Participatory Budgeting Lessons Over Last 30 Years

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 17/08/2018 - 10:30pm in

Participatory Budgeting has been rapidly growing across the world for the last 30 years, in all levels of government, in organizations, and in schools. There was a report released by the Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network on the current state of PB and its future; and NCDD member org, the Participatory Budgeting Project, recorded a webinar with the report authors, Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler. You can listen to the webinar in the article below and find the original on PBP’s site here.

Lessons from 30 years of a global experiment in democracy

The Hewlett Foundation and Omidyar Network recently funded a major new report on the lessons learned from 30 years of participatory budgeting (PB). In July, we hosted a webinar about the state and future of PB with report authors Stephanie McNulty and Brian Wampler.

Check out the webinar recording, slides, and key takeaways below.

We asked Stephanie and Brian about what it meant to write this report in 2018, a time of great change for PB and for democracy.

Stephanie spoke to how PB has grown since beginning in Brazil in 1989: “It’s sort of exploding, and happening all over the world in places that are very different from Brazil… It’s taking place faster than we can document and analyze.”

Brian shared about experimentation in PB happening with a variety of focus areas and in new contexts. Part of the power of PB is in how adaptable it is. Many folks experiment with how to design PB to best serve their community. And so, PB looks different in the more than 7,000 localities it exists in around the world.

“PB is probably the most widespread public policy tool to undertake what we consider democratizing democracy.”- Stephanie McNulty

In 30 years, PB has created significant impacts. Doing PB and studying it need more investment to further impact democracy. We’re still learning about the ways that PB can transform individuals and communities.

Early research suggests PB strengthens the civic attitudes and practices of participants, elected officials, and civil servants. Beyond changes at the individual level, the report documents changes at the community level. Changes at the community level include greater accountability, stronger civil society, improved transparency, and better well-being.

But, in the end, good PB doesn’t just happen; it has to be built. It requires intentional effort to ensure that PB practice lives up to its promise. It can yield benefits for those who participate in the early stages, but it takes time for those to expand to broader areas. PB is growing faster as more people learn about it’s potential. We need further research to  learn from what advocates on the ground know about PB’s impact—as well as it’s areas for improvement. The future of PB will require effort and sustained resources to support new ways of placing power in the hands of the people.

The report documents key ways PB has transformed over 30 years.

  • Scale. PB started at the municipal level in Brazil, and now exists in every level of government, and even within government agencies. PB is now being done for schools, colleges, cities, districts, states, and nations—places where people are looking for deeper democracy.
  • Secret ballots to consensus-based processes. When we spoke about what was most surprising or unexpected while writing the report, Brian talked about the shift in how communities make decisions in PB often moving from secret ballots to consensus-based processes.
  • Technology. New technologies are used for recruitment, to provide information, and to offer oversight. We don’t fully understand the benefits and limitations of this particular transformation, and look forward to more research on this question.
  • Increased donor interest. More international donors are interested in promoting and supporting PB.
  • A shift away from pro-poor roots. PB in Brazil began as a project of the Workers Party to pursue social justice and give power to marginalized communities and the disenfranchised. This is a core reason why many look to PB to solve deeply entrenched problems of inequity in the democratic process. Unfortunately today, many PB processes around the world do not have an explicit social justice goals.

We’ve learned that focusing on social justice actually makes PB work better. PB processes that seek to include traditionally marginalized voices make it easier for everyone to participate in making better decisions.

To wrap up our webinar, Laura Bacon from Omidyar Network, David Sasaki from the Hewlett Foundation, and our Co-Executive Director at PBP, Josh Lerner shared takeaways for grantmakers.

They discussed what we need to make the transformative impacts of PB be bigger and more widespread.

  • Medium and long term investment is important for PB success. One off investments don’t create the impacts of PB and can lead to a decline in quality.
  • Government support is crucial. PB works best when it complements government—not opposes it.
  • Watch out for participation fatigue. If the conditions for successful PB are not fully in place, residents and advocacy organizations can grow weary of continued involvement.
  • Funders should focus PB grantmaking in areas that have conditions in place for it to be successful. They should look at political, economic, and social contexts before funding the process.

