Monday, October 29, 2007

Facebook: Are You Now or Have You Ever Been ... in the Bourgeois, Fuddy Duddy, Illiberal, Middle of the Road?

The Conservative Home EXCLUSIVE on BBC "Reds", picked up by the Mail has got to be one of best adverts yet for a proper training for bloggers and journalists in statistics, logic and semantic differentiation.

With a sample of well under 20% of the BBC's Facebookers (obviously a self-selecting sub-group of funseekers) both C-Home and Mail draw all sorts of generalistic conclusions. Here's the basic breakdown:

BBC - 10,580
BBC liberals - 1,340
BBC moderates - 340
BBC conservatives - 120

Given that the great leader Dave-id Cameron describes himself as a "liberal" and indeed positions his party as not only economically liberal but also socially liberal what does this all mean?

Nothing much actually. Small c conservative (rather like big C) is a word absolutely loaded with negative connotations, particularly for younger cohorts likely to play out on Facebook.

How many people are going to click next to a word like "conservative"?:

  Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus - Cite This Source - Share This
Main Entry:  conservative
Part of Speech:  adjective
Definition:  moderate
Synonyms:  bourgeois, cautious, constant, controlled, conventional, die-hard, fearful, firm, fogyish*, fuddy-duddy*, guarded, hard hat*, hidebound, holding to, illiberal, inflexible, middle-of-the-road*, not extreme, obstinate, old guard*, old-line, orthodox, quiet, red-neck, right, right-wing, sober, stable, steady, timid, traditional, traditionalistic, unchangeable, unchanging, uncreative, undaring, unimaginative, unprogressive, white bread*
Antonyms:  incautious, left-wing, liberal, progressive, radical, revolutionary

Main Entry:  conservative
Part of Speech:  noun
Definition:  moderate
Synonyms:  Tory*, bitter-ender*, classicist, conserver, conventionalist, die-hard, fossil, hard hat*, middle-of-the-roader*, moderate, moderatist, obstructionist, old fogy, old guard*, old liner*, preserver, reactionary, red-neck, right, right-winger, rightist, silk-stocking*, standpat, stick-in-the-mud*, traditionalist, unprogressive
Antonyms:  left-winger, liberal, radical

Now of course "liberal" can be seen as disparaging too - in political circles at least - but Thesaurus-wise it ain't bad at all:

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 1
Definition:  progressive
Synonyms:  advanced, avant-garde, big, broad, broad-minded, catholic, detached, disinterested, dispassionate, enlightened, flexible, free, general, high-minded, humanistic, humanitarian, impartial, indulgent, inexact, interested, latitudinarian, left, lenient, libertarian, loose, magnanimous, not close, not literal, not strict, permissive, pink, radical, rational, reasonable, receiving, receptive, reformist, tolerant, unbiased, unbigoted, unconventional, understanding, unorthodox, unprejudiced
Antonyms:  conservative

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 2
Definition:  giving
Synonyms:  Santa Claus, altruistic, beneficent, benevolent, big, bighearted*, bounteous, bountiful, casual, charitable, eleemosynary, exuberant, free, generous, good Joe, handsome, kind, lavish, loose, munificent, open-handed, open-hearted, philanthropic, prince, prodigal, profuse, soft touch, softie, unselfish, unsparing, unstinging
Antonyms:  strict

Main Entry:  liberal
Part of Speech:  adjective 3
Definition:  abundant
Synonyms:  ample, aplenty, bounteous, bountiful, copious, galore, generous, handsome, lavish, munificent, no end, plentiful, plenty, profuse, rich, stink with
Antonyms:  conservative
Source:  Roget's New Millennium™ Thesaurus, First Edition (v 1.3.1)
Copyright © 2007 by Lexico Publishing Group, LLC. All rights reserved.

For the UK-wide Facebook population the liberal to conservative ratio is we're told just 2.5 to 1. Four times less liberal than those on the BBC network claim Conservative Home:

UK - 6,407,580
UK liberals - 545,240
UK moderates - 251,320
UK conservatives - 216,660

Narrowing it down to the London network where most BBC employees reside, the ratio is still just nigh of 3 to 1 at 147,340 to 51,760.

Labour of Love have discovered the following from this analysis:

1. In a forced choice and with the terms 'socialist' 'communist' 'neocon' 'fascist' and even 'libertarian' not available, never mind any creative combination of terms, such as 'liberal conservative' two to three times as many people in the broad population pick 'liberal' as 'conservative'.

2. In the same forced choice test one sample group of young media professionals showed themselves to be about 25% more likely to positively select one of these three key terms - liberal, moderate or conservative - and three times as likely to mark themselves as 'liberal'.

3. This result might well be replicated in other groups of young media professionals and very likely other groups where vocation and interest come ahead of money-grubbing in career choice. We don't know yet, Conservative Home did not test that.

Labour of Love speculate thusly:

4. Groups of city boys, accountants, salesmen, computer programmers etc etc may well show an opposite predeliction associating the term 'conservative' either with a political party or with caution, accumulation of wealth, selfishness etc.

5. While "Tory" is a good handle for Labour's main national opponents in England, and they don't like it, "Conservative" seems to be a pretty good dog whistle also.

6. The Conservative Party should continue to try their attempts to coin portmanteau expressions that take the sting out of this highly negative term but also seek alternatives such as "Christian Democrat", "National Party" even "Liberal Party" (cf John Howard). Sadly "Unionist Party" no longer rings true.

PHOTO CREDITS: Top from Conservative Home, Road sign from Jasper Fforde Ffan Club, who sadly omitted "Conservatively".

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