Think the Greens are the party of the middle-class? Think again


3:09 pm - June 3rd 2013

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by Josiah Mortimer

A bunch of humus-eating, London-dwelling, middle-class, Masters-holding Guardian-readers. That’s the stereotype of Green members anyway. How true is it though? The answer is – not entirely.

The results of the Green Party Equality and Diversity membership survey are in, and some of the results are fascinating. 1100 members took the survey, a decent proportion of the party (especially for a voluntary questionnaire) and around the sample size of most polling.

Bearing in mind that non-compulsory surveys, especially online ones, generally over-represent wealthier people – those with more spare time on their hands and generally the most politically engaged – the findings are surprising.

Nearly a quarter – 23.4% – of Green Party members earn less than £10,000 a year. This category was by far the plurality – i.e. the largest group. Over 17% live on between £10-15k a year, another 12% between £15-20k and 10% between £20-25k – still below the average income nationally. In total, this means well over 60% of Greens earn below the median income of £26,500.

Since the median income, by definition, means there are around 50% on either side earning more or less, for 60% to be earning less than this in the party means Greens are actually over-representative of people from lower-income background.

Only 9% slotted into the top-rate of tax band of more than £45k a year, probably explaining why we’re so skint all the time. So the stereotype of the Greens as middle-class hippies seems just that: a stereotype.

Yet class is a messy concept, of course, and income isn’t always the best indicator. Occupation, background, housing type, education, culture – all are factors in many definitions of class. Sadly the survey didn’t look into all of these, but the figures for education are less surprising than income.

The proportion of members with a university degree is 57%, far above the national figure of 26%. Within the 57% figure (since you could tick more than one box), 37% of all respondents had a Masters, PhD or other ‘higher’ degree. A pretty huge figure. Given the stats earlier about income, it seems the Greens are becoming a party of the precariat – educated but poor, especially given a higher proportion of members compared to the general public who are private renters (20%) and living with family or friends (nearly 8%).

On the whole, this seems to be borne out by how members described themselves in class terms. 56% responded as ‘lower middle class’, and just under a quarter (23%) identified as ‘working class’ of some form or another.

Shout it loud – the Greens are becoming the true party of the working-class. Even if most of us are humus-eating Guardian readers.

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Green Party members can view the full survey results by logging in here.
Josiah Mortimer is a student and Green Party activist based in York. Follow him at @josiahmortimer

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Reader comments


1. Mark Parnell

And guess who often earns below £10,000? Middle class students! Indeed, surely there’s no greater middle class shibboeth than education, so I don’t really see how all these Masters and PhD graduates are not middle class despite their lower incomes.

Moreover, we can’t even say the income figures tell us anything until we see a comparison to other parties – the Green’s might still have a higher proportion of better off supporters than other parties!

Given 11% of the working-age UK population has a postgraduate degree (which would be lower still if retirees were included), the fact 37% of Green members have one is perhaps more indicative of the life opportunities they’ve had, even if they’ve then opted not to pursue lucrative careers.

Also, what was the age breakdown of respondents? Retired people are ‘over-represented’ in each of the major parties. If replicated here that’d rather skew where people actually sit in the income distribution – i.e. retired middle class people frequently have an income below median wage.

Looks very middle class to me. Income is NOT a class indicator, nor is simply asking someone what class they are. We all have our own views of how social class is determined; mine is that the middle class are aspirational, the upper and lower classes are not.

Of course you could always look at Mark (Karl not Chico) and simply say that the working class have to work in order to live, the bourgeoisie do not.

The suggestion that respondents with “time on their hands” are least likely to be low-income is also bonkers in the concept of the Greens – again, the most time-on-hands groups are students and pensioners…

Oh please. Green Party does an unscientific puff-poll that shows they’re dominated by students. NEXT

About 10% of members are under 25, so it’s not all students. Genuine representation of low income earners. Amusing to see the knee jerk reactionary responses here.

For those saying it’s because ‘all the respondents were students’, this is probably far off the mark. Less than 10% of those who answered the survey were under 25. Less than a quarter were under 35. Most respondents were in their 40s and 50s, probably representative of most members of all parties. The most likely explanation is that most members are either in low-income work or retired (the latter which does not fit with the fact that most who answered were in their 40s and 50s).

“Even if most of us are humus-eating Guardian readers.”

I think you’ll find hummus is tastier, though a well-fertilized topsoil certainly isn’t wanting in nutrients.

9. Shatterface

A bunch of humus-eating, London-dwelling, middle-class, Masters-holding Guardian-readers. That’s the stereotype of Green members anyway. How true is it though? The answer is – not entirely.

