Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Trust in News Media and Trust In Parliament: Latest Research Reveals A Strong Correlation


The latest Pew Research study of European trust in news media contains some good news and some bad news. It also demonstrates very clearly a strong correlation between trust in news media and trust in parliament.

On the positive side the overwhelming majority of people believe that news media is important. In countries such as Sweden and Germany over 60% believe it is very important. This is encouraging given the role of the media in liberal democracies, and particularly in political communication such as informing and educating citizens, and providing a platform for public political discourse.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science Of Winning Political Campaigns

Winning elections is not just about persuading people to your point of view, to win elections you need to ensure:
  1. the people that support you register to vote, and
  2. your supporters actually get to the polling booth and vote

Increasing the turnout of your supporters by just a few percent can be the difference between winning and losing an election. It can actually be more significant and critical than trying to persuade people about your policies. A meta-study in 2017 looked at 49 field experiments and concluded that campaign efforts to win over opposing supporters and undecided voters were largely unsuccessful. However, they found campaigns can mobilise your own supporters.

In the The Victory Lab (2013) Sasha Issenberg reveals the thousands of experiments that have been conducted by political parties over the last 50 years to improve registration and turnout. This is an important area that has been under-reported by the media. Only the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal has prompted any significant coverage of experiments to increase turnout and target voters. Thus it is useful to look in some detail at the secret science of political campaigns.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Review: Consumer Democracy: The Marketing of Politics


Does political marketing enhance or diminish democracy?

This is one of the key questions that arises from Margaret Scammell's book: Consumer Democracy: The Marketing of Politics.

Elections are a zero sum game, where the aim of a campaign is to win and it is this competitive element that drives political marketing according to Scammell. Such marketing may be good for democracy for example by developing a deeper understanding of citizen concerns, improving the quality of information, increasing public knowledge, encouraging greater engagement and ensuring the responsiveness of politicians. Equally there are dangers such as manipulating emotions through the use of fear and negative messaging, distortion and misinformation, tribal polarisation and ruthless targeting which can reduce transparency and ignore large sections of the electorate.

Scammell argues our task is to identify and promote political marketing that enhances democracy. She sets out a useful set of democratic dimensions against which we can assess and judge political marketing campaigns.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Review: Ctrl Alt Delete: How Politics and the Media Crashed Our Democracy

Tom Baldwin nails his colours to the mast with the sub-title of his new book Ctrl Alt Delete: How Politics and the Media Crashed Our Democracy.

The basic premise of the book is that changes in politics and the media over recent years have led to "three severe shocks" namely the Brexit vote, Trump's election and Corbyn's 2017 election performance. According to Baldwin these three shocks have "left democracy itself hanging off its hinges." (p218)

Baldwin's view is shared by many in the broadsheet press and at universities. For example Carole Cadwaller's article in the Guardian 'The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked.'  Another example is this 30th July 2019 post on the Journalism and Society Facebook page of the London School of Economics reviewing Baldwin's book.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Labour Take The Lead: Significant Poll Shift After Chequers Agreement

The political context appears to have changed since the Prime Minister's Chequers proposal on Brexit was approved by the cabinet. There were two cabinet minister resignations on Monday 9th July 2018 over the proposal. The opinion polling that has taken place since those resignations reveals a significant shift in party support.

In three polls conducted since the 10th July Conservative support has fallen and UKIP support risen, resulting in a Labour lead.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

What People Fail To Understand About Opinion Polls

This summer I have been reading Factfulness by Hans Rosling. In this best selling book Rosling sets out ten reasons why we are wrong about the world and pursues his mission to educate us about facts and statistics. This resonated with me when I read an article on the limitations of opinion polls. People simply fail to understand the margins of error on opinion polls and the potential impact.

Polls in the UK general often have a sample size of 1,200 to 2,200 people. For polls with 1,200 people the margin of error is roughly 3 percent, for polls with 2,200 people the margin of error is closer to 2 per cent. This margin applies equally to each party's vote share.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

What The FT Summer Books List Reveals About Politics And Populism

I was browsing through the Financial Times summer reading list this weekend when I was struck by a common political theme. All six books below highlight, in one way or another, the risk of global capitalism undermining national democratic accountability and giving rise to nationalist populist forces.


The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era, by Barry Eichengreen

The FT says this is a lucid book on the contemporary threat of populism, defined as “a political movement with anti-elite, authoritarian and nativist tendencies” which threatens both the US and Europe. The US because there is no effective political response to the unbridled free market. The EU 'because nationalism feeds on hostility to the constraints imposed by a technocratic EU.'

Thursday, May 24, 2018

How Older Towns and Younger Cities Are Reshaping Politics

One of the defining issues that emerged from David Goodhart's book The Road to Somewhere was the distinct geographical locations and identities of what he defined as the Anywheres and the Somewheres. The Somewheres are more likely to be found in towns and villages and the Anywheres are more likely to be found in the cities.

This geographical split in many ways mirrors the age differences when it comes to voting, as villages and towns are getting older while cities are getting younger.

