10 days ago or so I created a survey to try and gather some data about how people’s social status affects their political orientation. It was mostly aimed at Anarchists as I was interested to see what combination of ideas and social circumstances correlate to each ideology.
Initially I got a moderate amount of responses but yesterday I decided to post a link to reddit as well and within one day I had already exceeded my allotted amount of responses (PollDaddy allows 100 survey reponses for free accounts) by a 100. However I could still see and analyze those results so I’m not exactly certain when limitations kick in. In any case, now that I’ve got a small sample I think it’s time to do some analysis and see what we find.
I’ve had most answers of course from Libertarian Socialists (i.e. Anarchists) as this is where I was aiming my survey in the first place. However, others also joined in in smaller amounts as well.
(Click on any image for a large view)
In the first question, I tried to allow people to select their current political orientation as they see it themselves. I realize this relies of people being a bit solid on their own political beliefs and it would probably have been better if I had decided their orientation for them via questions, but this is an amateur survey and I don’t have the necessary knowledge to ask the correct questions. I am thinking that in version 2 of the survey I should include one question which will ask people to take the political compass test and report back with their quadrant as this will hopefully help them choose more accurately.
If one answered this question as Libertarian Socialist, an extra page was opened to them which allowed them to further define their views within the two camps of Anarchism and also point out what brought them to this result.
Interesting Point: As I had the privilege to notice the differences between the LibSocs coming from my initial blogpost and those coming from reddit, I noticed that there were far more individualists coming from here while when reddit started entering the game, the Social Anarchists quickly overtook them as the majority. Still, the split is not that big and it seems to be in the middle between the real life numbers (where Social Anarchists are the vast majority) and the internet tendency towards right-libertarianism.
As expected, most of this camp came from Classical Liberalism following the liberty path of the LibSoc Pull.
I was surprised however at how many considered that a balance must be found between liberty and equality. The explanation I have is that because of the market mechanisms, a market anarchist always expects some levels of inequality to persist but doesn’t consider that they will be (big enough to be) disruptive. As such trying to achieve equality would by expectation interfere with the workings of the market and therefore liberty. For all of you Individualists who answered this way, is this analysis correct or did you have a different perpective on this choice?
The movement of the individualists was mainly form the liberal side athough it had a fairly large amount which came from the State Socialism path.
Continuing on to their social status…
Compared to the overall Social Status, the Individualists seem to have a higher percentage of Company Owners and Academics and lower wage workers and unemployed but not excessively so. Unfortunately I believe that the question I asked on the social status were not enough to point out more fine differences that I think would have been useful. For example, I would be quite interested to see in which sector they are wage workers at as there is a big difference in the environment between an sysadmin wage-worker and a carpenter. This is certainly something for the next survey.
On the social status, it’s interesting that they have a higher percentage of people who consider themselves to be on the lower class.I wonder what kind of connection there is here.
These were the greatest group taking part in the survey, only late in the game overcoming the individualists. Interestingly, most of them seemed to start from their current position which makes me wonder what kind of upbringing they had and how their early environment affected their life. Did they get raised by LibSoc parents or did they just happen to be in a tolerant neighborhood? These are certainly questions that I will try to include in my next version of the survey.
As expected, Social Anarchists came mostly from the State Socialism side, following the libertarian socialist pull. Still, there were still quite a bunch of them that identified as propertarians for most of their life. Certainly, It must have been quite a trip from someone to move from stateless capitalism to communism or syndicalism.
Finally, there were also quite a few who consider equality and liberty to be on a scale rather than complementary to each other. While I can understand that from individualists, I can’t grasp it from socials so I would be interested to know some perspectives on this.
On the Social Status of the Social Anarchists, the result were more of what was expected.
There is a far stronger presence of the working class which points nicely to the idea that wage-slavery radicalizes people to a degree. However while the percentage of wage-workers increased slightly, it was the student percentage that took a big jump. It seems that most of the Social Anarchists are or have mostly been still in education which can point us to two possibilities which of course don’t exclude each other. 1) Schools, colleges and universities can be a powerful breeding ground for socialism. Of course it’s difficult to figure out which is the correlation, which is why I think I should be requesting the ages of people in the future as well. 2) Social Anarchists might be as a rule younger and less experienced in life. This is of course not necessarily bad as it’s most likely that wage-slavery will radicalize them even more, however it might also serve as a platform for other schools of thought to shallowly renounce us as immature or somesuch.
As for the social position, the Social Anarchists are as a group at the lowest rungs of the social ladder and we did not manage to have any of the rich within our ranks. Still I believe a greater sample would be more telling here.
Finally, I’m going to take a look at the two other camps of survey takers as a more generalized group or Left vs Right so as to save some time. Of course you’ll be be getting the data yourselves so you can take a look yourself if you wish.
