>So I’m in the centre…. right?


Playing around with some possible aids for teaching two-dimensional political space and party systems next year, I come across Political Survery 2005. Originally intended as a resource to accompany the last UK general elections, this is one of several similar online self-diagnosis tests for assessing your political position on the traditional left-right, state vs. market scale on one hand and some version of the GAL-TAN scale measuring social liberalism/cosmopolitanism versus social authoritarianism/nationalism. As it has the best graphics and the fullest report and is UK, rather than US-oriented, I pencilled it in as visual aid for next year’s Comparative Politics course and had a go myself.

Despite some pretty powerful cross currents on both sets of questions, I had assumed I would come as mildly redistributive economically and moderately socially liberal on the other. But no, my results tell me that economically centrist, but in other respects some thing of a way out social liberal – in a select band of about 10 per cent of UK voters, more permissive and internationalist than about 80% of them. My views here apparently put squarely in the fold of Green party voters but, more unnervingly, my views on the economy are closest to those Tory supporters and readers of the Daily Star, a tabloid best known for breasts and bingo, and National Inquirer-style “Elvis Found Alive On Moon” stories, rather than its political coverage. On the other hand, according to the scattergram mapping me into a universe of YouGov respondents from a 2005 poll (see above), I am part of some outer spiral arm of the galaxy of Lib Dem and Labour supporters.

All very confusing. Perhaps I should just emigrate and join the Czech Green Party or some other eco-liberal party somewhere in Scandinavia?

But perhaps, this confusingness is the real point. With the exception of Tory voters of 2005, it is very hard to draw clear lines around the ideological territory inhabited by the voters of any party or, indeed, readers of any major newspaper. There also seems a lack of clear polarization on economic issues – my supposedly middle of the road economic views give me something in common with the majority of supporters of all parties from the Liberals to the far-right BNP.

British voter choice – including probably mine – is clearly refracted through a melange of issue salience, wrong self-placement, self interest, rational ignorance, cultural and party stereotyping, local factors and institutional incentives, which can render such spatial mapping pretty much just a parlour game.

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