Does the UK election tell us what the electorate wants on several issues simultaneously?
Today (09 June 2017), the internet is full of punditry telling us what yesterday’s UK election tells us about the mood and opinions of the electorate, for example that they:
- are sick of austerity politics
- prefer a softer position on Brexit
- prefer a more genuine-seeming Prime Minister candidate
(We will gloss over here the fact that Theresa May’s Conservatives were actually still the largest party: let’s assume that she and her party had actually suffered a resounding defeat. And let’s simplify things by pretending the question posed was just a choice between two parties, as multiple smaller parties make this question more complicated without changing the overall point very much.)
Just a moment’s thought should show us that this is wrong. You can’t get three answers out of one question.
-Individual voter Issue 1 !valued;Issue 2 !valued;Issue 3 !valued Voting decision ((Conservatives, Labour))
Given that we do have the answers to this one question for millions upon millions of voters, what we can do is correlate this answer with other known data. So although we don’t know other data for individual voters, we do have data at constituency level. So for example we can correlate the Conservative/Labour choice with other things we know about the constituency, e.g. height above sea level, or percentage of unemployed people or young people or people who voted for Brexit.