Thursday, 29 March 2012

Impressionable Elites

This last week has seen some really big news (eg the Coalition’s economic strategy seems on or perhaps ahead of target while the OECD predicts we’re in recession) and some unimportant but much overblown news (eg some future pensioners are going to be £300 a year worse off and ‘Pasty-gate’).

Why has the Commentariat focussed on the latter and not the former?

You need to read Mark Penn’s Microtrends to understand. Penn was Clinton’s favourite pollster. He’s a shrewd guy. His book is a fascinating and very easy read. He picks out some clear trends from all his polling data. One of my favourites he called ‘impressionable elites’.

This is the term he used for educated, affluent people who focus more on personality than issues when it comes to evaluating political decisions. His research shows that those at the top end of the population are heavily swayed by gut and impression, not numbers and facts. They vote more on the basis of personality in campaigns, they buy products more on the basis of brands and they invest more on the basis of a tip than on sound investment logic.

Conversely, rational and informed behaviour is more widespread through the now better educated working class - those who now can get to university, often now have ‘information economy’ jobs and use the internet.

His logic for this is that those at the top of our society really have never had it so good. They may moan, and may have less disposable income than a couple of years ago, but there is food on their shelves and petrol in their cars’ tanks. In short, they don’t have to struggle. Thus they have the time and space to be able to be interested in what colour tie the candidate is wearing or what his wife looks like.

Meanwhile, those at the bottom of the pile are still trying to get out of the shit heap. They could not give a toss about the candidate’s tie or the attractiveness of his wife, they want to know about his policies and how they will help them get out of the shit heap.

So, back to the beginning of this post. Why has the Commentariat focussed on ‘Pasty-gate’ and not the Coalition’s economic strategy and the OECD?

Well, of course, journalists to a man all come from ‘impressionable elites’. Which is one reason why we get much too little sensible and objective news and way too much trivial nonsense.

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