Want more updates on the state and future of PB? Sign up for PBP’s Newsletter

You can find the original version of this article on the Participatory Budgeting Project site at

‘ “Hitler had a valid argument against some Jews”: Repertoires for the denial of antisemitism in Facebook discussion of a survey of attitudes to Jews and Israel’ (now in print)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 04/08/2018 - 5:52pm in

My article ‘ “Hitler had a valid argument against some Jews”: repertoires for the denial of antisemitism in Facebook discussion of a survey of attitudes to Jews and Israel’, which was published online in April this year, has now appeared in the August issue of Discourse, Context & Media. It explains the background to the antisemitism crisis that has now engulfed the Labour Party leadership, then analyses some of the ways in which Labour supporters deny the existence of antisemitism before looking at how the largest unofficial Labour Party Facebook group makes the problem worse by readily expelling those who challenge antisemitism but only expelling antisemites for extreme transgressions.


The version of the article that was printed is now the version of record and can also be read online (where it replaces the earlier ‘online first’ version). If you do not have a subscription to Discourse, Context & Media, you can read the accepted manuscript draft on this website or contact me to request a legal copy of the version of record.

Bibliographic details

Allington, D. (2018) ‘ “Hitler had a valid argument against some Jews”: Repertoires for the denial of antisemitism in Facebook discussion of a survey of attitudes to Jews and Israel’. Discourse, Context, and Media 24: 129-136.


Anti-Semitism; Anti-Zionism; Denial of racism; Attitudes; Zionism; Israel; Jews; Labour Party; Facebook; Social media


  • Antisemitism may be simultaneously expressed and denied
  • Antisemitism is often expressed in statements about a Jewish or ‘Zionist’ elite
  • Research and policy should recognise the ways in which antisemitism is expressed
  • Left wing Facebook groups do not effectively police the expression of antisemitism
  • Group members who challenge antisemitism may face exclusion


Existing research suggests that, in contemporary liberal democracies, complaints of racism are routinely rejected and prejudice may be both expressed and disavowed in the same breath. Surveys and historical research have established that – both in democratic states and in those of the Soviet Bloc (while it existed) – antisemitism has long been related to or expressed in the form of statements about Israel or ‘Zionist’, permitting anti-Jewish attitudes to circulate under cover of political critique. This article looks at how the findings of a survey of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli attitudes were rejected by users of three Facebook pages associated with the British Left. Through thematic discourse analysis, three recurrent repertoires are identified: firstly, what David Hirsh calls the ‘Livingstone Formulation’ (i.e. the argument that complaints of antisemitism are made in bad faith to protect Israel and/or attack the Left), secondly, accusations of flawed methodology similar to those with which UK Labour Party supporters routinely dismiss the findings of unfavourable opinion polls, and thirdly, the argument that, because certain classically antisemitic beliefs pertain to a supposed Jewish or ‘Zionist’ elite and not to Jews in general, they are not antisemitic. In one case, the latter repertoire facilitates virtually unopposed apologism for Adolf Hitler. Contextual evidence suggests that the dominance of such repertoires within one very large UK Labour Party-aligned group may be the result of action on the part of certain ‘admins’ or moderators. It is argued that awareness of the repertoires used to express and defend antisemitic attitudes should inform the design of quantitative research into the latter, and be taken account of in the formulation of policy measures aiming to restrict or counter hate speech (in social media and elsewhere).


United Kingdom: Study suggests that welfare conditionality does more harm than good

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/08/2018 - 5:09am in

  The Welfare Conditionality (WelCond) project recently released a report on how people receiving benefits in the UK experience welfare conditionality within a social security system. Welfare conditionality is where a person’s eligibility for benefits is dependent on meeting certain requirements, for example attending regular interviews, which will be taken away if a person does not meet the latter.  

The post United Kingdom: Study suggests that welfare conditionality does more harm than good appeared first on BIEN.

Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/07/2018 - 10:30pm in



In the third part of the Local Civic Challenge from by NCDD member, The Jefferson Center, they encourage folks to get ready for election season and offer some great resources to prepare. In June, JC had a mini-challenge every week for folks to be more engaged with their local democracy. This round connected folks about registering to vote and volunteering for elections. You can read the post below and find the original on the JC site here.

Local Civic Challenge #3: Getting Ready for Election Season

Maintaining the integrity of our elections is vital to democracy, so this week we’re challenging you to get more involved with the process. Below, find out where you vote, how to register yourself and help others, volunteer at the polls, and more.

1. Get Registered

First off, make sure you’re registered to vote. A great place to start is, where you can find out how to register online, or download a hard copy of the National Mail Voter Registration Form to send in. For information about registering in person, registering in other languages, registration deadlines, voter requirements, and more, check out this voting guide.

