. As of December 2013 (latest published figure) the Conservative Party had 149,800 members. Party membership (and income from membership) has risen notably since 2013, both in total and as a percentage of the electorate.Jump to full report >>
Membership of all political parties (and income from membership) has risen notably since 2013, both in total and as a percentage of the electorate.
According to the latest available estimates from political parties’ head offices, press releases and media estimates:
Note: Conservative figures are as of 1 December 2013 (Latest available estimate)
Source: latest available figures provided by party head offices and media releases
Historic analysis of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties membership is available in the section 2.2 (pages 6-8)
Analysis of party membership since 2002 is available in the section 2.4 (pages 9-13)
Membership of the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats has increased to around 1.6% of the electorate in 2016, compared to a historic low of 0.8% in 2013. Across the UK, Labour Party membership increased from 0.6% in 2013 to 1.1% in 2016.
Membership of ‘‘other’’ parties has changed markedly in recent years. In July 2016, Scottish National Party (SNP) membership was around 120,000, compared to 25,000 in December 2013. In July 2016 Green Party (England and Wales) membership was around 55,000, compared to 13,800 in December 2013. UKIP’s membership increased from 32,000 in December 2013 to around 47,000 in May 2015, though has since fallen to 39,000 in July 2016.
Across Scotland, assuming all Scottish National Party members are in Scotland, SNP membership increased from 0.6% of the electorate in 2013 to 2.9% in 2016.
Figure 2 (on page 8) illustrates data on party membership as percentage electorate from 1970 - 2016
In 2015 income from membership fees comprise 46% of the SNP’s income, 35% of the Green Party’s (England and Wales), 21% of Plaid Cymru’s, 19% of Labour’s, 18% of UKIP’s, 11% of the Liberal Democrat’s and 2% of the Conservative’s.
Figure 5b (on page 15) shows party income from membership revenues for the years 2002 – 2014.
Identification with political parties fell to a historic low in 2012, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, but has since risen to its highest level since 1987. Academic surveys suggest people of professional/managerial occupations are disproportionately represented among the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties, while UKIP party members were more likely than their counterparts to have left school at 16.
Section 4 (on pages 17-20) provides detailed analysis of social characteristics of party members and supporters.
Trade Union membership (6.5 million in 2015, Labour Force Survey) remains many times higher than party memberships. Multiple non-party political campaigns and organisations, like Countryside Alliance and CND, claim memberships rivalling those of political parties.
Section 5 (on pages 21-24) analyses non-party political activity and engagement.
This note uses a range of sources to examine party membership and support in the UK, specifically membership levels, the income membership fees generate and the social characteristics of party members. For context, it also provides data on membership of non-party political organisations including trade unions, charities and campaigns.
Section 2.1 (on page 5) provides information about data sources used to produce this paper.
Commons Briefing papers SN05125
Authors: Richard Keen; Vyara Apostolova; Lukas Audickas
Topic: Political parties