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How To Use The Wizard Of Oz To Predict The Next General Election Result

Pollster YouGov clicks its heels and hopes for political insight.

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Polling company YouGov reckons the Wizard of Oz can help predict what voters are looking for at the next UK general election.

Everett Collection

And they might be onto something. Because this sort of emotional question is designed to give us an insight into the electorate's gut instinct, rather than what people say about their voting intentions when nothing is at stake.

In May 2015 millions of people will go into a voting booth and ask themselves: "What sort of person do I want to be Prime Minister for the next five years?"

And – bear with us – Wizard of Oz characters may be a rough guide to what the electorate desire in a leader.

Imagine you live in the land of Oz, and the candidates are the Tin Man, who's all brains and no heart, and the Scarecrow, who's all heart and no brains. Who would you vote for?

They found the population preferred the smart, heartless Tin Man.

REX USA / GTV Archive

41 per cent of respondents wanted the man with no soul to run the country. The Tin Man's support base particularly strong among Conservative voters, people in the South of England and the voters under the age of 25.

The empathetic but – not as sharp – Scarecrow was some way behind.

REX USA / GTV Archive

Just 32 per cent of the polling sample plumped for the Scarecrow, with most of his support coming from Labour voters and the elderly. Female voters were also more likely to prefer this character.

While young people are far more likely to vote for the Tin Man.

Buzzfeed / YouGov / Via

These are the same young people who are far, far less likely than any other age group to vote Conservative.

Why does any of this matter?

Well, as Rachel Sylvester explains in a Times column, the question has previously been used in the US as a way of working out what leadership style the electorate wants.

British politics is becoming increasingly presidential, with party leader ratings being watched as closely as party popularity. As a result, getting the right balance between strong leadership and empathy will be crucial during the 2015 general election.

YouGov pollster Laurence Janta-Lipinski told Buzzfeed that David Cameron can appeal to his Tin Man-leaning Conservative support base.

Ints Kalnins / Reuters

"Cameron is definitely viewed as stronger than Miliband... the thing that really struck me is Tories still go for the Tin Man. It's only a nine per cent difference [between the two characters] but that would give you a majority."

"When push comes to shove, brains just about win it. However, any leader that came out and was viewed as having no heart at all would struggle."

But he says Ed Miliband could also win in 2015 using pro-Scarecrow Labour voters.

Neil Hall / Reuters

"Miliband is viewed as more in touch," he explains, pointing out that a lot of Labour's core voters prefer someone who shows empathy.

"A lot of Conservative strategy is based on Miliband being weak and not being seen as a Prime Minister but I'm not entirely sure that's actually going to hurt Miliband."

"It's much harder for him to look Prime Ministerial when he's leader of the opposition and Cameron is actually Prime Minister."

Essentially, the research suggests the electorate prefers strong political leaders. But they also dislike all the options available to them in Britain.

"Over the past two and a half years all three of them have utterly plumetted [in personal ratings]," adds Janta-Lipinski. "All party leaders are rated as doing more badly than well in their jobs."


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