2. Find out where you vote

You can find your local election office here. This website will direct you to your state’s voting guide, where you should be able to see your polling place (including maps and directions), districts for your precinct, and candidates and questions that will be on the ballot at the next election. Your state may also have a primary election coming up soon, which determines the candidates that will be on the ballot in the general November election.

3. Know the issues and positions

What issues do you care about? Do you know where candidates stand? Here are a few resources that will help you match your views with your vote:

iCitizen or Vote411: provide voter guides by location

Project Vote Smart: helps you explore not only issues and stances, but voting records and campaign contributions

BallotReady: research every name and issue on the upcoming ballot

iSideWith: working backwards, this matches you with the “perfect” candidate based on your stances on issues

After you find your favorite candidates, see if they could use any help on the campaign trail. Joining a volunteer team is usually as simple as making a quick phone call or sending an email.

4. Help others

Help another person register to vote. Download and share voter outreach materials like these online and at your office, college, or neighborhood centers, and see if your community has a local get-out-the-vote campaign. For teachers, programs like Your Vote Matters can help students learn more about the voting process.

5. Work at the polls

Election judges are temporary, paid employees of local election offices who handle all the aspects of voting day! Your duties would include setting up the polling place, ensuring elections are fair, impartial, and secure, and tabulating the votes for the precinct. Contact your local election office to find out the requirements, like if you have to be a registered voter in that state, of a certain age, or officially affiliated with a political party.

How are you preparing for the upcoming elections? Was it difficult to find information about voting in your community?

Next week, we’ll take a look at the power of supporting local journalism and community storytelling.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at

Local Civic Challenge #2: Explore Local Leadership Roles

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 19/07/2018 - 10:30pm in



Democracy is all about community members being engaged in their government, and learning more ways on how to deeper connect with your local politics. A great way to do this is to join the Local Civic Challenge started by NCDD member,The Jefferson Center, where during the month of June they offer a mini-challenge every week for folks to learn more about and engage with, their local government. This second installment of the Challenge offers ways to explore local leadership roles (you can read the first installment about getting familiar with your local government here.) We encourage you to learn more about how you can become a more engaged citizen in the post below and you can find the original on the JC site here,

Local Civic Challenge #2: Joining Local Offices, Committees, and Boards

This post is part of our Local Civic Challenge, a chance to complete a few easy tasks each week that will help you become a more engaged citizen! To get the series delivered directly to your inbox, sign up here.

Learning more about the day-to-day work of your local gov, and how community members are thinking about issues, can often segue into taking on a leadership position yourself. We’ve seen this happen a few times throughout our work at the Jefferson Center. Just last week, Erin Buss, a participant in the Minnesota Community Assemblyfiled to run for City Council in Red Wing, Minnesota.

She told the local paper:

“As a participant in the Red Wing Citizens Assembly, I learned a lot about residents’ concerns and the importance of doing the work to keep this city on the right track. People want their government to be responsive, accountable and accessible. I’m excited to bring a fresh viewpoint to City Council — it’s time for Red Wing to move forward.”

Here’s a few ways you can start exploring local leadership roles:

1. See what’s open

It’s an election year, and it’s likely you’ll have some seats in your community up for grabs. Find out which seats these are, and who else is running. While the deadline to file for congressional seats has passed in most states, there may be time to file for city, township, and school district offices.

2. Learn who holds local office

Even if you won’t run yourself, it’s key to know who is. These aren’t always the elections we pay close attention to, especially when the national and state elections take over our newsfeeds. Resources like Common Cause and Ballotpedia make it easy to find your local representatives.

3. Listen to your neighbors

If running for an official title isn’t your thing, check out when your local neighborhood council or community development association meets. This is a great way to find out what issues are important to your neighbors, and where the current gaps are. You could start by listening in at meetings, and eventually move up to a volunteer leadership position.

4. Tune in

Find out when your city council meets, and see if they are streamed online if you can’t attend the meeting in-person. If they aren’t, that might be something to suggest to your city to make the meetings more accessible for everyone.

5. Search

It seems simple, but just googling “get involved in [insert your city] government” will likely bring up a page full of volunteer opportunities! For instance, you might be needed to teach local community ed classes, clean up parks and trails, help out in community gardens, participate in invasive species education, or assist library staff. If your city doesn’t have a dedicated volunteer page, try contacting the department you’d want to work with directly.

