A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The political spectrum

Interesting stats in a YouGov poll for C4 News earlier this week about where the public put themselves and the political parties on the left-right spectrum. The public as a whole say:

Very left-wing - 3%
Fairly left-wing - 11%
Slightly left-of-centre - 15%
Centre - 20%
Slightly right-of-centre - 13%
Fairly right-wing - 11%
Very right-wing - 4%
Don’t know - 22%

The 3 leftmost categories more or less equal Labour's rock-bottom core vote - 29%. The core 3 rightwing categories equal about the same - 28%. So you need to win over people who define themselves as centrist, or just don't know, to get anywhere near winning.

Current Labour voters consist of 7% very leftwing, 20% fairly leftwing, 26% slightly left of centre, 22% centre, 15% don't know, 8% slightly right-of-centre, 1% fairly rightwing and 1% very rightwing!

The myth that the Lib Dem vote is now generally to the left of Labour's is slain: only 1% of LD voters are very leftwing, only 7% fairly leftwing, 25% slightly left of centre, 31% centrist, 4% slightly right of centre, 3% fairly rightwing and 1% very rightwing. 23% don't know.

Women are slightly to the left of men but twice of many of them don't identify with any of the labels at all.

The under 34s have the largest number of people who don't know what they identify with of any of the age groups, but those who do have an opinion place themselves slightly to the left of their older counterparts. The over 55s are the most rightwing age group - bad news for Labour when we have an aging population and the old have by far the highest voter turnout.

The middle class ABC1s are more partisan than the working class C2DEs - they include more leftwingers and rightwingers whilst the working classes include more centrists and don't knows i.e. New Labour triangulation is probably more appealing to C2DEs than to the middle classes.

Scotland is overwhelming the region/nation where people see themselves as on the left - the north is the only other region where this is the case and then to a far lesser degree. The Midlands emerges as the most rightwing region! London, contrary to all the stuff about it being to the left of the rest of the country, has voters who (although the bell curve is spread further left) on average are positioned identically to the rest of the South - just to the right of centre.

Oh, and 65% of voters think Cameron is a lightweight politician.


Blogger Dave Brinson said...

Interesting- although, particularly in terms of the Lib Dem analysis, what is "centrist" ? I suspect that many would fall into the economically conservative, socially liberal bracket. Was there any analysis of this for the poll ?

9:33 pm, June 21, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Figures with Tom W as their MP

9:40 pm, June 21, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

Well, it interesting Luke, but you have to take these surveys with a hefty pinch of salt, since folk would have varying definitions of what left and right are. It's all a bit nebulous.

I think a better survey would be to see what support is out there for defined policy positions but without attaching any political label to them. Then plot those positions on a left/right and authoritarian/libertarian chart.

5:04 am, June 22, 2007

Blogger Bill said...

I reckon the Centre 20% need top be closely interrogated to find their views - segment the centre. Specifically, the Blairite hegemonic stragey is very much about shifting the definition of centre to naturalise left views (twenty years ago a centrist might have opposed gay partnerships, active equal opportunities policies, etc. on 'open minded' grounds).

9:20 am, June 22, 2007

Blogger Owen said...


We've already had the exact same debate about this. See here my response to the last time you quoted these sorts of figures.

The fact is, most people do not regard themselves as ideological (unlike, say, you or me) and like to think of themselves as moderate. These sorts of labels strike many people as fairly abstract. It's only by surveying people on an issue-by-issue basis that you really get an accurate feel for their politics.

9:59 am, June 22, 2007

Blogger Owen said...

There was also a poll a couple of years which showed that most people regard Blair as being on the right - and thereby, for example, this poll reveals that accordingly most people think of themselves as being to his left.

10:00 am, June 22, 2007

Anonymous Hovedan said...

Bill has got this one right. "Centrist", will change over time, and whilst a person might regard themselves as centrist their policy preferences might be anything but centre. Cameron has bought into the view that you appeal to the centre. HBe thinks that is where Blair was in 1997 - but Blair, and Brown, in 1997, were actually proposing some "radical" things, such as minimum wage, devolution, gay rights etc, The point being Politicians need to lead public debate - as well as reflect it - and dont stick rigidly to some difficult to define centre ground

12:01 pm, June 22, 2007

Anonymous pregethwr said...

Owen, most surveys I can remember people place Blair on the left (although not by much) certainly to the left of where they put themselves.

The only exception is one where they used a scale of -100 (very left wing) to +100 (very right wing) where Blair was +1. But even that was to the left of where people put themselves (not by much I think the public averaged out at +5).

I'd have to check all the charts but that is what I remember.

12:06 pm, June 22, 2007

Anonymous angus said...

Pregethwr, you're probably correct about how the electorate as a whole sees Blair. But I do recall polls showing the Labour voting section of the electorate thinking of Blair as being right of centre, whilst seeing themselves as being left of centre.

Owen's basic point is right. You don't have to identify with 'the Left' to think that, for example, public services such as rail are more effectively operated in the public interest under public ownership.

3:07 pm, June 22, 2007

Blogger el Tom said...

Very interesting. The competition will largely be about who can create a larger bloc of turnout on their side of the centre.

For me, the most striking part of this poll is the amount of people who are 'left of centre'. Shows why the tories need to change, and that we've pulled attitudes towards us.

4:35 pm, June 22, 2007

Anonymous angus said...

I think this may have been the old poll Owen and I were thinking of:


Actually, Owen was right. In that poll, Blair was regarded by slightly more people to be right-of-centre than left-of-centre.

Though I have seen others that support pregethwr.

5:29 pm, June 22, 2007

Anonymous A Einstein said...

I wasn't all that good at maths in school, but isn't this simply what they call a binomial distribution? Doesn't the question effectively frame the distribution of the answer by referencing "the centre". So in more technical terms, isn't this a load of old horse manure?

11:48 pm, June 22, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

It is a nonsense, actually. There is an enormous cultural link between 'centre' and 'moderate' or 'normal'. Positioning yourself anywhere other than the centre does not depend on an understanding of your own position (we all consider ourselves moderate and certainly not extreme, presumably - even people who are considered extremist) but an assessment of where everybody else is. That suggests thinking about politics (and thinking about politics in a fairly meaningless way) more than most people have the time, energy or inclination to do.

As such, taking things policy by policy is more instructive. I suggest we'd find very odd combinations of policy positions (ideologically speaking).

Of course, there is another point about this and that is that, even were we to take this poll as more instructive than I suspect it is, the psephology behind everyone competing for the centre is not flawless.

10:03 am, June 23, 2007

Anonymous A Einstein said...

Gosh you is clever, Doctor Dunc. I think that's something like what I was trying to say. But although I think Luke Akehurst is a cretin, I wouldn't go so far as to call him a psephologist.

11:12 am, June 23, 2007


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