The general election of 2015, Brexit, and the American election last week. In each one, the pollsters, bookies, and pundits misjudged it. Few predicted the results and even fewer have explained why the results went the way they did. What links the expectation and reaction to all three outcomes is the political culture, liberal media, and social media. Whilst I am not saying these factors dramatically affected the results, I am saying that they are why they came as a shock.
In the polls leading up to all three of these events, there was little indication that the Tories would win a majority, that Britain would vote to leave the EU and that Trump would claim a significant electoral college victory. How, then, did they get it so wrong? Some have suggested that certain types of polling targeted certain demographics that were more likely to vote one way or the other. This, I think, is a reasonable but not sufficient explanation because of the sheer quantity of polls conducted. The development of a sturdy and well guarded “liberal bubble”, together with the current social stigma attached to having a particular political opinion, offers a more comprehensive explanation.
In 2015 it was the “Tory scum”, in the referendum it was the racist, misled little-Englanders and in the recent American election it was the “basket of deplorables”; all the -isms you could imagine. In each occasion, these slurs were hurled at the winning side during and after the campaigns. Evidently, it was not a one-way street as both Brexit and the American election often descended into a mudslinging contest with Trump offending almost anyone, and seemingly everyone, he could. The difference being, however, the liberal and social media often legitimised only one side.
Over the last few years, it has been increasingly socially acceptable only to have a centre-left, liberal leaning, political view. From that position pundits, politicians, and celebrities have breached our television screens to tell us, in full holier-than-thou tradition, that anyone on the right wing either lacks a moral compass, is evil, is deluded or, ideally, all of the above. This view became so universal on social media that young people, who generally make up the bulk of protestors, became oblivious to the reality that the majority of the population disagreed with them. Hence the uproar over the first-past-the-post system following the general election in 2015; hence the tirade against older people following the Brexit result for apparently robbing the younger generation of a future; hence the Democrats, since last week, who have attacked the electoral college system whilst maintaining Trump supporters, like Brexit supporters, are ignorant, backward racists. What I have described is the liberal bubble and this may explain why the pollsters got it wrong; people are not keen on admitting to a socially unacceptable political opinion.
The liberal bubble is a mindset congregating in the metropolitan hubs like London in the UK, and coastal cities in the US. In both countries, universities have similarly become a breeding ground for the politically correct, trigger-warning and safe-space jargon that smothers the free speech it claims to protect. Common to universities and cities is a widely held value system that George Orwell warned the left may adopt. He described how, even in his own lifetime, left-wing intellectuals increasingly showed “the emotional shallowness of people who live in a world of ideas and [had] little contact with physical reality”. They had divorced themselves from “the common culture of the country”, lost touch with the provincial towns and rural counties in which the people they allegedly represented resided. The value system they hold is the “hedonistic, what-do-I-get-out-of-it attitude to life” that resists, with an extraordinary temper, socially conservative principles that would encroach on such a lifestyle. But it hasn’t stopped there. The liberal bubble seems to have enveloped political principles, as indeed both feminism and the green movement have been monopolised by the left as if they were inherently sympathetic to a particular political persuasion.
Opinions existing beyond this echo-chamber are, seemingly, so beyond the pale that they could not reasonably win over any society. This arena of ideological isolation is partly to blame for why all three results were unexpected. Annexed to this is the social stigma that comes with opposing the liberal, centre-left consensus because, apparently, the only diversity they do not like is diversity of opinion.
A lesson to learn from the last couple of years is that branding your political opponents with every -ism in the dictionary and feeling good about it because the liberal and social media agree with you is not the best way to win votes. Neither is discussing the issues brought about by the elections and the referendum exclusively with like-minded people. Enough with the halo-polishing; no ideology is infallible and no party has an arsenal of magical solutions to past or present issues. Perhaps if we were not so emotionally attached to our political opinion as if it were another limb of our body, but, instead, attempted to respectively understand how people reach different conclusions, we might be able to raise the quality of debate and prick the liberal bubble.