Do you hold a leadership position in your community? How did you end up there? If not, what’s holding you back? Let us know in the comments.

Next week, we’ll explore how you can get ready for election season.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at

Local Civic Challenge #1: Learn More About Your Local Gov

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 10:30pm in



As a fantastic way to help folks further strengthen civic muscles, our friends at The Jefferson Center – an NCDD member org recently began offering a Local Civic Challenge. Every week they have a mini challenge for becoming more engaged with your local government and we will be lifting them up here on the NCDD blog. The first challenge is to get familiar with your local gov! Let us know in the comments below if you have additional great tips for getting familiar with our own city governments. We encourage you to flex those civic skills by checking out the post below, which you can find the original on the JC site here, and sign up to get it delivered to your email!

Local Civic Challenge #1: Get Familiar With Your Local Gov

To kick off the first week of the Local Civic Challenge, we want you to learn more about the ins and outs of your city government! That includes how it operates, who’s involved, and ways you can give feedback. Once you’re done, you’ll be more familiar with how the system works, and you might even have some ideas on the ways things could be improved.

Do you want the Local Civic Challenges delivered directly to your inbox? Sign up here.

1. Locate your city’s charter

In the United States, city charters usually define the organization, power, functions, and procedures of local government. Not all states allow local governments to create their own charters, so double check this list before your search.

2. Find out if your mayor is strong or weak

This isn’t a comment on your mayor’s effectiveness (that’s a different conversation), but their level of authority on local issues. In a “strong mayor” system, mayors are directly elected, and can make appointments and veto legislation. Meanwhile, most “weak mayors” are elected from within the city council, and do not have veto powers or executive authority on most matters. Yours may not be entirely one or the other, either!

3. Give some feedback

What’s one thing you think your local government is doing well? What could they improve on, and do you have any suggestions for them? Make a list, then head to your city’s website to find who to contact. Most have phone numbers and email addresses for different departments, from parks & rec to public works, so you can reach out to the right people.

4. Save the dates

If you don’t want to miss upcoming upcoming public meetings, see if your city has an upcoming events calendar or schedule published online.

5. Follow and like

Does your city or county use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram? If you follow them, you can just catch important projects updates and events as you scroll! Plus, you can easily give feedback by messaging, liking, or commenting.

6. Get familiar with the voting system

Local elections in the US vary widely, but the most common are first-past-the-post voting and instant-runoff voting (often called ranked-choice voting). In first-past-the-post, the candidate with the most votes wins the election. In instant-runoff, voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than voting for a single candidate. Ballots are counted and each voter’s top choice is recorded, and losing candidates (those with the lowest votes) are eliminated, and their ballots are redistributed until one candidate remains as the top choice of the majority of voters.

Was it difficult to find information about your city? Could your local government be more accessible? Let us know in the comments below!

Next week, we’ll explore how to join local offices, committees, and boards.

You can find the original version of this article on The Jefferson Center site at

Book Review: Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age by Matthew J. Salganik

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 06/07/2018 - 11:21pm in

In Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital AgeMatthew J. Salganik explores the process of undertaking social research in the digital era, examining a wide range of concepts while also offering teaching activities and materials. In bringing together the expertise of social and data scientists to the benefit of both, this is a comprehensive overview of new approaches to social research in our time, recommends Marziyeh Ebrahimi.

Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age. Matthew J. Salganik. Princeton University Press. 2018.

Find this book: amazon-logo

Bit by Bit: Social Research in the Digital Age, written by Matthew J. Salganik, Professor at Princeton University, gives clear and detailed information about carrying out social research in the digital era. The book has up-to-date content which covers a wide range of concepts related to online content and it also offers activities and solutions, which makes it a perfect text both for researchers working with big data and for university lecturers looking for a course book on this topic. The book is accessible on its website and Salganik has also provided an array of teaching materials, such as syllabuses and slides, for each chapter.

In the introduction, Salganik points out that this book has two key audiences that have a lot to learn from each other. On the one hand, it is for social scientists who have training and experience studying social behaviour; on the other hand, the book is also for data scientists who have received training in the computer sciences or engineering. This book attempts to bring these two communities together to produce something richer and more interesting than either community might produce individually.

Bit by Bit has seven chapters and progresses through four broad research designs: observing behaviour; asking questions; running experiments; and creating mass collaboration. At the end of each chapter it offers a wide range of activities, which are labelled by degree of difficulty and by the skills that are required to solve them, including maths, coding or data collection.

