Monday, 29 March 2010

Do We Know What We Are Voting For?

Do people vote for policies or do they vote for personalities? 

To put it another way, will we vote in the General Election for the party that best reflects our own views on how the country should be governed?  Or will we vote for the party leader that is on the TV a lot and appears to be slightly better (or less mediocre) than the others?

Dr Richard Lawson has pointed me in the direction of The Political Compass which has analysed the different political parties based on their policies and then assessed them against a 2-dimensional chart.  Their view is that "the old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left', established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape".  Essentially the old left-right line is OK if you consider it as referring only to the level of control of the economy with "left" meaning a more controlled economy why the "right" would leave more to the "free market".  However, the social dimension is also important in modern politics with attitudes ranging from extremely authoritarian to extremely libertarian.  Different parties have different combinations of social and economic policies, so two parties may have similar economic policies but have very different policies in terms of their approach to society.

When applied their analysis to British political parties, they found the following result;
Which would tend to imply that, as far as both society and the economy goes, the Conservatives and Labour are almost like two peas in a pod, with the Lib Dems also having economic policies of a similar type but with a more Libertarian approach to society, although not as Libertarian as the Greens who are also the most left-wing party.

The website gives you the opportunity to take an anonymous test to give you an idea of where your own political viewpoints place you on this socio-economic chart.  My result is as follows;

Which apparently means I have similar socio-economic views to Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama.  Who would have known?  And I wonder which party has policies that best reflects my views?

There is another website worth looking at called Vote For Policies, which Charlie Bolton has mentioned. The site allows you to choose from a range of policies covering several different areas and then choose which policy options you think are best.  The trick is that it doesn't tell you which party each policy is from, so you are making an objective choice.

When I looked at the site about 10,000 people had taken the test, and the breakdown of selected policies by party was;

What was most interesting was the Green Party policies were top in each of the nine categories of Crime, Economy, Democracy, Education, Health/NHS, Environment, Immigration, Europe and Welfare, in each case the Green Party policy being selected by between 25% and 37% of the survey takers.

As far as the three main parties were concerned; the Lib Dems were second on Democracy, the Economy and the Environment.  The Conservatives were second on Education, Health/NHS and Immigration whilst Labour were second on Europe and Welfare.

Of course, it might well be that the site has mainly been visited by Green Party voters, but, having said that a quick search reveals the site mentioned on a number of different sites none of which appear to be particularly for Green Party voters, as well as in a couple of newspapers.

Will this transfer into votes?  Of course not.....having read the comments on a couple of forums where people have discussed how they  found that they had selected mainly Green votes they still say they will be voting Labour, Conservative or, sometimes Lib Dem on the basis that they will be voting for a candidate they feel is more likely to win in the First Past The Post System that doubles for democracy in this country, even when that candidate's party will be implementing policies that they have just failed to select as the best policies.

It appears that the way the democratic process operates in this country, means that we have to make do with second-best when choosing our politicians.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for your post, great stuff - pleased to hear you enjoyed using the site :)

    What newspapers did you come across Vote for Policies in? (" well as in a couple of newspapers") We're trying to keep track of any mentions in the media as best we can, so if you could let me know that would be great!


    Simon Plenderleith

    Vote for Policies / Makito Labs