Ideology is in the eye of the beholder. That’s the finding of a major study into party supporters and where they place themselves and their parties on the political spectrum.
The ‘Party Members Project’ – a post-election analysis of supporters of the biggest six parties in the UK released this month – gave the six parties’ strongest supporters a scale running from zero (very left-wing) to ten (very right-wing) and asked them to place themselves somewhere along it. They then asked them to place the party they support on the same scale.
The results, the authors says are ‘fascinating’ – and indeed they are. Here are the findings:
What does this mean? Well, Greens view their party as pretty damn left-wing – at a very socialistic 2.3. Actually, Greens place their party to the left of themselves (2.4) – i.e. the party is seen as more radical than its supporters – the inverse of Labour, whose supporters place the party to the right of them (in spite of Corbyn, it seems).
The authors then place the supporters on the spectrum itself – with Greens ‘objectively’ slightly to the right of Labour supporters – the opposite to what Greens think is the case.
There’s more to this study. The researchers then asked ‘strong’ party supporters where they would place other parties on the same left-right spectrum. The table is confusing – but the vertical axis represents the different party supporters and the horizontal axis where they place other parties on the political spectrum.
As an example, Greens see themselves as left-wing (2.30), and see Labour as a broadly centrist party (4.67). Labour backers see the Greens as to the left of Labour (3.23 to 3.44) but perceive the SNP as being to Labour’s right (3.75 to 3.44).
This is then averaged out for all parties, so that strong party supporter (on average) see the Greens as the most left-wing party – 2.73 to Labour’s 3.41. That’s quite a bit gap when it comes to the left-right spectrum. And interestingly, both UKIP and Green supporters place the Greens at exactly the same space on the spectrum – 2.3. By contrast, Greens put UKIP at a far-right 9.04 (compared to Kippers self-defining as a moderate 7.28). You can get lost in the numbers, but it’s fascinating stuff.
Only UKIPers and Tories put Labour to the left of the Greens – the former pitching us as 2.30 to Labour’s 2.21, and the latter giving us a 2.26 to Labour’s 1.98. Essentially, the right see Labour as a nigh-communist party, while all other party backers think (rightly) that the Greens are still to the left of Labour – regardless of Corbyn.
The headlines though are that Greens see themselves as the most left-wing party, perhaps predictably. They see themselves as the most left-wing of party supporters. They put themselves to the right of the party itself. And Green supporters are ‘objectively’ ever so slightly to the right of Labour supporters.
It’s a funny old political world we live in.