This week I posted a survey on what qualities people people want to see in a potential PM, and had around 450 responses. They were asked for each of the qualities whether they found the quality personally important, and whether that quality was important in winning an election. They were then asked to rate 8 politicians on those qualities . All of these were on a 1 – 5 scale, where 1 is the lowest and 5 the highest.
The qualities that were discussed were being patriotic, intelligent, tough, honest, good looking, compassionate and an ordinary person. The politicians in question were David Cameron, Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage, Ed Milliband, Boris Johnson, Theresa May, George Osborne and Chuka Umunna.
Here, the green dot represents the average response to the question “How important is it to you personally that a potential PM is patriotic?”; the purple is the average response to the question “How important do you think being patriotic is to electoral success?”.
Next, our politicians.
It is interesting to note that it is almost unanimous that being intelligent is a trait that is important for people in a PM, yet there is a shared perception that it isn’t overly important to winning an election.
With our politicians, we have a much smaller range than before: the difference for patriotism was 2.03 (Corbyn on 2.09 vs Farage on 4.39); the difference here is only 0.87 (May on 2.97 vs Millinand on 3.84).
I must admit I laughed at the cynicism of my respondents: although honesty was clearly important to them, it was deemed the least important of the seven traits when it comes to electoral success.
In a reversal of cynicism of the honesty question, the majority of people say that they aren’t swayed by good looks, but seem to think that it will affect electoral success.
An ordinary person
The party differences
An interesting thing that comes from this data is how people’s opinions vary according to what party they say they would vote for if an election were held today. Surprisingly, people are reasonably unpartisan when it comes to judging politicians: the Conservative voters still said that Corbyn was more honest than Cameron; the Labour voters still said that Cameron was tougher than Corbyn (although obviously, there were some shifts in favour of people’s preferred parties). What does change, however, is what values people find important and unimportant.
According to Jonathan Haidt, there are five areas that matter when discussing politics (later a sixth was added): fairness; care (for others); loyalty to the larger group; respect for authority and tradition; and purity (e.g. religiously pious). He suggests that right-leaning individuals tend to care a fair bit about all five categories, while left-leaning people care a great deal about the first two, but not very much about the latter three. As such, a combination of group loyalty and respect for tradition would mean that we would expect right-leaning people to value patriotism more highly than left-leaning people, and the results confirm this.
Here are the seven values, split into importance according to voting intention of Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and UKIP (unfortunately the sample sizes were too small to create a meaningful representation of SNP or Green voters).
A key consequence of these kinds of difference is what party leaders use as targets. For example, Jeremy Corbyn is likely not overly concerned about appearing patriotic, and those around him probably agree. However, if Corbyn wishes to win over UKIP supporters who used to support Labour, he needs to understand that they do value patriotism, and without being patriotic, it will be much more difficult to win them over.
Seemingly, no party wants to be the party that doesn’t value intelligence.
A man with less journalistic integrity would make a joke about that set of results.
Finally, is the breakdown of answers to the question “Which quality is most important for you personally?”
I should note that although it shows up as 0%, there were actually 2 respondents who said that the most important quality was ‘good looking’.
If you would like to look at the results to my survey in further depth, they can be viewed here.