Non-existent ‘neoliberals’ and ‘neoconservatives’?

1,201 people answered the Australian political identity survey question on which political philosophy they identified with. Of these, the single largest group (a third) regarded themselves as social democrats. Just over 20% called themselves classical liberals, 15% described themselves as libertarians, 8% saw themselves as greens, and conservatives made up 14% of the sample, 8% describing themselves as social conservatives and economic liberals and 6% simply as conservatives.

Another 9%, 106 respondents, did not find their own beliefs in the political labels I chose. The single most popular response among these was ‘socialist’ or some variant on that, with 16 socialist respondents and 1 Marxist. ‘Social liberal’ or some variant on that was the next most popular from 14 people, with a couple of small-l liberal responses as well. We also had people who wanted to be simply a liberal, a liberal conservative, and a liberal democrat.

Though academics and commentators routinely discuss ‘neoliberals’ and ‘neoconservatives’, not a single person used those labels to describe themselves. In my question on which political intellectuals respondents had read, the ‘neoconservative’ thinkers – Irving Kristol and Leo Strauss – were the least read. Even among self-described conservatives and social conservatives, only 14% had read anything by Kristol and just 8% had read anything by Strauss.

It raises again the question of whether labels like ‘neoliberal’ and ‘neoconservative’ have descriptive or analytical value. My own reading of work by local academics (eg here or here) suggests that the main effect of the labels is to lead them down the wrong path, importing global academic concepts (neoliberalism) or distinctively American political ideologies (neoconservatism) rather than trying to understand the local variants of liberalism and conservatism.

In the next post, I will look at what classical liberalism and libertarianism mean in the Australian context.

Australian political identity survey – the methodology post

My Australian political identity survey closed this morning, and I will write several posts on the results over the next few days. But first some discussion of how respondents were solicited and the biases that might cause – some of which is in response to questions and criticisms since the survey began.

The first point is that this was not a normal public opinon survey – it was a survey of people willing to identify with with a philosophical political label. The difficulty this poses is in finding such people, who are likely to be a small percentage of the electorate. If a pollster was commissioned to do it I expect it would take tens of thousands of phone calls to produce the 1,200 responses I received in my online survey.

My method was to largely recruit via blogs. Apart from my own, there were links from Andrew Leigh, Andrew Carr, Australian Conservative, Andrew Bartlett, Institutional Economics, the f-rant, Sacha Blumen, Club Troppo, Thoughts on Freedom, Pollytics, Quadrant blog, and Catallaxy.

Blogs were supplemented with my personal networks, via email and my Facebook page.
Continue reading “Australian political identity survey – the methodology post”

Australian political identity survey – last chance

I’ve had many more responses to my survey on Australian political identity than I was anticipating – 1,155 as of a few minutes ago. But the more the better, so if you have not yet taken it and you feel that a political label such as classical liberal, libertarian, conservative, social democrat or green describes you, please help what I think is the first-ever Australian research into this topic and do the survey here.

I’m going to start analysing the results on Good Friday, so you need to complete the survey by 8am Friday 10th April for your answers to count.

My original post and some discussion of the survey in comments can be found here.

Australian political identity survey

As a classical liberal, I am the kind of person people like Kevin Rudd or the academic left are talking about when they use the term ‘neoliberal’. However, their descriptions of ‘neoliberalism’ often seem to be, if not totally inaccurate, crude caricatures of what people like me actually believe.

My impression from years of talking policy and politics with a wide variety of people, and editing a classical liberal magazine, is that even among those willing to identify with a particular political philosophy their actual views are (depending on how you look at it) more complex or less consistent than simply following the logic of their philosophy wherever it might take them.

To try to see to what people with different intellectual political identities believe, and on what they agree and disagree, I have devised an online survey of about 40 questions. There is a question on party support near the end, but the main point of the survey is to see what people willing to identify as classical liberals, libertarians, conservatives, and social democrats believe, regardless of their party affiliations. I’ll publish the results over Easter.

Click here to take the political identity survey