What the YouGov profiler says about Lib Dems

YouGov-Profiles-launchMarket research firm YouGov poll a lot of people about a lot of things. As a result they have a data trove which they’ve turned into a visualisation tool which can profile a typical customer for any given brand… including if that ‘brand’ is the Lib Dems.

Before I get to the fascinating screenshots, and you all shout back “But that’s just not true”, here’s what YouGov says about what the data show:

This app does not show the *typical* fan or customer. If it did, most groups would look very similar, and you wouldn’t learn a lot about the specifics of particular thing.

It shows what is *particularly true* about a group. We compare the group to their natural ‘comparison set’ (for example, fans of Downton Abbey compared to anyone who has rated any TV shows) and see which of the thousands of datapoints most overscore in our target group.

For example, if something is only true of 1% of the overall population, but is true of 6% of our target group, it might score very highly (and shows you something interesting and true about that group). But it doesn’t mean that it is true of all of them!

Another example: many of the football teams show a *female* character – this does not mean that most of the fans are female, but simply that compared to other football teams, there are *more* female fans than you would expect.

Right, caveat inserted, here’s what it shows… (Incidentally the Lib Dem sample size is 782, a pretty decent figure for this kind of exercise.)


YG profile - demog

One thing which is particularly true of Lib Dems is… there are a lot of young professional men working in London in government / civil service. (I know: you’re stunned.) You may be more surprised to see the Lib Dems identified on the far left of the left/right axis, so note YouGov’s explanation: “Simplifying a group of people onto a left-right axis is notoriously hard. PhDs have been written on the subject! Specifically, the left/right dial shows where this group *ranks* among their comparison set in terms of the percentage of Conservative voters among the total. So it’s really a measure of Conservatism.” Ie, Lib Dems are very *not* Conservative.


YG profile - lifestyle

It’s official: Lib Dems are most likely to like cats. It looks as if Martin Tod’s long-standing suspicions of cat-entryism within the party are well-founded. By the way, the food which came out top for Lib Dems (ie, something which is especially true of Lib Dems)… aubergine parmigiana. Of course.


YG profile - personality

We are particularly likely to self-describe as “analytical”, “clever” and “knowledgeable”. But we do recognise our (occasional) faults, too: “disorganised”, “procrastinating” and “self-absorbed”. Hmm, so we’re smart ditherers… I think we’d better keep that concealed from the voters. And I know you’ll pay attention to my advice, seeing as we’re especially disposed to get most of our information from the Internet.


YG profile - brands

We are, it seems, avid BBC-ers: Radio 4, BBC online and iPlayer all rank as three of the top 10 brands. Which makes it a little surprising that Topman is our favoured clothing brand (responsibility perhaps lies with our key demographic: see above). The other shock is that we’re disproportionately loyal to First Direct, rather than the Co-Operative. Incidentally, Coutts came second.


YG profile - entertainment

I think it’s fair to say this represents an array of tastes; perhaps best symbolised by our top two television programmes being Only Connect and the Eurovision Song Contest. (The surprising absentee here is, of course, Dr Who.) Though the nostalgia on display — only one of the five films was made in the last three decades — suggests our key demographic of young professional men must be fogeys at heart.


YG profile - online

True to form, we’re especially likely to Like on Facebook the sites of the party, its leader and the Electoral Reform Society. Less true to form, two of our most-favoured tweeters are musician Ed Sheeran and actor Stephen Mangan. And the website that comes top: ThisIsLocalLondon.co.uk. A few weeks ago, political commentator Ian Birrell called for the founding of a Metropolitan Party: looks like we’re it.


YG profile - media

We’re quite likely to be online for more than 50+ hours a week (ie, at least seven hours every day); we’re disproportionately Guardian (and Independent) and Economist (and New Scientist) readers; and we like watching Newsnight and listening to the cricket. Does any of that sound like you? Say what you like, I think YouGov has got us pretty much bang to rights.

