Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Impressionable Elites

(Not going to talk about MPs, expenses, the Speaker or any of that shit for a while...hopefully).

A good book I read recently, given to me by a colleague, is called Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Today's Big Changes by Mark Penn. Penn is a Lefty political strategist who has worked for both Bill and Hilary Clinton. Don't let that put you off. It's an interesting book.

Penn highlights a number of small, often low key, trends that have emerged over recent years which give us a clue about where society is now and where it's headed. My particular favourite is what he calls 'impressionable elites'. Let me explain.

All his polling in recent years has demonstrated an intriguing and paradoxical trend. The higher a person is up the educational scale, the more lightweight their political views and interests. The lower down the educational scale people are, the more inquiring and focused their political views and interests are.

There is logic here. The 'haves' are not struggling for survival. They are comfortable. Food is on the table aplenty, even if in current economic times it is from Tesco not Waitrose. But the 'have nots' are locked in a perpetual struggle for survival, desperately trying to make ends meet.
What this leads to is higher educated people not worrying so much about the detail of political issues, policies, agendas whereas those lower down the education food chain are absolutely concerned about what their politicians stand for because they are hoping that they will help them get a leg up.

This in turn leads the better educated able to gossip about what their politicians are like, rather than what they stand for. They are more worried about how they dress than what they believe in. Meanwhile, the lower educated segment are absolutely glued to what their politicians say and could not give a toss about the lightweight stuff.

Think this through. Read the dead tree press. It's mostly about style rather than substance. They are more worried about what Michelle Obama is wearing rather than what her husband and Gordy are actually agreeing to in their meeting. Think how dumbed down our media have become in the last 10 years. Think about the decline of the BBC news, or Panorama, or why we now have some irrelevant celeb on BBC Question Time. All this is part of that trend.

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