Not entirely, because the current Green stereotype would also include authoritarian, anti-scientific witch hunters.

A more useful measure of class isn’t ‘How much do you earn?’ but ‘What do your parents do?’, ‘Who currently supports you?’ and ‘How much will you earn when you eventually grow up and get a job?’ Since a high proportion still live with their parents the fact they don’t need to get a well paid job doesn’t make them ‘working class’.

10. Shatterface

About 10% of members are under 25, so it’s not all students. Genuine representation of low income earners. Amusing to see the knee jerk reactionary responses here.

‘Reactionary’ means holding progress back.

“A bunch of humus-eating, London-dwelling, middle-class, Masters-holding Guardian-readers. That’s the stereotype of Green members anyway.”

Says who?

Humus-eating is spread across most social classes these days – you can get it in Morrisons, you know?

I find it hard to believe that “Masters-holding” is part of any widely held stereotype.

All sorts of people read The Guardian.

Most people don’t think about London from one day to the next.

The potential factor that these might all be students is dealt with in the longer version of the blog over on Bright Green – leas than a tenth of the people who took the survey were under 25:

http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2013/06/think-greens-are-a-middle-class-party-think-again/

13. Charlieman

Josiah Mortimer’s survey is an interesting bit of fluff. It’s less scientific than Ipsos MORI and less fun than the recent academic study into the mental health of BDSM practitioners.

And the methodology is dodgy which is noted by the OP. He couldn’t normalise the data against the UK population, and he didn’t explain (in the short commentary) how the sample was obtained.

Josiah Mortimer came up with a fluffy survey that doesn’t deserve aggressive comments. It’s fine as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

All the same, eating humus (rather than hummus or houmous) is bloody weird.

14. Derek Hattons Tailor

Or it could be that they are not the main earners. Someone earning £10,000 a year doing a part time job for a green charity, but living with a solicitor would still be very definitely middle class. Or they could be trustafarians with low earnings on paper but living in one of daddys properties and doing the whole bien peasant thing before they inherit. Would also explain time on their hands to fill in surveys.

In terms of class indicators “Do you stand up to fart in the bath” ? is the most revealing question IMHO.

15. So Much For Subtlety

I would say that survey confirmed every stereotype about Greens there possibly is. They are all over-educated with useless degrees and no skills. Your nice middle class local waitress at Starbucks with a PhD in the feminist discourse in Mediaeval Philosophy is probably a member.

I prefer Green students to young Tories – a bunch of bow tie wearing, public school educated ignoramuses who think the whole world belongs to them and everyone else is just here to serve them. They idly dismiss the lower orders as oiks who need to be violently brought into line, even though they’ve never stepped on a council estate or even visited a town north of Watford Gap.

The worst thing is that half of them will end up in parliament, still as ignorant about the real Britain as they ever were.

They don’t much like science. That is the only thing I have noticed which connects them.

Oh and Jews…

Jews who support Israel – they don’t much like them either.

18. Peter Parslow

This seems to suggest that Green party members are well educated and not well paid. Perhaps that’s by choice – many of them doing voluntary work, working in the third sector, or being budding artists or writers?

19. Daniel Factor

“Shout it loud – the Greens are becoming the true party of the working-class”

The party that wants to stop working class people flying out to Malaga for stag weekends on Ryanair flights from Stanstead the true party of the working class! Ha ha ha that’s hilarious!

20. Mike Shone

Unsurprisingly there are proportionally many more people amongst the Greens who value a more balanced life than the consumerist/careerist society’s norm. They are less concerned with accruing money. They look to occupations which either contribute more to public service or are more intrinsically satisfying (or both).

So I’d venture that the average Green puts more time into the community, family, friendship as well as creative and other pastimes.

They are probably more rounded individuals but difficult to place in the class system because they take their opportunities more in personal well-being and social well-being and less in money, power and status.

21. Daniel Factor

@Mike 20. Maybe they are less concerned with accruing money because they already have a lot. Just a thought.

I didn’t think they ate humus, I thought they considered it cruel to chickpeas.

23. Mike Shone

@Daniel 21

Have been in the Green Party for 5 years and it is noticeable that there are a significant number who live on quite modest incomes and who do not have lots of money already.

There are certainly some who do have well paid jobs or are retired from such and no doubt some who are the beneficieries of family money.

But I stick with the original observation borne out in the survey that the Green party has proportionally more people who less concerned with accruing money. The best known of which is probably Peter Tatchell.

But I stick with the original observation borne out in the survey that the Green party has proportionally more people who less concerned with accruing money because they can leach from country and state while demanding everything be banned to save the world and because they dont use those things anyway.
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Lol.


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