You can try the YouGov profiler out for yourself here.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Paul in Wokingham 18th Nov '14 - 8:03am

    Eurovision! Yay!

    But hold on… isn’t one strong personality trait of Liberals “doesn’t like to be pigeonholed”?

  • Daniel Henry 18th Nov '14 - 8:04am

    I definitely saw bits of myself in places.

    What I’d be interested in is the timescales of this profile. The age range in particular is something I’d have imagined more likely in our pre-coalition days rather than currently.

  • Daniel Henry 18th Nov '14 - 8:06am

    Paul, I believe that’s why the first thing Stephen did is quote the disclaimer! 😀

  • Paul Howden 18th Nov '14 - 8:21am

    You wouldn’t think so considering the average demographics of voting reps at conference…..

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Nov '14 - 8:45am

    Given the disclaimers, isn’t this all perfectly useless information, which it’s almost impossible to look at without misrepresenting? For example, even you, Stephen, say ” our top two television programmes [are] Only Connect and the Eurovision Song Contest”, but if I’ve understood the disclaimer correctly you can’t tell that at all from the info: only that Lib Dems are disproportionately likely to like those two programmes. (I’ve no idea what Only Connect is; but that needn’t make me untypical of Lib Dems, if only 1% of the “comparison set” like it, but 10% of Lib Dems do.)

    I can see how this may be useful for marketers (although even they probably misunderstand what it’s saying most of the time); but as a “tell us who we are” exercise it looks worse than useless. Unless I’ve badly misunderstood the disclaimer.

  • Richard Dean 18th Nov '14 - 9:01am

    Gazing at oneself is a sure way to lose votes. What the LibDems should really be focussing on is finding out what everyone else is like!

  • paul barker 18th Nov '14 - 9:47am

    Top band Pentangle ! Shows v good taste. Would have gone for Sun Ra myself.

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Nov '14 - 9:49am

    Well said, Richard!

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 9:55am

    Where can I find a disproportionate number of Liberal Democrats?

    This is rather like the instincts people would show when in their own community they are sent out at 11 am in search of 10 nominations for a paperless candidate for the noon deadline. I might not immediately have gone to my local Topman, but I am willing to give it a try in future, especially as I find myself spookily in a number of the places identified by YouGov .

    So, generally I am willing to go along with this use of biggish data and we should thank YouGov for making it available.

    Of course THE major lesson from the above is that within the political left right spectrum (which is useful as a self defining concept, alas) we should be looking to the left.

    This of course confirms that the Reevian, Cleggster, Cortzee strategy of edging us towards places disproportionately inhabited by soft Tories I.e. The World of the Centre Right was and remains barmy and is more than anything responsible for us both not finding many Liberal Democrats there and seeming to have abandoned our actual community, and wasting our great opportunity in Government for the first time in a century.

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 10:04am

    Richard, of course you are right. But where are we likely to find unconscious Lib Dems, whose consciousness we can awaken, in Topman or Gieves?

  • Even as a proud, and staunch, member of the dog-owning wing of the party, I can see why this is more of cat-centric party. They are independent of mind and not one to follow…much like LDV commenters…

  • Liberal Democrats will return to being successful when we stop asking pollsters and market research experts what people think.

    If you want to know what people think, go out and talk to people and listen. Work with people to take and use power.

    If listening to pollsters was a route to success then all the party would need to do would be to bring in an “expert” from South Africa to read the polls and tell us what to do. That trick has been tried already and we know the results.

  • Daniel Henry 18th Nov '14 - 10:28am

    I think a few commenters are perhaps taking this fun article just a little too seriously. 🙂

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 10:43am

    I disagree with John and Daniel. Not about the need to talk to people and to campaign alongside them, in many cases against the effects of someone else using big data to deprive them of their freedom of choice.

    But that is why it is all the more important for us to have an insight into big data. No one asked those polled by YouGov direct questions to illicit these conclusions. They are the result of subtle use of existing information dating back some time.

