On August 14, 2019, pollster YouGov published a study about the overlap in the British public’s political views.

Their ‘Left-wing vs right-wing: it’s complicated’ is a must-read for everyone.

Before Brexit — and Trump — shut down what used to be stimulating political discussions with friends, I, too, found this disparity. I’m glad a polling organisation has discovered this and made it public.

YouGov’s article accompanying its survey results show that the left-right divide is indeed murky (emphasis in the original, purple one mine):

YouGov shows that the left-wing to right-wing political spectrum is actually much more complex than previously thought when it comes to public opinion

A new angle of attack from Jeremy Corbyn seems to be that Boris Johnson is presiding over the most right-wing government in living memory.

That might be a helpful move if politicians had an accurate assessment of where the public stands on the left-right spectrum. But if the reaction in Westminster to YouGov survey data from earlier this week showing that 75% of Brits (including 61% of Labour voters) support the PM’s proposed expansion of stop and search powers is anything to go by, they may well not.

Framing politics in terms of left-wing and right-wing might be simple for politicians, and comforting to activists, but it seems that these terms just aren’t that useful for talking about – or indeed to – the general public.

A new YouGov study reveals that the political wing spectrum is poorly understood and also that huge numbers of people don’t hold consistent left- and right-wing outlooks.

YouGov asked participants to rank socio-political views as left-wing and right-wing. YouGov has not assigned any label to these. They have taken these perspectives from the British public:

However, when the researchers probed further, they found that the public actually hold a mix of socio-political views:

I know I certainly hold differing views, and people have asked why. I say that I am a centrist and hold conservative views on some things and more left-wing views on others. Of course, they generally accuse me, at best, of being ‘inconsistent’ and, at worst, a ‘traitor to the cause’, but I am far from alone.

Look at the crossover YouGov found:

Those charts show all manner of socio-political contradictions. Spend some time studying them. Wow!

YouGov says the public do not understand political classifications:

For those who spend their days immersed in Westminster goings on, awareness of how the left-to-right spectrum works is taken for granted. But our results show that the wider public is in fact largely unfamiliar with the categorisation.

I think that YouGov’s statements there are incorrect. I do not think Parliamentarians, whether MPs or the Lords, understand the overlap in the charts above, either. I think they would be surprised. Here is one example (emphases mine):

However, these views do not appear to be distinct to one end of the spectrum over the other: 78% of right-wingers also think that green and renewable energy should be prioritised, while 78% of left-wingers also think that global population growth is a problem.

And what about these?

a majority of left-wing Britons (59%) believe that school discipline should be stricter, making it the most commonly-held right-wing view among the left. Likewise, 55% of left-wingers believe criminal justice in Britain to be too soft, a plurality of 47% want to see tighter restrictions on immigration, and sizeable minorities of 39% support capital punishment and 36% support Britain having a nuclear arsenal.

And this one?

among Britons who support a greater redistribution of wealth, 59% support capital punishment, 72% think the criminal justice system is too soft and 68% want tighter restrictions on immigration.

On the supposed opposite end of the spectrum:

among Britons who want less redistribution of wealth, 47% the government to take a dominant/significant role in managing the economy, 42% think the minimum wage is too low, and 35% think the UK has a responsibility to aid poorer nations.

I would like to see a similar survey conducted in the United States and France. I reckon the findings would be similar.

In closing, although our political betters think we, the ‘great unwashed’, are ‘stupid’ or ‘sheep’, we, in fact, have a nuanced understanding of politics — and life.

YouGov concludes:

There is space in the current political landscape for some very radical appeals to be made that would prove very popular. This applies to all parties, not just Boris Johnson. Any politician willing to do so could find themselves with the keys to victory.

Politicians should catch up to our way of thinking. The sooner the better.

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