From housing to healthcare: The key battleground issues likely to decide the General Election

Credit: PA / ITV News

New polling has revealed the key issues that major parties will have to address ahead of the General Election.

Analysis by the market research firm Ipsos shows that British voters are most concerned about the economy, with healthcare, immigration and housing also ranking highly.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement that the election will take place on July 4 has only served to sharpen the focus on such issues.

So, what is behind these results, and how can parties from all sides of the political divide convince voters that they have the best solutions to help tackle them?

Here, ITV News specialists examine the crucial battleground issues that look poised to decide where the election will be won and lost.

Credit: Ipsos


Words by ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills

The prime minister had until the end of the year to call an election.

The economy was always going to be a key battleground and Rishi Sunak had control over when to fight.

So, why now?

Sunak says the economy has "turned a corner," and that "brighter times lie ahead".

The strategy seemed to be to wait as long as possible in the hope that low inflation, falling interest rates and rising disposable incomes would combine to leave an increasing number of households and business feeling their prospects were improving.

The government also hoped to be in position to deliver another tax cut before the election campaign kicked off.

Last Friday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt repeated his desire to cut taxes in a speech that suggested the election was still months away.

Now, Sunak has decided there's nothing to be gained by waiting.

The PM has announced the date of an election on the day we learned that inflation fell back (roughly) to target.

Inflation is now lower in UK than it is in the Eurozone and the United States.

ITV News UK editor explains what will happen over the next six weeks, and the key issues the General Election is likely to be fought over

Our economy had the fastest growth in the G7 during the first three months of this year and, yesterday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) upgraded its growth forecast growth for the UK this year.

All of these things are true. The problem, of course, is they don't tell the whole story.

The reality is the fall in inflation has more to do with large swings in the global market prices of energy and food, and higher interest rates than government policy.

The Bank of England (BoE) expects inflation to rise again by the end of the year and the lived experience of many voters is that everything is more expensive because prices are stabilising at a much higher level than three years ago.

The Bank also forecasts unemployment will rise further in the coming months and, although, interest rates are expected to fall they are unlikely to do so in a way that will leave mortgage holders feeling materially better off.

The decisive factor may have been the prospect of tax cuts. It's not clear that the government would have been in an position to do this at the end of the summer.

Worse still, there is always the risk that the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) end up presenting the chancellor with a forecast which forced him to put taxes up.

The Tories' election battleship is already listing badly - tax rises would capsize it altogether.

The economic pitch may not be strong, but it may well be as good as it gets in the short term.

The conclusion: Go now.


Words by ITV News Health Correspondent Rebecca Barry

The NHS remains one of the top issues for voters, but the party that wins the General Election on July 4 faces some enormous challenges to improve our creaking health service.

Millions of people are waiting in pain and discomfort for treatment.

Cutting NHS waiting lists was one of Rishi Sunak's key priorities and yet they remain higher now than when he made that pledge.

Latest NHS England data shows the backlog reached 7.54 million at the end of March 2024, up from 7.21 million in January 2023 when the prime minister first made his vow.

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Crippling staff shortages are stretching resources and affecting morale.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) says 70% of its members feel the pressure is now "too much to stand," with almost half saying they are planning or considering quitting.

The long-running dispute over pay for junior doctors is yet to be resolved.

Since their strikes began in December 2022, 1.4 million in-patient and out-patient appointments have had to be rescheduled.

Meanwhile, GPs are now threatening "collective action" over funding for their new contract. The last thing any new government wants is GPs out on the picket line.

On a positive note, perhaps it can only get better.

A recent major survey, seen as a gold-standard measure of public attitudes in Britain, found satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to the lowest level ever recorded.


Words by ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith

The prime minister made it his flagship policy and staked his reputation on a three-word slogan: "Stop The Boats."

Illegal migration numbers have, however, reached record highs.

The latest data shows almost 10,000 people have already crossed the Channel by small boats just this year so far.

That's higher for this point of any year since records began.

We aren't even in peak season for those crossings yet, which comes with better weather in June, so it could get worse, and the timing of this election could coincide with a rapid rise in migrants coming to the UK illegally.

Rishi Sunak has pinned his hopes on the Rwanda deportation policy acting as an effective deterrent to get those numbers down, and the first flights to Africa are expected in early July.

Again, that timing could coincide with this election. The PM would hope images of planes filled with illegal migrants being deported from the UK is something that will resonate with voters.

Illegal migration is an issue that consistently rates as one of the biggest areas of concern for the electorate.

It overlaps into other hot issues, putting pressure on public services, such as housing.

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There is a perception in some parts of the country that people who have come to the UK illegally are being provided with homes ahead of young British families who are sitting on long waiting lists, or enduring inappropriate or unsafe accommodation.

There's a fear that illegal migrants are fuelling crime.

The trade in people smuggling is now estimated to be worth around £5 billion globally to criminal gangs.

It is big business, and it thrives because the supply meets a desperate demand.

On the other side of this debate, people who are sympathetic to migrants trying to reach the UK have been appalled at the government's hardline stance - particularly the Rwanda policy.

Those who would like to see the UK show more compassion to people fleeing war, famine, and poverty.

And there is an argument that the UK could take a more pragmatic approach by providing more legal routes to migrants wanting to come here and work - especially at a time where the country has labour shortages in sectors, including agriculture and social care.

Expect this emotive issue to dominate debates, with political parties offering their own versions of a solution to the small boats crisis.

Also expect that those who are willing to risk their life and liberty to get to the UK will be difficult to deter.


Words by ITV News Investigations Editor Daniel Hewitt

Housing has been creeping up the political agenda, as it also moves up in the opinion polls of issues people most care about.

Why? Because right now almost everyone is being affected by the state of the housing market.

Mortgage rates have shot up in the last 18 months.

Private rents are at record high levels, and working people in their twenties and thirties are having to move back in with their parents to save for ever expensive homes to buy.

There is a chronic shortage of social housing, particularly in England, which is pushing more people into homelessness.

A record number of children in England are living in temporary accommodation, and councils are running out of money to house them in hostels and bed and breakfasts.

There has also been more attention paid to the awful conditions in which some people are being forced to live - which we began investigating here more than three years ago.

Seen through an election lens, the solution on which both main parties agree is that Britain needs to build more homes.

We do not have enough places for people to live - the UK is more than four million homes short of what it needs - and the human consequences are dire.

It is easy to say you will build more, but no government of any colour in recent years can claim a particularly great record on housebuilding.

It will almost certainly mean building homes beyond brownfield sites, and reforming the planning system which so often clogs up the system.

You don't have to be an expert, however, to know that lots of houses take a while to build.

In the short term, the challenge is to work out how best to ensure more families don't become homeless, and that councils can afford to house those who do.

Regulation of the private rental market is promised by both parties to lesser and greater extents, and the debate around council funding is also on the agenda.

Have you heard our new podcast Talking Politics? Every week Tom, Robert and Anushka dig into the biggest issues dominating the political agenda…