    I believe in the marginal nature of political progress. There are no short cuts, no progress suddenly made by, for instance, showing people that we are a credible force by being part of government, any government, doing anything.

    I believe in starting with those who for whatever reason support us and spreading by that old natural strategy of colonisation into slightly fertile ground which good husbandry makes more and more fertile each passing season.
    Big data like this exposes the fallacy of the Johnny come latelies with their ‘in a hurry’ quick leaps and their arrogant dismissal of my gradualism.

    So Daniel we can smile, which we are being invited to do by YouGov , but we can learn.

  • ATF, you and me both

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov '14 - 10:46am

    Topman or Gieves?

    How about Monsoon or Mothercare?

  • Well, this is one of those rare occasions where I agree 100% with Paul Barker. I thought it was a fun exercise, and I could certainly see myself and my friends in there.

  • Matt (Bristol) 18th Nov '14 - 11:46am

    Can anyone else see a (possibly only theoretical) tension between the metro-centric elements identified above (which I do not dispute) and the decntrallising pro-regional tendencies we all know exist within the party?

  • Malcolm Todd 18th Nov '14 - 12:10pm

    Bill le Breton
    “But where are we likely to find unconscious Lib Dems…?”
    You meant to write that, right? In the words of Chandler Bing, “Can’t … speak … head exploding … too many possible jokes…”

  • More or less the story of my life!

  • Stephen Hesketh 18th Nov '14 - 12:27pm

    Bill Le Breton 18th Nov ’14 – 9:55am
    “Of course THE major lesson from the above is that within the political left right spectrum (which is useful as a self defining concept, alas) we should be looking to the left.
    This of course confirms that the Reevian, Cleggster, Cortzee strategy of edging us towards places disproportionately inhabited by soft Tories I.e. The World of the Centre Right was and remains barmy and is more than anything responsible for us both not finding many Liberal Democrats there and seeming to have abandoned our actual community, and wasting our great opportunity in Government for the first time in a century.”

    100% agreement Bill.

    @JohnTilley 18th Nov ’14 – 10:23am
    “Liberal Democrats will return to being successful when we stop asking pollsters and market research experts what people think.”

    You would think anyone who had ever worked at community level would understand this wouldn’t you? … argh!

    @Matt (Bristol) 18th Nov ’14 – 11:46am
    “Can anyone else see a (possibly only theoretical) tension between the metro-centric elements identified above (which I do not dispute) and the decentralising pro-regional tendencies we all know exist within the party?”

    Indeed Matt, in fact I would argue that a positive recognition of regionalism and desire for decentralised government remains one of the key defining characteristics of Liberal Democracy.

    Regards, Canine-Liberal 🙂

  • What the profiler gives us is an insight into just how distorted and open to gaming a self selecting panel based voodoo polling system like YouGov is.

    Self-declared party supporters on the YouGov panel :

    Ukip 8020
    Lab. 4340
    Con 2820
    Grn 1800
    LD 782

    Panel based polls, unlike probability based samples of the entire population, have unknowable biases because respondents self-select. There is an unknowable relationship between the panel and the target population which means that calculations of margin of error are impossible, and as the AAPOR explains in its note below, should not be published by reputable organisations.


  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 12:56pm

    Malcolm, I am delighted you picked up on my dry humour. No I was not unconscious of the possible readings and there was also a little tease directed at Marxism.

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 1:05pm

    Jayne, I must really have upset you with my reference elsewhere to the fact that the Royal academy is giving Allen Jones the distinction of a retrospective and that no one here (other than you) was likely to be chaining themselves to the railings of that august Establishment establishment.

    I noted from the above findings that Liberal Democrat types were not actually to be found disproportionately inside TopShop or Monsoon. You see I was following LDV policy of sticking only to the contents of the OP.

    Incidentally and off piste, Jayne, I have always pictured you at Harvey Nichols

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov ’14 – 10:46am

    Mothercare was founded by Sir James Goldsmith, much loathed by Private Eye, founder of ‘The Referendum Party’ and father of Richmond Park’s unappealing and slippery Conservative MP who goes by the name of Zac.