The Right (Minarchist & Stateless Capitalism)
There was quite a large number of such taking part in the survey, almost 1/4 of the total number of participants which tells a bit about my audience (hi guys & gals!) and the political consistency of /r/anarchism. Between them, their numbers were almost split in half.
While many of those two groups either started from their respective positions or moved between them, there were a few that came from more egalitarian positions. I would be especially interested to see what convinced LibSocs to turn propertarian.
As for the choice between equality and liberty, the results are not surprising although I’m surprised about those who believe that liberty requires equality. Since Capitalism is always a system which breeds inequality since it present the capacity for accumulation (indeed, it depends upon it), how can you both believe in such an idea but also support the Capitalist mode of production? I think that most who selected this option, perhaps were confused on either their choice of orientation or their choice in this question. Still, if someone consciously selected those two options, I’d like to hear the perspective behind this.
On the social status, the Liberals also have its largest percentage in wage-slavery but here it makes even more sense to know which sector dominates. I can’t get it out of my head that most will be in the Computer Industry.
The Liberals generally also seem to have been mostly students which also points to the possibility that intellectual pursuits are also conductive to liberalism. This makes me believe that I should also be inquiring on possibly both the sector one is studying in and also if the sector one currently works is the same one they’ve studied. I wonder is there is a correlation between liberalist feelings and someone managing to find work in their chosen field.
Finally the social status shows a marked move towards the upper strata. While they do not have any rich amongst them, both the middle and lower class percentages have dropped while the Upper-Middle class has increased by 8%.
The Left (Social Democrats and State Socialists)
First I’d like to say that I think I may have not been clear enough on the choices here (Curse you skewed US terminology). By “Social Democrats” I meant what the US Republicans call a “Liberal” while with “State Socialist” I mean mostly the variants of Marxist-Leninism which depend on the existence of a state to (temporarily) sustain the revolution/socialism. This might have been clear for governmental communists and the like but it might have confused Trotskyists. I had someone write to me that he didn’t know what to choose as a Marxist-Leninist so obviously this needs more work. Ideas on this appreciated.
Now on to the stats. As expected from being in the Anarchist subreddit, there were not a lot of Statists around so the sample if very small even between them.
It seems that isn’t extensive change in their viewpoints really but I was again surprised at how many people selected that you can’t have equality without freedom. If this is your viewpoint, then why do you support the existence of a state which is a profoundly authoritarian institution? Personally I expected far more people to select the “Balance” option in this case.
On the social status, things seem more or less standard. More collection on workers and students but greater concentration in the middle class. Unfortunately with such a small sample, it’s difficult to make a lot of conclusions as even the 1 rich person shows as a whole 4% of the total.
So that was it for now. I hope you’ve found the results interesting and my analysis insightful and of course, I will work on improving it more so that some more interesting information might be gleaned. At the moment, these are the kind of questions I’m thinking of adding.
- Job or Study Sector.
- Family type.
- Early life environment.
- Change question on “Which social position have you been mostly in your life” to “Which social position have you been mostly in your adult life”
- Private Property or Possession?
- Political Compass quadrant.
- Do you work on the sector you’ve studied?
- Options for “co-op” and “Boss” social positions.
- Labour theory of Value, Marginalism or some synthesis of the two?
- School of Economics (Neoclassical, Austrian, Marxian etc)
I would really appreciate feedback and ideas of course. Especially on the questions you would like to see and how the survey should be paced.
There has been quite a lot of feedback from people who took the survey as well, some giving me some good ideas while others explaining what confused them. Below I’ll respond to some of them and you’ll be able to see the rest yourselves in the full export.
Each quote represents a different submitter.
Attitudes towards different things (how valuable are things – things are more valuable to the poor; attitudes to poverty verses excess); social class growing up verses social class held now.
I’ve already included this as a question for the future and comparing those two will certainly be interesting. It might also point out how much a perspective changes as one grows up.
I also like the idea of seeing one’s attitude towards excess or luxury. I need to think how to phrase this though.
Ask more specific ideas on social issues, and methods of organization. For instance, if someone identifies as a social democrat yet, constantly agrees with Libertarian socialist ideas, it would seem they may not know what either term means.
I think that is too detailed for this survey. I’ll add however the Political Compass as an option and ask people to figure and submit on which quadrant they belong.
The options for “political orientation” are terrible, I don’t really fit within any of them.
Although I’ve added the general groupings as I see them, it’s likely that either you understand them differently or you think of yourself as something completely different. If any of you felt this way, please let me know what you would like to see (keep in mind that it needs to be something generic that a sufficient large sample might select) or how you identify yourself.