The following chart comes from the Centre for Towns and reveals the changing population structure of towns and cities over the thirty years to 2011.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Overwhelming Support For Nationalisation of UK Infrastructure Industries

I previously wrote about how Corbyn's policies were becoming part of the political mainstream. The latest survey data shows that there is significant support for his policies on nationalisation.

A poll published late last year by the Legatum Institute and Populus found overwhelming support for public ownership of the UK’s water (83 per cent), electricity (77 per cent), gas (77 per cent) and railway (76 per cent).

Corbyn may have low personal ratings and Labour may be behind in the current polls but on nationalisation they appear to be in tune with public thinking. While some may argue that the true costs and impact of nationalisation have not been adequately exposed, three quarters of the public currently support Labour's policies in this area.

Trump Not Brexit Drove the Interest in Fake News

The number of articles written about fake news exploded in November 2016 after the election of Donald Trump. The data below from BuzzSumo shows that there were over 10,000 articles about fake news published in November 2016 alone.



Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Population Declines in Eastern Europe

The impact of the EU's free movement policy is heavily discussed here in the UK, particularly in relation to immigration from Eastern Europe. What is rarely discussed is the impact of this policy on Eastern Europe.

The United Nations latest population projections reveal that the ten countries with the fastest shrinking populations are all in eastern Europe. Since 1989 there have been some significant falls in population, for example:

Latvia        27%
Lithuania   23%
Bulgaria     21%


Monday, March 05, 2018

Five Star and Northern League Gain Half of the Vote in Italian Elections

In 2017 the French far right achieved an historically high share of the vote, with 34% of those voting for Le Pen. The far right AFD are now the main opposition in the German parliament. Yesterday in Italy the populist Five Star Movement and the far right Northern League gained around 50% of the vote between them.



Saturday, January 20, 2018

Whose GDP Is It Anyway?

During the UK Brexit referendum there was an exchange which highlighted the differences between experts and the public.

During one debate Europe expert, professor Anand Menon, made the point that leaving the UK would reduce the UK’s GDP which would be bad for everyone. One woman in the audience retorted “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours.”

The woman was ridiculed by many for not understanding economics and the importance of GDP. However, her analysis was far more accurate than many of the experts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

European Attitudes Towards Immigration

The Financial Times has published an interesting article on the rise of the populist right in Europe.

The article quotes a survey released in November by Fondapol, a Paris-based liberal think-tank which found nearly two-thirds of EU citizens believe immigration has a negative impact on their countries.

Britain is often portrayed as ant-immigrant because of the Brexit vote but the Fondapol survey shows that Britons have a more positive attitude towards immigrants than Germany, France, Austria or Italy.





Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Age Divide in UK Politics

The latest poll from Suravtion,  the polling company that got closest to the actual UK General Election result, shows just how much the generations are divided when it comes to politics.

The sampling took place on 30th November 2017 and 1st December 2017.

The poll, with undecided and refused removed, found the following split in voting intentions by age.



Saturday, November 25, 2017

Population Polarisation: Younger Cities vs Older Towns and Villages


Polarisation is increasingly a feature of political life. It seems that communities are becoming increasingly polarised as well. The Financial Times published an article this week highlighting new research showing that young people are moving to cities, while older people are moving in the other direction to towns and villages. 

Since 1981, Britain’s main cities have seen net inflows of more than 300,000 under-25s and net outflows of 200,000 over-65s.  By contrast, towns and villages have lost more than a million people aged under 25, while gaining more than 2m over-65s.  This correlates with older people in towns and villages voting Brexit and younger people in cities voting remain.



Sunday, October 01, 2017

Latest Survey Shows That Corbyn Really Is The Political Mainstream

The latest polling from Lord Ashcroft is worrying news for the Tories on the eve of their Party conference.

Last week many were laughing when Jeremy Corbyn announced that Labour is now the mainstream. They are probably not laughing now. The polling below shows clearly how Labour is ahead in all but two of the areas surveyed.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

What Are You Signalling When You Post, Share and Like Online?

In the online world everything that you post, comment, share or like is a signal. Consciously or unconsciously you provide cues and signals to others online.

What does our online signalling behaviour mean for political discussion, engagement and sharing on social media? Does it lead ineluctably to more division and extreme views? There is some academic evidence that it does.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

How The World Is Changing

This week I read two articles which outlined very clearly how the shape of the the world is changing. The first was by Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. The article used six charts to show how the developed world was losing out to the developing world. The second was Harvard Business Review's new global digital competitiveness index.

I have set out below just three charts from these articles which demonstrate how the balance of world economic power is changing.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Is Corbyn Right To Support The Pensions Triple Lock?

I am not a Theresa May supporter but her election pledge to end the pension Triple Lock was principled if suicidal, given most older people support the Conservatives. By contrast Jeremy Corbyn has committed to maintaining the triple lock until at least 2022.

The Triple Lock policy guarantees pensions rise by the same as average earnings, the consumer price index, or 2.5%, whichever is the highest. It is was clearly a policy designed to attract the voting power of baby boomers.

Average working incomes have barely risen at all in the last ten years. At lower levels they have been held down by low cost labour from Eastern Europe and immigration, job insecurity and the gig economy, low unionisation and public sector pay cap policies. By contrast the triple lock has increased pensions.