    So maybe not the ideal ‘brand’ for Liberal Democrats to identify with? 🙂

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Nov '14 - 2:26pm

    @ Bill Le Breton,
    No you have not upset me. Sometimes I can’t control my wickedness, especially when there are serious discussions about what I believe is a load of old cobblers. Harvey Nicks, no the Co-o perative. Those Rochdale Pioneers knew what they were about.

    @ John Tilley, I agree with everything you say on the subject.

  • To me this sounds like a party for well off, generally privileged young men who can’t abide the Tories. A pretty small demographic.

  • But it does include Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander.

  • Tony Rowan-Wicks 19th Nov '14 - 8:41am

    Thanks YouGov, when I feel depressed about our vote share, I’ll rush to Topman in the sure knowledge that 7% of the buyers at the checkout might vote LD – if there is a candidate! A better hang out is the local non-pubco where the 7% drown their sorrows with the ex-candidate. At least some LDs voted sensibly in parliament this week before they ‘retired’.

  • Paul In Wokingham 19th Nov '14 - 9:35am

    To be fair to YouGov, the data presented is based on Z-scores which measures the difference between this group and its comparison set. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standard_score#mediaviewer/File:Normal_distribution_and_scales.gif

    So as it says, a Z-score of 1 is not a very strong correlation but 4 or more is a strong correlation.

    So it isn’t that the average Lib Dem is 18-24, but simply that LDs are far more likely to be under 40 than their comparators – and since the yougov sample is dominated by UKIP and Con supporters this is hardly a stunning revelation.

    And ditto with top shop – older people are less likely to shop there and so that age profile differential kicks in again and it bubbles to the top.

    Far stronger correlations are that Lib Dems are male (+5.9 – really very strong) and in the ABC1 social groups (+5.5).

    So the *average* Lib Dem is still a 50-something white-collar male, but the *average* UKIPper is more like a retired 60+ blue-collar worker.

    The only unexpected strong correlation for Lib Dems is in “entertainment” with 4.1 for Evan Davis. Now that is really quite intriguing.

  • Neil Sandison 19th Nov '14 - 10:03am

    This London centric profile by YouGov is a million miles away from our profile here in the Midlands Thank god .

  • Dave G Fawcett 19th Nov '14 - 1:18pm

    How true Neil. Aubergine parmigiana for goodness sake. Did the survey demographic get beyond Watford gap?

  • SIMON BANKS 19th Nov '14 - 6:29pm

    It strikes me as remarkably accurate. Of course there are lots of exceptions: we sometimes forget that a 60-something chapel-going Mid-Wales hill-farmer might well vote Liberal Democrat but doesn’t fit any HQ profile. But if I’d had to make up a pen-portrait of a Liberal Democrat, it could have sounded pretty much like the one we’ve been shown.

    The cat thing makes sense to me and not only because I’m a cat person. Compared to dogs, which are descended from pack animals and look for a masterful leader, cats are notorious individualists. That doesn’t mean they can’t socialise with humans or one another or even dogs, but they do so judiciously and don’t follow-the-leader.

    I have however never knowingly met an aubergine parmigiana.

  • There is much fun to be had with this. Try inputting the names of each of our MPs and see how many people like them. And look at what their ‘fans’ like. For example people who like Mike Thornton are unusually young but have a bias towards Willie Nelson and Buddy Holly when it comes to music choices. Whereas David Laws groupies go for the Pet Shop Boys. And if you like Lynne Featherstone there is a high probability that you like the TV show ‘Bergerac’.

    Most Lib Dem MPs are liked by cat people, but Julian Huppert gets the fish fanciers vote and Lorely Burt is in the dog lovers corner!

    Or how about this great ‘fact’: Milky Way, Snickers and Flake are the most left wing chocolate bars and Drifter the most right-wing.

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