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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Stereotypes and opinion polling

In the USA Hillary Clinton has got into trouble for characterising the supporters of Donald Trump as 'deplorables'. NBC reports that she told an LGBT gala fundraiser that many of the GOP candidate's voters were "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."

This sort of lazy (and offensive) labelling of one's opponents plays to the voraciousness of the 24/7 media coverage of politics. The media want soundbites rather than analysis and where they offer analysis it is often superficial.

Constant opinion polls play into this agenda, they feed the media beast, reduce everything to slogans and turn snapshots of opinion into unsupportable concrete predictions. The recent trend to use polls to profile particular groups of people is equally superficial as is evidenced by this article in the Independent.

They report that new YouGov 'research' has concluded that the typical Corbyn supporter is prone to depression and not eating meat. They say that the most representative member of Labour's swelling ranks of new members is a middle-class Welsh man in his early twenties who works for a charity. It would be laughable if it were not taken so seriously by the media and by politicians themselves. It is politics reduced to marketing.

The YouGov poll continues that Corbyn supporters are keen on the Internet, where they like to watch YouTube and frequent Jeremy Corbyn's Facebook page:

Their keenest political interests include the NHS, homelessness and climate change – as well as the fear that we are being controlled by a secret elite.

When they're not on the Internet, Corbyn supporters tend to like writing and politics, and are keen on Stephen Fry, David Attenborough and Eddie Izzard, according YouGov.

And while they might be vegetarian, it doesn't mean that their diets are boring. They like a wide range of foods – everything from dal and thali to bangers and mash, though all of them vegetarian.

According to YouGov's statistics, Mr Corbyn's supporters appear to be as expected, given media reports. People who like him tend to be young and left-wing – indeed, they are at the left extreme of YouGov's spectrum.

But they also tend strongly to be female – as much as they do for being young and being left-wing.

The more I read of this stuff, the less I believe it. It is almost as if the polling company are seeking to clone us to fit into specific groups. To do so would certainly make it easier to identiify who we should be targeting in our policy-making, but it hardly reflects the individuality that characterises us and informs all our choices.
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