UK Politics and Values – Beyond Class

With European Elections due to take place within weeks, and a UK General Election looming on the political horizon, British politicians and press talk a lot about ‘values’ but they rarely have any measurements of values to inform the ‘conversation’.   A question on political affinity, asked as part of the 2000-person British Values Survey, is reported for the first time here, and may help put some facts and figures alongside the rhetoric and guesswork.

  • Supporters of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are massively divided over their most powerful (and unconscious) values, even though the parties are in a governing coalition.

  • The very narrow values bases of UKIP and the Libdems will make it hard for them to break out.

  • Support for the Conservatives is low amongst Pioneers and the young

  • The key battlegrounds between Labour and Conservative include the younger, especially female voters, and most of all Prospectors.

British political parties have traditionally looked at voters in terms of age, sex and class (Socio Economic Group or SEG), and at themselves in terms of left-right political ideology, or ‘managerialism’ v ideology.  A huge amount of commentary and analysis proceeds from these starting points, and a lot of time is then spent trying to explain public opinions, aspirations and voting behaviour in these terms.  For example puzzling over who the ‘Middle Class’ are, and arguing about what ‘working class’ now means.

Analysis of motivational values provides an alternative or additional insight into the politics of the ‘public’, which goes beyond class.  This report Beyond Class C Rose Final April 2014 details a December 2013 British survey by CDSM (Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing www.cultdyn.co.uk), involving 2,000 representative British adults over 16.

This asked hundreds of questions about attitudes and beliefs, and the question “At heart, which political party do you identify with most strongly?”   This is not a question about voting intention but about feelings of support.

The options given were:  Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, UK Independence Party, British National Party, Green Party and ‘Other’, together with ‘don’t know’.   Respondents were also asked a set of questions developed over decades of running the BVS which segment them by values, into the three main ‘Maslow Groups’ (MGs) of Settler, Prospector and Pioneer, and the twelve more distinct Values Modes (VMs), which lie four within each of the MGs.  They were also surveyed for age, sex and SEG.

The same question “At heart, which political party do you identify with most strongly?” has been asked in a number of previous surveys.   Reports of a 2005 British ‘Values and Voters’ survey can be found here, a 2009 article in Total Politics here and a 2013 report by Nic Pecorelli at IPPR ‘The New Electorate: Why Understanding Values is the Key to Electoral Successhere, while there are several blogs with values and UK political data at CDSM’s website (see links in main report).

Results

The most popular choice was Labour, followed by Conservative, UKIP and Liberal Democrat.   There is a large 19.9% ‘don’t know’ which is of course of interest to politicians.   Below: actual numbers from the survey by MG and political affinity.

Pols bar chart 2013

The data on political choices by values group (MG):

Pols uk sig and skews 2013 The warm colours indicate significant over agreement (over indexing), the cool colours the opposite.  (For further explanation see main report).

Individual values maps  of party support show a large overlap between Conservative and Labour support in the Prospectors but that the Conservatives have more support in the Settlers.   To gain more support here, Labour would need to resonate with Settler values such as safety, identity, security and belonging.  The attempts to win support on the issue of immigration are perhaps one such example but Labour is in a three way fight with UKIP and Conservative for the core Settler vote.  UKIP has little support outside the Settler values area but eroding it would be difficult without a long bottom-up process because the UKIP vote is a result of sustained neglect by other parties.  Finding another Settler-resonant battleground might be more fruitful for Labour but its main gains can probably be made in the Prospectors.  Labour currently has more support in the GD Golden Dreamers and the Conservatives more amongst the NP Now People.

uk pols terrain landsc 2013

Above: ‘terrain maps’ of values for some political choices in the British Values Survey. Warm colours indicate higher agreement.   For further explanation and key to VMs see main report.

The main deficit for the Conservatives is support amongst the Pioneers.  The more it tries to play to the issues that excite UKIP voters (eg against onshore wind turbines), the more acute this problem may become because there is a huge divide on many attitudes between VMs such as RT and BNW (Settlers) and TX and CE (Pioneers).