In the analogue age, collecting data about behaviour – data related to who does what and when – was expensive and therefore relatively rare. Now, in the digital age, the behaviour of billions of people is recorded, stored and analysable. Since this data is a by-product of people’s everyday actions, they are often called ‘digital traces’. The ever-increasing flood of big data means that we have moved from a world where behaviour data is scarce to one in which it is plentiful.

Image Credit: (GDJ CCO)

Salganik considers that the first step to learning about big data is realising that it is a part of a broader category of data that has been used for social research for many years: observational data. Roughly speaking, this concerns any data that results from observing a social system without intervening in some way. Nonetheless, as he writes:

Big data sources are everywhere, but using them for social research can be tricky. In my experience, there is something like a ‘‘no free lunch’’ rule for data: if you don’t put in a lot of work collecting it, then you are probably going to have to put in a lot of work into thinking about it and analyzing it.

Regarding big data sources, Salganik writes that many researchers immediately focus on online data created and collected by companies, such as search engine logs and social media posts. However, this leaves out two other important sources of big data. First, corporate big data sources that come from digital devices in the physical world; and, second, government administrative records. It’s true that these sources of information have been always [(un)ethically] used by social scientists, but what has changed is digitisation, which has made it dramatically easier for governments to collect, transmit, store and analyse data.

Salganik introduces the ten common characteristics of big data: big; always on; nonreactive; incomplete; inaccessible; non-representative; drifting; algorithmically confounded; dirty; and sensitive. For example, ‘always-on’ data collection enables researchers to study unexpected events in ways that would not otherwise be possible. For example, those studying the Occupy Gezi protests in Turkey in summer 2013 would typically focus on the behaviour of protesters during the event, since the data was publicly accessible online through social networks. Regarding ‘nonreactivity’, Salganik writes that:

one challenge of social research is that people can change their behavior when they know that they are being observed by researchers. Social scientists generally call this reactivity. One aspect of big data that many researchers find promising is that participants are generally not aware that their data are being captured or they have become so accustomed to this data collection that it no longer changes their behavior. Because participants are nonreactive, therefore, many sources of big data can be used to study behaviour that has not been amenable to accurate measurement previously.

In addition, he identified three main strategies for learning from big data sources: counting things; forecasting things; and approximating experiments.

Amongst the digital research concepts that Salganik has developed throughout this book, creating mass collaboration, the title of Chapter Five, gives a unique perspective on the new forms of social research and collaboration in our time. He explains that:

the digital age fortunately enables many novel forms of collaboration. As an example, the key to Wikipedia’s success was not new knowledge; rather, it was a new form of collaboration. Mass collaboration blends ideas from citizen science, which is about involving citizens in the scientific process, and crowd-sourcing, which concerns taking a problem ordinarily solved within an organisation and instead outsourcing it to a crowd and collective intelligence.

However, the digital age has not only created new opportunities for collecting and analysing social data, but has also produced new ethical challenges. Salganik argues that four principles can guide researchers facing ethical uncertainty: respect for persons; beneficence; justice; and respect for law and public interests. However, research ethics involves struggling over decisions about what to do and what not to do. As a solution to these dilemmas, he suggests that the researchers put themselves in other people’s shoes: ‘Often researchers are so focused on the scientific aims of their work that they see the world only through that lens. This myopia can lead to bad ethical judgement.’ Therefore, when you are thinking about your study, try to imagine how your participants, other relevant stakeholders and even a journalist might react to the research. This perspective-taking is different from imagining how you would feel in each of these positions. Rather, it is trying to imagine how these other people will feel.

Ultimately, Salganik believes that social researchers are in the process of making a transition akin to the shift from photography to cinematography. The future of social research will be a combination of social science and data science, where there will be more participant-centred data collection, and ethics will move from being a peripheral to central concern and a topic of research in its own right. Bit by Bit gives a comprehensive overview about this new way of doing social research in our time, and is one of those books that all social academics should read or consider.

Dr Marziyeh Ebrahimi started writing professionally as a journalist at the news agency, ISNA, in Iran when she was 17. She defended her doctoral dissertation on users behaviour analysis at Universidad de Navarra in Spain in 2016. She currently collaborates as a post-doc researcher with Universidad Panamericana in Mexico – Aguascalientes.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Watch Recording of the 2018 A Public Voice Event in DC

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/06/2018 - 10:30pm in



In case you missed it, the recording was released for last month’s A Public Voice, held May 9th in Washington DC. The annual event hosted by NCDD member orgs – the Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute, brought together policymakers, their staffers, and folks from the D&D field to discuss outcomes from the forums on immigration that were held throughout the year. You can read the announcement and watch the APV2018 recording in the post below, and find the original on NIFI’s site here.

