Is it a progressive majority or a progressive minority?

Interesting thoughts from Peter Kellner:

During election week, YouGov asked people where they placed themselves on the Left, centre or Right. We offered three variations of Left and Right: “very”, “fairly” and “slightly”. At first sight, Labour and Lib Dem supporters look fairly similar, and very different from Conservative supporters. Labour supporters divide: 54% Left, 23% centre and 5% Right, while Lib Dem voters divide: 43%-29%-9%. Contrast those figures with the Tories: 5%-21%-57%. If that were the only evidence we had, then the conclusion would be irresistible: most British voters belong to one of the two tribes on the left bank of British politics, while only a minority belong to the one significant tribe on the right bank.

But that is not the only piece of evidence. When we asked the same Lib Dem voters which they would prefer if they had to choose, 51% plumped for a Labour government led by Gordon Brown, while 36% opted for a Conservative government led by David Cameron. So the advantage resides with Labour, but it is far from overwhelming – and very different from 2005, when Lib Dem voters opted by three-to-one for Labour/Blair over Conservative/Howard.

Among the electorate as a whole, the division is 47% Conservative/Cameron, 43% Labour/Brown. This tells a different story from that derived by totting up the votes and saying that progressive Lab-LD voters outnumber Conservative voters by 54% to 37%. However much we might wish otherwise, a Cameron-led government has greater public appeal than a Brown-led government. The margin is not great; and it is far less than it was for most of last year. But the notion that a Lab-Lib coalition would automatically command majority support is simply wrong.

You can read his full piece here.

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6 Comments

  • Interesting – this left to right analysis is as we know flawed.

    There are more than two dimensions to politics – one of the attractions to me of the coalition is the desire to reduce the state interference that has gone too far under Labour. ID cards and the overly complex tax and credits system for example, let alone the over bureaucratic approach to business regulation.

    Freedom and localism versus state centralism would I believe see many more people on the side of the coalition.

  • Given the restrictions to human rights during the last 13 years, the Iraq war etc, I can’t understand why would anybody call Labour “progressive”, anyway.

  • This survey seems to prove that the average voter hasn’t a clue when it comes to Left or Right wing policies. 2010 marks our 31st year of economically rightward leaning government in Thatcher’s mould, dancing around a centre point. The greatest achievement of the Labour PR department seems to have been convincing people that that was not the case.

  • The world has changed, ideas of left and right mean completely different things to almost everyone, and most young people would struggle to give you a description of what they mean if asked.

    Let’s talk about policies, principles and ideas, instead of abstract right and left wing leanings.

    I, personally, think it’s time for a new language in politics, one that encourages people to actually look and think about what everyone is offering, instead of choosing a camp to place themselves in.

  • @Alex: I’m not sure we’re going to get that, happy as that day would be. The current system allows the media, each party, and the public to label each others supposed views very conveniently.

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