The Tab’s Political Survey: The Results
How Conservative is your college? How socialist is your subject?
Last week we surveyed hundreds of Cambridge students, asking them about their political positions. The purpose: to investigate whether the stereotypes of colleges/subjects/extracurriculars really are true. After hours of painstaking data analysis, we are ready to reveal all.
Political compass memes have been a staple since the dark days of Impact font and motivational posters, so you’re probably familiar enough with the format. Be sure though, that The Tab does not deal in memes.
Our survey enabled us to average huge numbers of responses for each particular group, so by-and-large you can consider them as accurate. In cases where a group’s sample was considered too small, they were removed from the analysis (sorry Education, Darwin, Clare Hall, St Edmunds and Lucy Cav).
Our focus was on how people tend to view themselves politically. The survey asked participants to rate themselves out of 10 in terms of social and economic leanings, rather than a long list of policy questions. Hence, there may be a slight deviation towards the middle, as most consider their own political affiliation to be moderate, and others to be extreme.
Caveats over. Let’s dive on in.
At first glance, it is obvious that basically every college is, on average, socially liberal. This is concurrent with the usual conception of students, though perhaps not as extreme as is portrayed in the media. Robinson and Caius are perhaps the only outliers in this instance, being socially more moderate. Medwards, Clare, and perhaps surprisingly, Churchill lie on the other end of the spectrum, being the most socially liberal colleges
In economic terms, all colleges are fairly centrist, with the majority leaning slightly to the left. Trinity leans most to the right (perhaps because of the sheer amount of property it’s sitting on) followed by Robinson, Christ’s, Magdalene and St John’s. Medwards, Clare and Churchill again mark themselves out by being the most economically left wing.
What is unsurprising is the positive correlation of social and economic factors in political viewpoints. Colleges which are more economically right have a tendency to be slightly more socially conservative. This trend is bucked by some (Peterhouse in particular), but overall is fairly continuous. We could calculate a correlation coefficient for you, and do a statistical test, but this is a Tab article, not an IMF report. Onto the subjects.
Overall, subjects groups show greater variance in their political affiliations. The social-economic correlation is still apparent, and all are socially liberal in absolute terms. This variation largely conforms to pre-existing stereotypes. The most socially conservative subjects are Classics and Theology (life is sin). At the other end of the scale, PBS is by far the most socially liberal, followed by Architecture, Linguistics and Philosophy. Interestingly, HSPS is less liberal than would be imagined, though still more so than average.
Again, the economic picture shows most subject groups to be centrist, with a slightly larger number leaning left.
Unsurprisingly, economists are furthest to the right economically, perhaps annoyed by the prospect of paying income tax on their first city paycheck. They’re trailed by Vets, Classicists, Engineers and Lawyers, who all lie right of centre. Natural Scientists are basically middle of the park, though interestingly Mathematicians average both socially liberal and economically quite left. Who really knows what they think though.
Extracurricular activities again display a similar grouping around left of centre, but are seemingly divided between two subsets. CUSU and JCR committee members are notably more socially liberal and economically left than the average, potentially indicative of how left wing students tend to be more politically active. This also to an extent explains the apparent disconnect existing between CUSU and much of the student body. Thespians also occupy this area.
Union members on the other hand are slightly more economically centrist and marginally less socially liberal than the average student. Similarly sport, by far the most popular extracurricular of our survey participants, sits fairly close to the mean.
Student journalists are much like CUSU and JCR members in their economic stance, but deviate towards the centre socially. This is perhaps an encouraging sign of the breadth of views available in the student press. Despite, for the most part the discourse is left leaning, there seemingly isn’t political uniformity among journalists. This could be explained by the separation of op-ed writers, who could tend towards the left, and news reporters who may be more centrist.
The average political position of a Cambridge student is slightly to the left economically speaking and moderately socially liberal. This does trivialise what is a fairly complex picture. If we examine the responses to our social question, we can a clear preference towards social liberality, with the most popular responses being 2 and 3 – slightly left of centre.
Alternative viewpoints do exist. Forty-three respondents answered seven (moderately socially conservative), while fourteen answered 10 (extremely socially conservative). These fairly unpopular viewpoints perhaps reflect conservative religious types, who form a sizeable minority at the university.
On the economic side, the picture is far more varied. Two clear majority positions either side of the centre exist, with 2-4 (centre left to moderate left) encompassing 46.8% of respondents, while 6-8 (centre right to moderate right) captured 29.8% of the responses. While Lib-demmy/Blairite positions are dominant, they do not hold a decisive majority as on the social spectrum.
Furthermore, far left positions comparable to socialism and communism were less popular than one might expect. Under 9% of participants answered 0-1, relatively comparable to those holding far right economic positions (9-10 answered by 8% of correspondents). This puts to bed the view that students are generally hardcore Trotskyites. The fact that the media so often assumes this is perhaps due to the ability of the far left minority to grab headlines. Overall, whether centre left or centre right, in economic terms students tend to be moderate.
Here at The Tab we like to let you guys have some of the fun. So in the survey, you were asked to describe your political philosophy. Though the most popular responses were Conservative, Liberal, Socialist and Centrist (yawn), some took the liberty of elaborating. Here’s the best of them.
“Lib-left in the streets, Authoritarian Communist in the sheets”
“fuckin legalize the ting and do some socialism”
“Gordon Brown was incredibly underrated”
“Quasi-Accelerationist Libertarian Traditionalism”
“I have no idea what politics is”
“Spenserian Anglonational Libertarian”
“If Jeremy Corbyn was a food I’d ask all my sexual partners to eat him off my naked torso”
“Just muddling my way through trying to be as nice as I can. “
Aren’t we all chief. Aren’t we all…