Watch – A Public Voice 2018, Recorded May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC

A Public Voice, the Kettering Foundation‘s annual event that brings together policymakers and practitioners of deliberative democracy from around the country, was held on May 9, 2018 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The two-hour panel discussion and audience questions were recorded (the program begins at about 14 minutes, 20 seconds into the recording) and can be viewed at

Gary Paul, a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director and professor at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University; and John Doble, Kettering Foundation senior associate and contributing editor of the Coming to America issue guide, moderated the exchange among members of a panel that included:

  • Jean Johnson, National Issues Forums Institute, Vice President for moderator development and communications and contributor to the Coming to America report
  • Alberto Olivas, Executive Director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Arizona State University
  • Virginia York, National Issues Forums moderator, Panama City, Florida
  • Oliver Schwab, chief of staff, Rep. David S. Schweickert
  • Mischa Thompson, senior policy advisor, US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
  • Adam Hunter, former director, immigration and the states project, Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, program director, governance initiative, Democracy Fund

You can find the original version of this announcement on the National Issues Forums Institute’s blog at

Voters in the 2017 general election – and how they voted previously

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/06/2018 - 8:57am in

This is the third and final part of my preliminary analysis of groups of voters defined by the choices they made in the 2015 general election, the 2016 European Union membership referendum, and the 2017 general election (c.f. Stephen Bush’s nine voter groups), using an English subset of responses to the British Election Study’s post-election face-to-face survey. In the first part, I looked at the ten largest groups, from Conservative-Leave-Conservative to Conservative-Remain-Labour, both in terms of their size and in terms of their self-declared likelihood to vote for various parties in future, and found that Labour Remainers were not only more numerous but (on their own assessment) more likely to be poached than Labour Leavers, while the smaller group of Conservative Remainers who had switched to voting Labour were quite likely to switch again. In the second part, I looked at six groups of voters who had in common that they could have voted but did not in the 2015 general election, finding that most of them did not vote either in the 2016 referendum or the 2017 general election, and that only the minority who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum were more likely than not to have voted in the 2017 general election.

To finish up for now, here’s a single chart showing all voter groups which participated in the 2017 general election (weighted by demographic group and by 2017 vote). Each quarter of the chart below shows the members of the sample who voted for one of the four main parties. These voters are further subdivided into columns to show how they voted in the referendum and into coloured blocks to show who they voted for in 2015 (note that black covers both non-voting and voting outside the four main parties, which most often meant voting Green as the data are from England only):

Voters in the 2017 general election - and how they voted previously

What does this chart tell us? It tells us that, at least within this random sample of 1874 voters (1777 after weighting)…

  1. Most of those who voted for the two right-wing parties in 2017 had voted Leave in 2016, while most of those who voted for the two liberal-left wing parties in 2017 had voted Remain – and this is true whether we focus on voters retained or on new voters gained
  2. However, the Remainer proportion of the 2017 Conservative vote is substantially greater than the Leaver proportion of the 2017 Labour vote
  3. The Conservative Party picked up most of the (Leave-voting) UKIP vote from 2015
  4. But it picked up more votes from Labour Remainers than it did from Labour Leavers
  5. And so (less surprisingly) did the Liberal Democrats
  6. In fact, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats both picked up far more votes from Remainers than from Leavers – both from the Conservatives and from each other
  7. Those 2017 voters who did not vote in the 2016 referendum mostly ended up voting Labour
  8. Every party except UKIP both gained and lost a substantial proportion of voters between 2015 and 2017
  9. UKIP definitely lost voters, but you have to zoom into the chart to see its minuscule gains

To summarise: on the evidence of these data, the only really notable movement among Leavers seems to have been the metamorphosis of most 2015 UKIP voters into 2017 Conservative voters. Those voters are unlikely to go back to UKIP because, on the brink of financial ruin and with no credible leadership, UKIP is in no position to win them back. Otherwise, the movement that has taken place appears to have been largely among Remain voters: more Remainers than Leavers would seem to have gone in both directions between Labour and the Conservatives and between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, while the Liberal Democrats picked up a not inconsiderable number of formerly Conservative Remainers and while a larger block of Remain voters who had not voted for any of the four main parties in 2015 simultaneously fell into orbit around Labour.

