New Polling for the School Food Review Working Group

Public First conducted new polling for the School Food Review Working Group, researching public views towards free school meals and the potential expansion of free school meals by a future Labour government.

Our research found that expanding access to free school meals is popular with voters of all parties, including the key target groups for the Labour Party. 82% of people currently intending to vote Labour, and 53% of people currently intending to vote for the Conservatives, would support expanding access to free school meals to all children on Universal Credit, followed by an eventual expansion to all children in primary and secondary school.

The new research, commissioned by the School Food Review Working Group, comes as universal primary Free School Meals are rolled out across London for a year-long pilot. The School Food Review Working Group, a coalition of 30 organisations from across the school food system, found that the majority of respondents (71%), including both Conservative and Labour voters, think the current income threshold is inadequate or should not exist at all. At present, only children from households with an income below £7,400 a year (after tax) are eligible. This has not increased since 2018 despite prices rising.

Figure 1 – Support for different free school meal extension proposals.

We also asked respondents whether the Labour party pursuing free school meal extension as a campaign promise during the next election would change how they plan to vote. We found that 65% of people currently intending to vote for Labour would be more likely to vote for the party if they adopted this pledge, and over one-fifth (23%) of people currently intending to vote for the Conservatives said the same.

When asked directly how they would vote in an election where the Labour Party promises to extend free school meal coverage, and the Conservative Party argues against extension as it is not a spending priority, we find that Labour maintains the commanding lead it has seen in vote intention polls.

Figure 2 – How would you vote; Labour extends free school meal coverage, Conservatives argue against.

Polling Tables

Public First surveyed 3,011 adults across England from 27 June – 4 July 2023. All results are weighted using Iterative Proportional Fitting, or ‘Raking’. The results are weighted by interlocking age & gender, region and social grade to Nationally Representative Proportions.

You can find the full polling tables here, and a simplified slide deck displaying the results here.

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