Policy opinion breakdown – what the nation thinks

Recently, I put a survey on the website Reddit, specifically inviting users from the subreddits of /r/ukpolitics, /r/unitedkingdom and /r/uklabour to answer.

I got 1194 responses, which allow me to paint a fairly decent broad-strokes picture of how the UK feels on certain issues, and how those issues compare among supporters of different parties.

First and foremost, a warning on how to read statistics

I am not a professional pollster, so my questions were often overly vague, and occasionally potentially misleading. Therefore, the first rule is to assume every finding here is potentially wrong. Secondly, in the main results form (linked below), the results are simply in their raw form. That is to say that the number of respondents who supported certain parties did not reflect the national spread, so on that results page, the results are only intended to reflect the users of the parts of Reddit that answered. In this article, I have made an attempt to weight some of the more interesting results to better reflect how they might be seen nationally. Thirdly, other demographic biases are present here. There is a very strong gender imbalance, where more than 90% of respondents are male, although generally this doesn’t have a massive impact on most issues (although that is not to say that there is no impact). More important to policy belief is age, and unsurprisingly an internet poll leads to a massive underrepresentation of older people. Unfortunately, the number of people in the groups 40 – 49, 50 – 59 and 60+ were so low that I cannot fairly weight responses to include an age weighting without a very large margin of error.

Other biases do exist in the data of course, but as long as you have the three points above in mind, you should largely be able to read the data without being misled.

If you click here you can read the raw data responses, and once you have had a look there, you can come back to this article to see party-weighted results for a couple of the issues, then a more in-depth analysis of four issues: the legalisation of marijuana; opinions on the EU; state ownership of the NHS, the railways, the postal service and the utilities; and finally on voting systems.


Party weighted results

Party weighting is particularly tricky since to reflect the national opinion correctly, you would have to include all the minor parties, as well as the opinions of those who are undecided or non-voters. As such, I will simplify the following questions and then divide them by the vote share as of the last GE, and ignore non-voters and minor parties. This isn’t ideal, but it does somewhat combat the online biases. Secondly, the question asked in the poll was what party people would vote for today, so there is a small discrepancy with comparing today’s imaginary GE with the 2015 GE. Bearing that in mind, here are three issues to compare raw data and party-weighted data.

 

Firstly, opinions on trident. The initial poll asked for more detail to include military spending, but this is a simplified one just referencing trident.

raw                                                                 weighted by party

Trident raw  Trident weighted

As you can see, the weighting of the data here shows that in fact there is a rather large majority of the country that supports keeping trident (again, the assumption being that the average conservative voter in my poll, for example, is representative of the average conservative voter in the country).

 

 

Next, immigration:

Raw                                                                   Weighted by party

 

Again, the party weighting paints quite a different picture: in the raw data. a total of “too high” was 48%; in the weighted data, “too high” was 60%. If this data reflects the country accurately, it will be interesting to see how it might affect the EU referendum.

 

Finally, a ban on niqabs and burkas. Before even looking at the data, I should note that this was one of the questions that I later realised was misleading, as given by answers in the ‘other’ answer boxes – I assumed that people would know what niqabs and burkas were (both covering the face), whereas some responses suggested that people thought that one was a face covering and the other just a headscarf.

Raw                                                                    weighted by party

 

Here we see the ‘banning’ portion of the pie increase somewhat with weighting, although it is still in a minority by quite a large amount. It should be noted that the majority of ‘other’ votes were in favour of a ban, but under conditions, for example in schools.


 

Now, a breakdown of four issues

Legalisation of marijuana

Firstly, our overall data (raw) in response to the statement “Marijuana should be legalised for recreational purposes”

Mar All

As you can see, there is an overwhelming majority in favour of legalisation

Party by party:

Conservative                           Green                                            Labour

 

Lib Dem                                      SNP                                                UKIP

It is interesting to note that even amount UKIP supporters, as the least likely group to support legalisation, agree leads disagree by thirteen points. As such, unless this data does not accurately reflect the country, it would appear that this issue is one that is up for grabs for future political point-scoring.

Now interestingly, here is a break-down of the same data by age group:

Under 18                                        18 – 21                                        22 – 29

 

30 – 39                                  40 – 59

Mar 30 - 39 Mar 40 - 59

This indicates a somewhat counter-intuitive trend, where the young are less accepting of legalisation than the old. There are two possible explanations here: my view of the world may be wrong and the data reflects the truth; alternatively, the fact that this was an online poll on Reddit may have generated a user bias, that became especially prevalent in older groups. If the vast majority of people in their 40s and 50s do not casually use the internet for fun, the group that does may be rather unrepresentative of their age group as a whole, and so the data may not reflect the national picture.

Whatever way you look at this data, in every breakdown by age or party, there is very significant support for the legalisation of marijuana.


 

Concerns about leaving the EU

This section will show a party breakdown of what people thought Britain would be like out of the EU.

Overall (raw)

EU all

 

Party by party

Conservative                                                            Labour

 

Green                                                                         Lib Dem

 

SNP                                                                           UKIP

 

The key point of interest for me was that out of almost 200 votes, the Conservative pie was only one vote off being perfectly symmetrical. Now again, there could be a user bias, but either way among the Conservative voters that answered, the EU is certainly not as clear cut as believed.


 

State ownership

For the third breakdown, we are looking at which organisations have support to be run by the state. Firstly, the overall data (raw):

State all

 

Now party by party:

 

 

 


 

Voting systems

As our final breakdown, we will look at what system people would like to use to elect representatives. Firstly, the overall data (raw):

 

vote all

 

It should be noted that a very sizeable number of the 47 people who voted ‘other’ wrote “STV” (single transferable vote), evidently unaware that it is a form of PR, and thus really they should have chosen ‘PR (any)’.

Party by party:

Conservative                                       Green                                        Labour

 

Lib Dem                                             SNP                                              UKIP

 

With five of the six main parties having vast majorities in favour of replacing our FPTP system, it will be interesting to see how long it can hold on.


 

And finally – the best of the rest!

One of the fun things about having over a thousand people reply to the survey was that occasionally they took the chance to write something in the ‘other’ box that gave me a laugh. As such, I thought I’d share a few of them here.

In third place was that we should “nationalise /u/Duke0fWellington’s cocaine reserves” in order to fund universities.

In second place was someone saying that taking marijuana should be ‘compulsory’ for all citizens.

In first place was a bizarre historical reference in the volcano question, where one respondent suggested Enrico Dendolo (sic), a 12th century Doge of Venice.

 

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