The Labour and Conservative Parties did nothing to court the Remain vote last year, and have done nothing to court it since. But it looks like it’s the Remain vote that is volatile now.


Ten voter groups: combinations of EU referendum and general election votes in the BES 2017 face-to-face survey

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/06/2018 - 10:29pm in

Like many, I read with interest Stephen Bush’s recent article on ‘The nine voter groups who are more important than Labour Leavers’. If Bush were a grant awarding institution, there would be money available for researching those groups. Well, he isn’t, so there isn’t, but I like a challenge so I’m going to make a start anyway – using open data from the British Election Study (henceforth, BES). To be more specific, I’ll be using the BES 2017 face-to-face survey, which was conducted after the election and uses what should probably be considered a more genuinely random sample than the online waves.

If we focus only on England (because the other parts of the UK have really quite different political systems), this gives us 1874 respondents, or 1839 after weighting for demographic group. Even after weighting, Labour voters are over-represented, but we’re not trying to predict last year’s election – we’re trying to understand why people made the voting choices that they did, and to use that information to derive hints about what voting choices they might make in future.

Bush’s general approach was to identify groups by how they have voted in recent years. Groups identified in this way are more or less important, if I understand him correctly, according to how much they might sway the result of future elections. And a group’s ability to do that would presumably depend upon (a) its size and (b) its likelihood of flipping from one party to another, given some sort of predictable event such as a political party coming out for some particular policy.

What sort of a policy might that be? Respondents to the survey gave a pretty clear hint of that in their responses to the open question, ‘As far as you’re concerned, what is the single most important issue facing the country at the present time?’ Although Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May largely succeeded in avoiding discussing Brexit policy during the 2017 election campaign, Brexit was clearly the most popular answer. And well it might have been, I might add, because all the other issues in the top five clearly depend on what kind of a Brexit the UK actually gets. (Note for the nerds: what I’m actually counting here is the number of respondents who gave each of these words as a one-word answer, plus the number of respondents who began their answers with one of these words, or a morphologically related word, e.g. ‘immigrants’ was counted under ‘immigration’. Also, throughout this article I’m using the BES team’s wt_demog weighting.)

The overwhelming importance given to Brexit is analytically convenient, because one of the last three important UK-wide votes was the 2016 referendum on continued membership of the EU, so if we use that referendum to define our groups (as Bush did in some cases), then the definition of the groups themselves will give us an indication of how they might feel about the policy area that their members seem to regard as most important.

 BES face-to-face survey, 2017

So now to those groups.

There are some that I’d like to come to at a later date (in particular, ‘Conservative voters in 2017’ and ‘Labour 2017, Gives An Answer Other Than “Jeremy Corbyn” When Asked Who Would Make The Best Prime Minister’). But right now I’m intrigued by the possibility Bush raises of dividing up the electorate by combinations of 2015 General Election, 2016 EU referendum, and 2017 General Election votes

Bush lists four of these: ‘Conservative 2015, Remain 2016, Labour 2017’, ‘Conservative 2015, Remain 2016, Conservatives 2017’, ‘Non-voting until 2016, Remain 2016, Labour 2017’, and ‘Non-voting until 2016, Leave 2016, Non-voting 2017’ (the latter of which he lumped together with an implied fifth group, ‘UKIP 2015, Leave 2016, Non-voting 2017’). But even if we limit ourselves to the four main parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, and UKIP) plus ‘other’ as a catch-all plus non-voting in the two general elections, plus the three possible responses to the 2016 referendum (Leave, Remain, and non-voting), there are an awful lot of potential groups: 108 of them, to be precise. Or 126 if we distinguish those who didn’t vote in 2015 from those who couldn’t vote, e.g. because they were too young. (I made this distinction in my analysis but it didn’t seem to make any difference to the overall picture.) Most of these groups are going to be too small as to be important. If voters are evenly distributed between all 108 or 126 groups, then less than 1% will fall into each, and if they are not, then less than 1% will fall into each of most of them.

