Hostility Barometer

The Electoral Psychology Observatory (EPO)  and Insight Agency Opinium have launched a new “Hostility Barometer” for UK and USA electoral politics. The Hostility Barometer tracks the negative feelings voters express towards those voting for parties that they dislike.

The Barometer’s first wave was conducted during the 2019 European Parliament elections and the most recent, USA Hostility Barometer was launched in May 2020.

Hostility Barometer UK

December 2019 General Election

Key findings show that:

  • The atmosphere of the election due to take place was seen by British citizens as frustrating (66%), divisive (62%) and hostile (60%).
  • Citizens’ frustration and anger did not only target political parties but also opposite voters.
  • 49% of those intending to vote Conservative feel some “contempt” towards Labour voters, and 68% of those intending to vote Labour feel some “disgust” towards Conservative voters.
  • Over a quarter of voters could even imagine insulting those who vote for other parties.

 2019 European Parliament Elections 

Key findings show that:

  • British citizens perceived the atmosphere of the European Parliament election very negatively. 67% describe it as frustrating, 61% as divisive and the same proportion as tense and uncertain, whilst 50% described it as hostile and 43% as poisonous. Only 14% described the atmosphere of last week’s election as pleasant and 16% as friendly.
  • Negative feelings towards opposing voters are widespread among British citizens. 66% feel frustration towards people who vote for parties they dislike, 60% a sense of ever-growing distance, 50% feel anger, 48% disgust, 44% contempt, and even 30% feel a sense of hatred. The hostility affects people who vote for any party, and Remainers and Leavers alike.
  • When citizens are unhappy with politics, they are willing to consider fairly extreme responses. 30% would consider voting for a radical party (including 35% of people who voted Leave in the 2016 Referendum), 20% would consider leaving the country, and even one in five British people (19%) would consider taking part in a revolution.

Hostility Barometer USA

First USA Hostility Barometer: 

  • Just under half (47%) admit they feel a sense of frustration, two fifths (42%) express distrust and 38% even feel disgust for those who vote for a different political party.
  • Nearly half (47%) occasionally or frequently experience angry reactions from people who vote differently from them, while 42% have occasionally or frequently experienced insults and even threats for a quarter (23%) of the population.
  • COVID-19 and the 2020 Election:
    • Despite current pandemic conditions and social restrictions imposed, the report found three quarters (73%) of US adults still want the election to go ahead as planned in November. Three in five (57%) would not be happy with postponing the election until 2021, and 52% are opposed to the idea of delaying elections in states that have been severely affected by the crisis while the rest of the country votes as planned. Younger adults however are far more supportive of a postponement, with 42% of 18-24 year olds approving of the idea (compared to only 25% in opposition).
    • Opinion is split as to whether the election format should be amended, with half (49%) of US adults support all polling stations being closed, and an all-absentee (postal) election nationwide instead. Nearly two-thirds of Democrat voters (66%) would support an all-absentee ballot nationwide.