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Do Your Sexual Fantasies Affect the Way You Vote?

A new book explores the broader issues behind our political beliefs, including a survey into British people's perceptions about sex and politics. Apparently Ukippers are into dildos and Labour supporters like to experiment.

by Georgia Rose
03 November 2014, 6:00am

Illustration by Chris Harward

If you're really into butt stuff, does that mean you're more likely to vote UKIP? How about if you'll vote Labour till you die? Does that mean you're more likely to love nipple clamps?

Phil Cowley and Rob Ford's new book Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box pulls together different experts in political research to discuss the broader issues surrounding our vote, including the British public's perceptions about sex and politics.

Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov and Bernadeta Wilk conducted a number of surveys asking a nationally representative sample of British adults about their views on the sexual behaviour of "normal" Brits, specific party supporters, and lastly their own.

The results found that Labour supporters are expected to be the best in bed; the public believe them to be "confident" and "long lasting", if a little "rough" at times. Labour activists themselves boast their bedroom antics to be "exciting", "varied" and "experimental".

UKIP are slightly less self-assured, admitting that they are "lazy" in bed and less likely to be exciting, although they go mad for a dildo.

While public opinion is that Lib Dems would be "boring", "submissive" and "gentle", the survey shows that they're relatively, well, liberal; "erotic massages", "orgies" and "sex with transexuals" all came out top on the Lib Dem list.

Although Conservatives say they have more frequent sex than most, they seem to be all quantity over quality. Consistently conventional, Conservative supporters say they have less imagination than the average Brit and are less likely to fantasise or take part in anything kinky.

So what do all these things reveal about the population and their relationship to politics? I went to YouGov's offices to chat to Joe Twyman about his findings.

 Data from Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box

VICE: Why did you want to look into the relationship between sex and politics?
Joe Twyman: Well, they're my two great loves and interests. I was interested as to how they interrelated and whether you could predict someone's voting intention by their sexual fantasies. So if somebody said, "I fantasise about this", could you then say, "right well there's a significantly increased chance that therefore you are Conservative"?

What did you find in your results about party supporters sex lives? UKIP supporters said their sex lives aren't great, right?
We've already received a complaint letter from a UKIP supporter saying "there's nothing wrong with my sex life and you described it as unfulfilled", and we had to write back and say, "actually, no it was UKIP supporters who described it as unfulfilled". [Fantasy-wise] UKIP's all about the dildos, whereas Conservatives were into sex with a sports star - and that was their only fantasy. The fact that Conservative's fantasies are so few is interesting when contrasted with Labour and Lib Dems, who are racking them off: spanking, bondage, sex with a transexual, wearing sexy outfits, all sorts. 

So what do you think this can tell us about politics?
Actually not much. Sexual preferences and behaviours generally provide a very weak explanation for somebody's politics, except in the case of [having had] sex with an MP, in which case there is a significantly increased chance the person is a Conservative - but even then that may simply be a reflection of the current Conservative MPs. 

Data from Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box

So what can we learn from your survey?
​85 percent of the population supports a party, yet when you ask the public what they think about the sex lives of party supporters, the general reaction is that party partisans are deeply unusual by most measures compared to the "typical" Briton.

So we think people who support parties are weird?
Let me turn it round. When you walked into the office, what did you think that I would look like? When most people come here they have a very specific idea of what a political pollster looks like. They think I'm going to turn up in tweed jackets with elbow pads and perhaps questionable personal hygiene. That's the same thing - it's reflective of the fact that the typical British person regards politics and everything that is associated with politics as being weird. They see it as being removed from their life.

This is a real problem. We've seen that there has been a drop off in turn out of elections going all the way back to the early 2000s, which is a huge issue for democracy, because the decisions are being made by people who get 30 or 40 percent of the vote on a 50 to 60 percent turn out. It's a real problem with younger people. Generally speaking, the younger you get, the more removed you are from politics.

Why do you think that is?
​Look at our political class. We have David Cameron and Ed Miliband who entered serious top-level politics in their early 30s. George Osborne was 33 when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer. Is that normal for a 33-year-old? Of course not, and 33-year-olds are not going to look at him and think, "hey, that's a person like me". There's no surprise that there has become a disconnection from the political class. Although this is obviously through the pryzm of a sex survey, I think that is what this is demonstrating.

Data from Sex, Lies and the Ballot Box

Your research seems to show that parties can almost become caricatures, with stigmas and stereotypes attached to them. Do you think that ultimately the party's "personality" is more important than the policy?
Well that's a question that political scientists have wrestled with for some time. Yes in certain cases it can be. The classic example is to look at David Cameron's increasingly desperate attempt to rebrand the Conservative party away from this idea of the "nasty" party. They are seen as aggressive and uncaring as a party by some and then this view is then transposed onto their supporters - even onto their sex lives. Labour on the other hand, are regarded as softer and more gentle so win out for many. Lib Dems are seen as largely ineffectual, both in coalition and in the bedroom. 

These perceptions are important because most people don't actually care about specific policies. The two main parties, plus the other parties to a certain extent, are campaigning on essentially the same ideas. The way they go about it is different, but they have the same goal in mind. People don't understand the nuances of the specific policies, so instead it comes down to which party you trust the most to deliver, who will be the most effective in delivering and who will do it in the shortest amount of time. Then it comes down to personalities and party tropes.

​@georgia_c_rose

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