With R’s dplyr package, it’s quite easy to divide up survey respondents according to combinations of votes (using group_by), and then calculate each group’s average responses to the question ‘How likely is it that you would ever vote for each of the following parties?’ (on a scale from 0 to 10) to give a sense of their probability of flipping in the next election (using summarise). Here are the ten largest:

Top ten voter groups, BES 2017 face-to-face survey

As the table shows, the largest groups are of people whose voting behaviour was the same in 2017 and 2015, regardless of what they did or didn’t do in 2016. That’s not particularly surprising, because the British electorate isn’t known for shopping around: by and large, Conservative voters vote Conservative, Labour voters vote Labour, and non-voters don’t vote.

But the table contains a very clear hint that Bush might be right in his main thesis that ‘Labour Leavers – that is, voters who backed Labour in 2015 and Leave in the referendum of 2016 – have received an outsized share of attention and analysis’. As we see from the above, the ‘Labour 2015, Remain 2016, Labour 2017’ group is much, much bigger than the ‘Labour 2015, Leave 2016, Labour 2017’ group, and – given the probability scores – the former looks much more amenable to being poached by the (anti-Brexit) Liberal Democrats than the latter does by the (pro-Brexit) UKIP and Conservative Party. Meanwhile, there was no other combination beginning ‘Labour 2015, Leave 2016’ that was large enough to make the top 10, indicating that there has been no major exodus of Leave voters from Labour to elsewhere.

When we remember the recent survey finding that ‘fewer than one third (32%) [of Labour Leavers] think [that leaving the EU is] very important’ while ‘over half (51%) [of Labour Remainers] say [that staying in the EU] is very important’, there is therefore clearly now a substantial body of evidence to indicate the greater potential for Labour Remainers than Labour Leavers to influence the result of a future general election – provided that somebody makes a bid for their support. Whoever it is, it probably won’t be the Labour leader, a lifelong Eurosceptic who called for the invocation of Article 50 before even Nigel Farage. But as I said last June, Paris might be worth a mass.

Looking further down the list, ‘Conservative 2015, Remain 2016, Labour 2017’ looks very much like a floating vote, giving very similar probability scores for all parties except UKIP, which it would seem to regard as beyond the pale. In fact, the only top 10 group giving UKIP a score higher than 3.1 was ‘UKIP 2015, Leave 2016, Conservative 2017’: the Leave-voting UKIP-Conservative switchers who decimated Paul Nuttall’s already shaky credibility last June. Those switchers might switch again. But, based on the probability scores, they don’t seem to like Labour or the Liberal Democrats very much, and right now the chances of UKIP’s winning back anybody’s vote with its current leadership and financial difficulties are looking pretty remote. And even the 3.1 came from ‘None 2015, Leave 2016, None 2017’: a small group that is, like the much larger ‘None 2015, None 2016, None 2017’, unlikely to vote for anyone in the near future (not only on the evidence of its avowedly low likelihood of voting for any of the four main parties but on the evidence of, ahem, past behaviour). Those two groups can, I think, fairly safely be written off as unimportant, at least in the sense defined above. (I know that sounds elitist, but if people don’t want to vote for anything that’s available, then they can’t influence elections.) The Conservatives might be able to attract the ‘UKIP 2015, Leave 2016, UKIP 2017’ group next time around, but it was too small to make the top ten above and therefore its departure from the UKIP fold probably won’t have much of an impact on anything now that the bulk of 2015 UKIP voters has already left for pastures new.

So it looks as if UKIP voters have had their (admittedly gigantic) effect and are now a spent force, and – all in all – the groups to watch from now on are the very large group of Labour Remainers – only a small proportion of which would need to peel off and vote for another party to make an impact at the polls – and the much smaller group of Remain-voting Conservative-Labour switchers, whose votes have migrated once and (even if we did not have the evidence of the probability scores above) might therefore be assumed to be more than averagely predisposed to migrate again. Labour Leavers are much smaller in number than one of the aforementioned, and – it seems – more likely than both to stay put.

Now to the inevitable caveat. While the approximate relative sizes of these groups are probably a robust finding (because the poll itself was so large), the average probability scores for a group become less and less reliable as the size of the group falls: for example, the averages in the final row in the table above are the findings of what was in effect a poll of 29 people, so the margin of error will be huge, and I mention the scores above only because they are more-or-less what we might expect given that particular group’s voting history.

We could find greater numbers of people falling within each group from the BES online panel, but that has representativeness problems of its own, and what we’re coming to here is an essential problem of the approach of splitting survey respondents up into discrete groups of successively smaller size. I’ve done some more analysis that takes a slightly different approach in order to mitigate that problem, but I’ll save it for a future post.