While the media’s buzzing with talk of left wing policies, of Corbynism and Blairism and Labour voters scared by the great Labour disaster of 2015, I thought I’d talk about something else altogether. Fortunately, the BES asks people how they feel about each party, which has the lovely benefit of sounding really interesting and not really on anyone’s mind.
So let’s quickly go through a basic model of Labour vote on May 7th (based on vote recall, asked in wave 6 of the BES). I looked at ethnicity, gender, age, education, household income, marital status, region. All behave pretty much as you’d expect, with White British, men and people with higher incomes less likely to have voted Labour. Previous vote is an important predictor: previous Tory, SNP or UKIP voters (2010 elections) are least likely to have cast a vote for Labour now. Positioning yourself to the right of the political spectrum has a negative impact, while identifying yourself as Labour is the strongest predictor, having a huge impact actually.
But enough of that. The BES also asks respondents how they feel towards each of the party, with the options to select angry, hopeful, afraid and proud. Holding positive emotions towards Labour increase the chances of voting for the party, while negative emotions decrease them, just as you’d boringly expect. Looking at the positive emotions, both pride and hope have a strong impact. In fact, you can get much greater benefits from voters who feel some positive emotion towards the party than from no angering or making them afraid.
Now, on face value, it might seem that pride is the feeling you need to tap into, as predicted probabilities increase to a whopping 87%. But taking a closer look, a measly 9% of respondents actually said they felt proud of Labour. Not necessarily a bad place to be. That’s in line with Tories (10%) and higher than UKIP (5%) and LibDems (3%). In fact, only the SNP actually made respondents feel proud (34% – asked only in Scotland). But then, we all know where that strategy got them. Moving from 9% would be a strenuous task, but maybe it’s worth the risk?
So does all this have an implication for Labour nowadays? I’d argue, if there is anyone who can create the sense of pride in the party, that person would have to be Jeremy Corbyn. I would love to see any data on this, but I can easily imagine Ed Miliband scoring quite poorly on making people proud of the party (pretty sure that goes for hopeful too), while Corbyn standing out with his pride-inducing capabilities like a bona fide Captain America (Captain Britain maybe? – Marvel’s 79th greatest comic book hero of course). But then I could be completely wrong.
One final note. With the election of Mr. Corbyn, we’ve been told we should be afraid of what’s coming, afraid for Labour, afraid for Britain. Here comes a person so left wing that Labour voters will flee in dread. So is there anything to that? Well, yes. I had a look at how far away people place themselves from Labour depending on the emotions that the party generates. Labour voters and those holding positive emotions see themselves in line with the Party. If you’re afraid of the party, you likely see yourself quite a long way towards the right (3.8 points difference, on a 11-point scale). Yet, even further away you’ll see respondents who are angry (4.2 points to the right of Labour).
Nevertheless, that’s definitely something Jeremy Corbyn should look out for. If the discourse doesn’t move away from a new Labour that should make us all afraid, it could have quite drastic consequences on the party’s chances to win in 2020. Instead, focusing on pride and hope could in fact go a long way to getting a Labour government elected.
Would love to hear people’s thoughts on all of this.
Data used: BES2015, weighted to a representative sample of Britain, participating in W6. Data can be found here. Syntax can be found here. Drop me a note if you think I’ve done something wrong, or not good enough, or just have a cool idea.
P.S. Thanks to Arnold Platon for great suggestion to the last chart. He makes cool maps over here (Romanian).