I’ve been a student and a wage worker since I could legally work, your questions need to have more options to choose from
You mean like an option for someone to choose worker & student together? Hmm. Perhaps I should make this a multiple choice vote? So that someone might choose Student + Wage Worker or Academic + Wage Worker.
Ask about politics and class of parents. Ask about type of occupation (management, finance, health care, etc). Ask about where they’ve lived.
Very good idea. Already added.
Religiousness — religious, deist, agnostic, atheist, anti-theist, etc.
Although interesting I do not know how relevant it is. What does everyone think?
What attracted you to your political point of view?
What information or insight lead you to your current political orientation?
I’m thinking of adding such open-ended questions, but they will have to be inputed as text instead of multiple choice, which will mean it will require manual reading and more time (and thus possibility to cancel the survey) on behalf of the survey taker. I may add it as an optional field and try to analyze it for general trends.
I mainly identify with the Green party philosophy, and was not sure which of your categories most closely represented it. I came to political awakening from an environmental/anti-nuclear path, and expanded it to anti-imperialism and disgust with the corporate plutocracy we have in the U.S. I think questions or an expanded answer set to cover those concepts would be useful.
I never even thought of this path. No idea how common it is but it looks to me that the environmental path closely relates to the egalitarianism path (ie, why do we need to protect the environment? To sustain general human life). Will think about this.
[…]So, while I may have said I’m a social anarchist, I was leaving out a lot of important information. I think it would be worthwhile to add questions about specific overlaps and compatibility between ideologies. Questions about the role of government (as a protector of rights, as a mutual-aid organization, as a leader, etc.), about private property, personal property, and common property (e.g. which one should be the predominant kind of property? Should any of them be removed from society?) and other items which make the ideologies what they are should be asked. Then, there could be a multiple-choice for which ideologies you could support, if they had the ability to replace the existing political and economic system.
This is certainly interesting and I’ve already decided to add some questions of this extent as well. Will need to think how many others I can cram into a multiple-question.
I suggest attempting to make a clear distinction between advocates of big government and advocates of *this* big government.
Hmm, how many such advocates are there? AFAIK both conservatives and social democrats always push governments towards an idealized status. I don’t think many are happy with the current one. Furthermore, since this is a test that I mostly target at Anarchists, I think most will simply skip this question.
– The political choices are very US-focused.
This is a weird feedback. How do you mean?
Consider adding “I don’t know” as a possible answer.
To some questions, that defeats their purpose. I am considering adding “Apolitical” though, although I guess such would simply not take the survey in the first place?
Asking about labels is not necessarily a good idea. That is, people can call themselves whatever they want but not really have a clue as to what that entails.
True, but for an amateur survey I do not have much choice. Hopefully, the addition of the Political Compass might help.
Asterisks exist for some questions without the footnote that should be there.
There are more types of Conservatives than you allow in your questions. I’m a Libertarian Conservative, not a Libertarian Socialist, but that’s not an option in your poll.
Asterisks denote mandatory questions, not footnotes.
As for Conservatives, I thought about adding such an option but I’m not certain what their significant difference from Liberals and Social Democrats is. I have even less an idea what a Libertarian Conservative is.
Also, the question about recent change in ideology should be modified. Recent change is subjective, so I’m not really sure how to answer. You should either simply ask if I have changed, and if so, what I was before, or you should ask if I’ve changed, and then, if so, how long ago did I change?
Hmm, yes, this does sound a bit more clear. Other opinions?
Have definition links embedded within the political assignments. ie, define libertarian socialist, etc.
Not certain if that is possible but it sounds like a good idea. Wikipedia?
I once postulated that you might be able to tell the difference between a republican and a democrat using functional MRI. Let me explain.
In this model, democrats are those who primarily see the world in terms of cooperation and republicans see it primarily in terms of competition. Of course, each of us knows that many parts of the world work according to each model, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that one couldn’t easily classify people by their predilection to presume that most of the world should be viewed as either one or the other.
“Cooperation or Competition” does not sound like a bad question. I think I’ll add it.
I started out as state soc leaning at ansoc, converted to the Libertarian Party, spun into ancap, and then found myself a libsoc… this quiz doesn’t allow me to say how crooked my path has been!
You’re killing me here 🙂 But I think you’re such a small minority in your political changes that it wouldn’t make much of a difference if you answered it as an approximation.
Phew, so this is the end. I hope you’ve all enjoyed this analysis and I hope I’ll see you all in version 2 of this survey (no ETA yet). Below you’ll find a link to the raw exported data I’ve pulled today with which you can play in a spreadsheet. I release all of it under the same CC licence as the rest of this site so knock yourself out and just let me know if you write about it so I can link to you.