The Red Wall Reality Check
A deep dive into what voters think -and why the pundits are wrong
I don’t know about you but the more time I spend on Twitter the more I’m convinced that one big problem we face is ‘motivated reasoning’ -how people will often go out of their way to interpret data or an issue in a way which supports their existing beliefs.
Take the issue of the small boats, as an example. In recent weeks, Twitter has been full of pollsters, academics, think-tankers and journalists desperately trying to convince themselves that, actually, most people aren’t that bothered about what’s unfolding in the Channel or, if they are, then they don’t want a tougher approach.
But this is, put simply, nonsense. It’s a good example of what happens when the people who dominate what writer Jonathan Rauch calls “the epistemic regime” —the ecosystem of academics, journalists, commentators, think-tankers, pollsters and others who craft, shape, manage, and police the “constitution of knowledge”— lose touch with the country which surrounds them.
You can see why it’s nonsense by just asking people what they think, like the people in the Red Wall —that large swathe of territory that will, one way or another, decide what happens at the general election next year. I spent the last few weeks up there running focus groups and talking to Red Wallers, which is a useful way of staying grounded and not getting lost in the esoteric debates within this epistemic regime.
And, as part of that project, I’ve just finished reading a detailed study of what they think about issues like the small boats. So, just for a moment, sit back, push your beliefs to one side and let me introduce you to what they really think. While many of the people who shape our national conversation will ignore them, I think the findings offer crucial insight into how people out there, in the country, are thinking and feeling.
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