Liberal Democrat support is concentrated in just two VMs, the TX  Transcender and CE Concerned Ethical Pioneers.  Values of LibDem supporters are almost the diametric opposite of the main Conservative supporter values, indicating the uneasy nature of their ‘marriage of convenience’ in the governing coalition.   Any government politicians who have convinced themselves that they really share a common cause are deluding themselves: their supporters do not feel it.

The LibDem support base really shares more values with the Greens but they have an even smaller base centred in the TX, and they heavily overlap with Labour.

[It should be remembered in looking at these values maps that the attitudes and beliefs involved are not mainly political-ideological but about the importance of things like tradition, benevolence, justice, ethics, hedonism, conformity, respect and success, power and universalism (see main report for the 2012Values Map showing the CDSM Attributes , and for an explanation of the current Attributes see here).]

The BNP’s tiny base is centred in the RT Roots VM, which is the one with least sense of self-agency.  These people are those least likely to go out and proselytize.   The SNP has an interesting map which may be analysed in a future post at www.cultdyn.co.uk by Pat Dade.

The parties with the most distinct values profile – UKIP and the Liberal Democrats – face the most difficult task in breaking out of their ‘natural’ base and attracting wider support.   Realistically this would involve the Liberal Democrats appealing to more Pioneers but for that they are in direct competition with both the Green Party and Labour, as well as to more Prospectors, especially Now People (NPs).  The shortest answer for the LibDems to appeal to NP Prospectors is that they need to look more fun, and less earnest and ethical but that in turn might upset the CE Concerned Ethicals in their base.

Pioneers are the most universalist, global minded and civic minded of the MG values groups.  Prospectors are the most transactional, assessing political offers more as a deal – “what’s on offer for me ?” – but are also on an active search to be entertained, so they are most attracted to celebrity and ‘star quality’.  Part of Tony Blair’s appeal to Prospectors, which was a key component of the ‘New Labour’ brand,  was his charisma, youthful energy and ‘modern-ness’ compared to both the Conservatives of the time and to Old Labour.  Indeed the fact that New Labour seemed to be more a ‘brand’ in the commercial sense, and less an ideology (not about ideas – Pioneer, and not a dogmatic creed – Settler), was attractive to Prospectors in itself.

The extent to which people then declare a right or left affinity for parties depends not just on their values but the offer being made by the parties.  In the past, UK politics was dominated by Settlers (who formed the majority of the population) and both the Conservatives and Labour had identity based (in the UK ‘class based’) followings who voted ‘instinctively’ or ‘traditionally’.  Those certainties have broken down since the mid C20th, and few ‘progressive’ parties have any ‘identity’ offer, often leaving the right wing as the only identity-based option for Settlers.  This is discussed further in main report, which also gives demographics showing that UKIP and Conservative over-index amongst the over 65s but Labour has an advantage over the Conservatives in appealing to the under 34s.

Don’t Knows

The large 20% who say ‘don’t know’ tend more to be younger and female.  This profile, together with the Prospectors in general who are fairly equally divided between supporting Conservative and Labour, looks to be the key values-demographic battle ground.

The report also gives data on occupation and class (Socio Economic Group).  Although there are skews in relation to values, the political affinities divide more clearly over values, than age, sex or class.

Note

Thanks to CDSM for permission to publish parts of the 2013-14 BVS results in this paper.

CDSM is continuing to develop its current British Values Survey in 2014 and plans to conduct several waves with different sets of questions.   Enquiries should be addressed to Pat Dade at CDSM pat@cultdyn.co.uk

You can contact me at chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk


[1] Explanations of the ‘Values Modes’ system can be found at www.cultdyn.co.uk where you can also take an online survey to identify your own values.  An introductory explanation is here, and The differences between the four Pioneer Values Modes (VMs) in each of the three MGs, are explained here: Settler, Prospector, Pioneer.  The book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors, and Pioneers provides many examples of how the system works and is available here. There are numerous blogs and articles at www.cultdyn.co.uk and www.campaignstrategy.org (including ‘three worlds’ blog).

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