Monday, January 24, 2011

The Mass Middle

Ireland's forthcoming election is unlikely to see much polarisation between the Left and the Right politically speaking. That's not how we do things. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised, for Ireland's electorate is firmly in the middle when it comes to the traditional Left-Right spectrum. Earlier this month, my company asked 1,000 adults to answer the question: "In politics people sometimes talk of left and right. Where would you place yourself on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means the left and 10 means the right?" The results - comparing the distributions along the spectrum for males and females - shows a high clustering around the middle:


The same question has been asked before in Ireland - using a different methodology - and in the past the electorate have been more right of centre than in our own survey. Again, it may be a matter of methodology. It should be noted that the graph above excludes 'don't knows': they make up a quarter of the population (much higher among females than males).

Nevertheless there do appear to be some demographic differences when it comes to self-positioning on the Left-Right spectrum. In addition to males being more 'right wing' than females, younger adults are more left wing than older adults (though 16-24s are less left wing than 25-34s). Dublin is more left wing than Munster, and people with children are more right wing than those without.

All of this poses an interesting question for political parties as they prepare their manifestos for the forthcoming election: just how far to the Left or to the Right should you pitch your stall in order to win extra votes, assuming you continue to appeal to the mass middle?

1 comment:

  1. Political ideology doesn't exist in Ireland, or the way we're governed tends to eviscerate any ideological distinctions. The way our parties engage in internecine feuds over who will be head honcho is the kind of comical side-show that has supplanted political principles in our country. There is so little difference between the parties, once they get into office, that they should all put aside the pretence of difference and join forces to mend what's broken. Put the country and its people first and forget the divisive civil war atavisms that still seem to flicker in their public servicing hearts.

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