By contrast with their generally left-leaning positions on questions relating to the economic dimension of ideology, people give less consistent answers in relation to the social dimension of ideology. As we can see from Figure 1 (above, using weighted data), people are strong divided over the use of the death penalty (panel B), quite divided over whether anti-democratic parties should be allowed (panel F), rather liberal in terms of tolerance of people with unconventional lives (panel A) and the right to protest (panel D), and less liberal in their support for schools stressing authority (panel C) and stiffer sentences for people convicted of a crime (panel E).
The two largest categories relating to the death penalty are at the ends of the scale: almost a third of people (31.5%, a plurality) strongly agree that is appropriate for some crimes, whilst more than a fifth (21.9%) strongly disagree. Unusually, the categories descend in size to the middle, and only one in ten people (10.9%) feel ambivalent, showing that this is a polarising issue. People are also divided, but not polarised, on the banning of anti-democratic political parties: more than a quarter (26.9%) agree that they should not be banned whilst an almost identical percentage (26.8%) disagree. Slightly fewer people strongly agree (9.6%) than strongly disagree (13.1%) but the distribution is essentially normal around the quarter of people (23.7%) who are ambivalent about such a ban.
Rather than being divided, the public lean one way or the other on the remaining questions of liberty and authority in social life. Taking a liberal position, more than half of people agree or strongly agree (56.0%) that we should be tolerant of those with unconventional lives, and three quarters (76.1%) agree or strongly agree that protest against the government should always be allowed. By contrast, they favour the role of authority in education and criminal justice: three quarters (75.8%) agree or strongly agree that schools should teach children the importance of obeying authority, and a similar percentage (73.1%) think that criminal sentences should be stiffer than they currently are.
Overall, then, people are less consistent on issues relating to the social dimension of ideology than on issues relating to the economic dimension. On two questions large majorities give answers emphasising the importance of social authority, on two further questions majorities favour social liberty, and on the final two questions they are divided. This inconsistency may, in part, stem from the reversal of the statement wordings, such that half of them outline positions favouring authority and half outline positions favouring liberty. This may have caught some respondents off guard and led them to give answers indicating a preference in the opposite direction than they intended. However, we would expect a similar problem in relation to the economic questions, which also alternated their wordings to favour left-wing or right-wing positions. However, with the exception of one (more technical) issue, those answers consistently lean left. Whatever the cause of the differing distributions of answers on social questions, they imply that there is less likely to be a single ideological dimension underpinning people’s views on all of these issues, though this remains to be tested.
|Variable names||poli_la_respvallib, poli_la_deathauth,|
|Number of cases||1,405|
|Number of categories||6|
|Categories to code as missing||6 (‘Don’t know’)|
|Cases to code as missing||26-157|
|Recoded variable name||pe_latol_mv, pe_ladea_mv, pe_lasch_mv,|
pe_lapro_mv, pe_lasti_mv, pe_lapol_mv
|Number of cases||1,248-1,379|
|Number of categories||5|
|New and old categories||People who answered ‘Don’t know’ (6) on an|
original variable were coded as missing on
the equivalent new variable. The new
variables retain the substantive categories
from the original variables:
– 1. ‘Strongly disagree’
– 2. ‘Disagree’
– 3. ‘Both disagree and agree’
– 4. ‘Agree’
– 5. ‘Strongly agree’.