Quantifying the great cultural divide: those wanting blunt leaders versus those who think you shouldn’t cause offence

Quantifying the great cultural divide: those wanting blunt leaders versus those who think you shouldn’t cause offence

There’s some new polling just out by YouGov for the latest Prospect Magazine which appears to identify and quantify a divide amongst voters based on a series of questions that I don’t recall being asked in this form before.

The one that is most telling is where voters were asked what they preferred in a leader. Overall 45% preferred “politicians who spoke bluntly, without worrying about who they offend,” against 38% who opted for a leader who “spoke carefully” to avoid “unnecessarily offending people.

Tom Clarke, Prospect’s editor, observes:

..In an age when the news is punctuated by outrage at Trumpian swipes at women, Mexicans and Muslims, this is a sobering reminder that for a very large proportion of voters— much larger than those who ever backed Nigel Farage’s Ukip— “speaking before you think” is politically preferable to being more considerate and cautious. Populist leaders will be encour- aged by that.

More striking even than this overall result on the question of unvarnished leadership is the split between different parts of the population. The preference for the “plain speaker” leader is far higher among Conservative voters (62 per cent) than Labour supporters (33 per cent). And indeed, whereas there is a 20-point lead for the leader who avoids unnecessary offence among EU Remainers (53-33), among Leavers, there is, by 38 points (62-24), a preference for a leader more in the Trumpian
mould on this count…

Although not unexpected the Leave-Remain splits amongst respondees is striking and indicative of the success of the appeal of Trump and Farage and Rees-Mogg. You may not agree with them but they are not mealy-mouthed and have clear positions.

My hesitancy about the polling is the way that the choices were expressed to the sample. The plain speaker notion sounds much more attractive than the alternative offered and even voters who are clearly aware of the necessary nuances of political life might have opted for it.

Having a plain speaking leaders winning an election is no guarantee that they’ll be able to repeat the process. Trump might survive his first term but could find that his approach is a turnout driver for the opposition and an inhibitor to the more marginal groups of his own party’s base.

We’ll get a clearer indicator of that following the US midterms in November. Also the possible arrival of Mitt Romney in the Senate could be a real threat to the President within the GOP.

Tom Clarke’s full article is well worth reading.

Mike Smithson

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