When I was a little school spod we used to, quite solemnly, read horoscopes out to each other at breaktime. To this day I am incapable of being in the presence of magazines and other girls (and when I say “girls” I mean people who are deputy headteachers, finance analysts, doctors, strategy consultants etc) without reading them their horoscopes and demanding that they read mine to me, which they eagerly do (because it’s bad luck to read your own, of course!)
These days it is, I hope, an affectionately maintained habit and form of cultural girly-glue, but when I was a little Head of State I daresay it was to do with self-identity, development of. I read the horoscopes in the hope that some of the sweeping generalisations about determination, success orientation, being good with money etc (yup, Capricorn) would rub off on my rapidly unfurling little soul and start to mean something. I was seeking to define myself, albeit in a juvenile way with the only tools at hand, against the opinions of others about how the world worked and what people in it were like (and some of them were crazy, I mean, Shelley von Strunkel, for goodness’ sake. I nurse a suspicion that she is actually a piece of random vocabulary generation software.)
It is my contention that political compass tests and the like are horoscopes for little politicos who grew up. That feeling of wanting to see how we measure up hasn’t gone away. Human beans love quizzes. What has changed, I suspect, is our reaction to the information. Then: try out newly acquired characteristics in a sentence about self. Now: snigger at how wrong the information, and everyone else, and the world in general, is.
So it was with the absorbing Political Survey 2005, (h/t the Yorksher Gob). The terms of it naturally read a little oddly today because Iraq then still loomed large in the public consciousness, but the oddest decision of all is the one made in spite of this greater awareness: to associate the “pro-market” characteristic with being “pro-war”. Look what it does to me:
The number of other little yellow dots trundling up towards the “pro-war” end should demonstrate how useless that association is. This is graphical proof that liberalism as a creed unto itself does not exist to most people, even the kind of people who are well informed enough to draw up political surveys. No wonder we scare them so much.
The real bonkersness starts when the survey discusses each of my axes. For a start I am a totally atypical survey taker. As Jennie has quoted already, people who describe themselves as being on the left of the first axis tend to be, in fact, at the centre, whereas people who describe themselves as right-wing tend to self-identify correctly. None of that nonsense for your Head of State. Just to be totally contrary, I identify myself as “slightly left-of-centre” but discover that I am in fact “fairly left wing”.
It seems that over 88% of the population holds views that are “significantly to my right” (and women are more likely to be to my right than men). Even 87% of the 18-34 year olds are to my right. As are 75% of Lib Dem voters. Even nearly 83% of Londoners are to my right, for heaven’s sake.
A comic interlude, I discover in amongst the sea of red that is my statistics profile that the Guardian really is all that. In every other population context I am a leftie extremist. In comparison to other Guardian readers I am a centrist pink pussycat. 38% of them are to my left and only 27% to my right (the rest of them naturally agree with me, like the good fellows they are).
But aha! That was only the analysis of the first axis – i.e. the one where I explained whether I’d rather kill people or be nice to them. On the second axis I explained whether I’d rather people were allowed to keep their money or have it taken away (and incidentally, because the two are so obviously related, whether I thought it was a good idea for everyone to have their money taken away to kill lots of people. Seriously, who decided that pro-war and pro-markets were appropriate bedfellows? There’s just no level of logic on which that works.)
On the second axis, in a reversal of the trend of the first, most people who describe themselves as right-wing are in fact centrist, whereas most left-wingers self-identify correctly. Again, I have to buck the trend, don’t I. My mimsy “slightly left-of-centre” ness jumps right over two whole categories to become “fairly right wing”! Only 3% of the population are significantly to my right! (Though this time it’s more men on my right than women.) Only 2% of over-55 year olds are to my right, for goodness’ sake! I’m now a pariah in the party as well as 87% of the Liberal Democrat voters have now got up and trooped over to my left.
Slightly more interesting things happen to the London and Guardian stats. Granted that 70% of Londoners and 80% of Guardian readers are now to my left. But this time, 24% and 17% of them respectively hold views that are “similar to” mine. It would appear then that there is some sort of London Guardianista culture of which I am a part, but it shades considerably more to the incorrectly perceived “right” than tradition has it. This seems to make a certain amount of sense to me. It’s always interesting to see commenters over at CiF telling people off for being “right-wing” when they’re doing something terribly offensive like, er, advocating lower taxes for people on low incomes.
Friends and liberals, the System is bonkers conkers, and I have the split political personality to prove it. Get your own schizo-liberal stats here.