Survey Variable: Ranked Indicators of Difference in Politics

As with indicators of status more generally, respondents to the Privilege and Participation survey were asked not only to select but also to rank the indicators that they think distinguish people involved in politics from them. The results of their rankings can be seen in Figure 1 (above, using weighted data), which shows that there is no stand-out indicator that is ranked highly by most people.[1] Education (panel G) is the most popular option, and is ranked first by approaching a fifth of people (18.1%) whilst being in the top three for two fifths of people (40.5%). This is followed by the people known by those involved in politics (panel H), which is ranked first by one in seven (13.7%) and placed in the top three by a third (33.3%), and then by ideas (panel C), which is ranked first by one in nine (11.6%) and in the top three by a quarter (24.7%).

Income (panel F) and occupation (panel J) approach ideas in terms of how many people rank them in the top three (23.4% and 20.5% respectively) but none of the other indicators are ranked in the top three by more than a fifth of respondents. In order of popularity, they are: pastimes and interests (ranked in the top three by 14.4%, panel D); speech (panel B, 12.3%); location of residence (12.2%, panel I); appearance and dress (4.0%, panel A); possessions (3.0%, panel E). Like indicators of status more generally, the most popular indicator of the difference of those involved in politics is education. Thereafter, however, the similarities in rankings end, and people prioritise indicators of social capital (who they know) and cultural capital (their ideas) when distinguishing those who are involved in politics, rather than the more common indicators of occupation and income (which are prioritised as general indicators of status).

It is worth remembering that the question asked respondents about ‘people who get involved in politics,’ which is likely to have invoked different responses than asking about ‘politicians’ would have. Nonetheless, and notwithstanding the fifth of people who say that those involved in politics are no different from them, the politically active are seen as a distinct group by most, particularly in terms of their education, acquaintances, and ideas. Though it remains to be seen whether the indicators are related in people’s minds (which we can see by observing whether they tend to select all three of them), these factors emphasise the cultural and social distinction of those who are involved in politics.

Variable namespr_spa_b, pr_sps_b, pr_spi_b, pr_spc_b, pr_spp_b,
pr_spj_b, pr_spe_b, pr_spw_b, pr_spl_b, pr_spm_b,
pr_spo_b, priv_isprankles_appear, priv_isprankles_speech,
priv_isprankles_ideas, priv_isprankles_intact,
priv_isprankles_possess, priv_isprankles_occup,
priv_isprankles_educ, priv_isprankles_whoknow,
priv_isprankles_wherelive, priv_isprankles_income,
priv_isprankles_other, priv_isprankmor_appear,
priv_isprankmor_speech, priv_isprankmor_ideas,
priv_isprankmor_intact, priv_isprankmor_possess,
priv_isprankmor_occup, priv_isprankmor_educ,
priv_isprankmor_whoknow, priv_isprankmor_wherelive,
priv_isprankmor_income, priv_isprankmor_other
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories2-3
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namespr_rpa_cir, pr_rps_cir, pr_rpi_cir, pr_rpc_cir, pr_rpp_cir,
pr_rpj_cir, pr_rpe_cir, pr_rpw_cir, pr_rpl_cir, pr_rpm_cir,
pr_rpo_cir
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories5
New and old categoriesThe binary and original ranking variables (respondents
saw differently worded ranking questions depending
on how many reasons they selected) were combined
to create the new ranking variables. If a respondent
did not select an indicator of difference, they were coded
as 0 (‘Not selected’) on the new variable. If they selected
an indicator but did not place it in their top three then
they were coded as 1 (‘Selected’). Those who ranked an
indicator were coded as 2 (‘Ranked third’), 3 (‘Ranked
second’), or 4 (‘Ranked first’), meaning that higher
values on the new variable equate to higher rankings
of that indicator of difference.
Details of the original and recoded indicators of difference in politics variables.

[1] See also Table A1.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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