Thursday, 28 August 2014

Who is the coolest man running for prime minister in 2015?

David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage are the respective leaders of what will be the four main political parties at the 2015 UK general election: the Conservatives, Labour, the Lib Dems and UKIP. It is well known that, despite voters' attraction to many of Labour's policy positions, Ed Miliband does not exactly command the same awe and reverence as his left-leaning counterpart from across the pond. Indeed, no less than 15 percentage points more British people believe that David Cameron would make a better PM. One particular area where Mr Miliband seems to be found wanting is strength (mental, I presume): in a recent poll for Prospect magazine, over 35% of respondents described Mr Cameron as strong, yet barely 10% were so charitable to Mr Miliband.

Strength and leadership ability aside though, which party leader stands out on the unequivocally more-important dimension of coolness? Fortunately, we do not have to not rely on anecdote and idiosyncratic opinion to answer this question, as the good people at YouGov have done a poll on it. The results from this poll (shown below) are quite clear. While none of the four leaders should expect a VIP invitation to next year's MTV Movie Awards, it is Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband who really need to step up their game. Note that the comparatively propitious assessment of David Cameron's coolness is unlikely to have have arisen from a stronger conservative streak among respondents: another YouGov poll published on the very same day gave Labour a slight lead over the Conservatives.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What sorts of people support Scottish independence?

With the second of the two debates between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling complete (a debate which Salmond is thought to have won), the Scottish independence referendum is now only 22 days away. At present, the No campaign is still enjoying a narrow lead in the polls. Earlier this month, over 200 British celebrities signed an open letter expressing their hope that the people of Scotland would vote against independence. And just today, over 130 Scottish business leaders signed an open letter arguing that the economic case for independence had not satisfactorily been made.

Having outlined the most important argument against independence elsewhere, here I want to consider what sorts of Scottish people are most likely to support independence. This is a subject that has already been examined by The Economist (and probably others as well). But I thought it would be worth looking at the latest figures anyway. These are taken from a YouGov poll of Scottish citizens that was conducted between the 12th and 15th of August.

The first chart (below) shows support for Scottish independence broken down by gender. The difference between the genders is sizeable, with men being considerably more favourable toward independence than women. Indeed, in this poll, a majority of women are opposed to independence. The second chart shows support for independence broken down by age. The old are substantially less favourable toward independence than the young. Again, in this poll, a majority of those aged 40 and over are opposed to independence. The third chart shows support for independence broken down by social grade (a simple measure of class). Those who belong to the higher social grade are slightly less favourable toward independence than those who belong to the lower social grade. (Note that ICM polls suggest that the difference of opinion by social class may be somewhat larger than this.)

The final chart (below) shows support for Scottish independence broken down by the respondent's voting intention at the Scottish national parliament. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the differences are vast. Large majorities of Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem supporters are opposed to independence, while a large majority of SNP supporters are in favour of independence. Those who intend to vote Conservative are the least supportive of independence, with over 90% saying that Scotland should not be an independent country.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

What are the political views of Hollywood action stars?

This post documents the political views of the top 50 Hollywood action stars, as established by the list of action stars compiled at Ranker. (Note that the list provided by Complex is extremely similar.) The conventional wisdom is that people in Hollywood are overwhelmingly progressive (a term which I shall use in place of 'liberal', so as to avoid confusion), leaning strongly towards the Democratic Party. And indeed, this conventional wisdom seems to be largely correct. Though I couldn't find any figures on the total faction of individuals in Hollywood who lean left, there are a number of pieces of evidence suggesting that a great majority do: the direction of most campaign contributions from actors; Gary Oldman's recent rant in Playboy magazine; Kurt Russell's comments to Bill O'Reilly in 2004; and the fact that the word 'Hollywood' is often prefaced with 'liberal', which in the US refers to those on the left.

It is therefore interesting and somewhat surprising that there are a considerable number of Republicans, conservatives and libertarians among the top 50 Hollywood action stars, as revealed in the table below. Incidentally, the main source of information I used to identify each actor's political views was the website Hollowverse; Wikipedia and Google searches were utilised for those without a Hollowverse page. If anyone has any information contradicting one of my assignments, please let me know.

Using a broad definition of political views that encompasses those labeled 'possible', 38% of the top 50 action stars are Republicans, conservatives or libertarians, while 34% are Democrats or progressives. Using a narrow definition that excludes those labeled 'possible', 30% are Republicans, conservatives or libertarians, while 28% are Democrats or progressives. If each individual is weighted by the inverse of his rank (i.e., Bruce Willis gets '50') then: under the broad definition, 47% lean right, while 26% lean left; and under the narrow definition, 37% lean right, while 22% lean left. Looking at just the top 20 action stars, the proportion who are on the right is even higher.

Overall, these figures may not in fact be very surprising. Indeed, they are consistent with the hypothesis that men with high upper-body strength tend to have self-interested political views, meaning that those who happen to be economically advantaged are more likely to lean right.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Where are UK immigrants from?

In this post, I present a few charts that detail which areas of the world send most immigrants to the UK. Data are from the House of Commons Library, and the Office for National Statistics. The first chart displays the distribution of foreign immigrants to the UK by country of birth. Note that Western Europe corresponds to the EU15, while Eastern Europe corresponds to the EUA8. Data are for 2004-2012 because figures were not available for Eastern Europe separately before 2004. 33% of immigrants to the UK over this period were from Europe, 38% were from Commonwealth countries, and the remaining 30% were from other countries.

The second chart displays the distribution of foreign net migrants to the UK by country of birth. Unlike the figures above, these take into account the fact that a certain number of foreign migrants living in the UK emigrate back to their home countries (or elsewhere) each year. Here the proportion of migrants from Europe is slightly lower, while the proportion of migrants from outside Europe is slightly higher. 28% of net migrants to the UK over 2004-2012 were from Europe, 41% were from Commonwealth countries, and the remaining 31% were from other countries.

The final chart displays the 20 largest foreign-born populations in the UK. Among these, the five largest are: Indians, of whom there are about 730 thousand; Poles, of whom there are about 650 thousand; Pakistanis, of whom there are about 470 thousand; Irish, of whom there are about 400 thousand; and Germans, of whom there are about 300 thousand. Overall, given the comparatively small share of migrants from European countries, and the only moderate share of foreign-born citizens from European countries, it is somewhat surprising how much of the debate seems to centre on them.