Who are the Corbynites?

What Facebook Insights tells us about the New Politics

Robert Colvile
Dec 9, 2015 · 4 min read

Even before Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, a stereotype had emerged that his supporters were a blend of young bucks and old Trots — veteran Left-wingers who saw a chance to seize control of the Labour Party, allied to students fired by youthful zeal.

But how accurate is that? Rob Leathern has carried out a really interesting exercise, using data from Facebook’s Audience Insights tool to profile Donald Trump supporters. So I thought I’d do the same for the Corbynites and see what emerged.

(A quick note on methodology: Corbyn doesn’t have quite the online fanbase that Trump does, and Facebook doesn’t allow you to view demographic data for pages you’re not an admin of. That means I’ve had to restrict myself to the people who have listed Momentum as one of their interests, rather than the full membership of pages like Jeremy Corbyn and Jeremy Corbyn for PM groups. Take the data with the appropriate pinch of salt.)

Most obvious findings first. The Corbynites are young, but no younger than the rest of Facebook’s users:

They’re very highly educated:

They tend to be clustered in quite trendy, high-status, tech-heavy professions:

(The number on the right is a comparison with other Facebook users, though I’m not sure whether that’s just in the UK or more generally — the UI isn’t clear.)

They’re also less likely to be in low-status, manual-labour jobs:

They’re big in Brighton, London and Stoke:

But not so much in Leeds, Birmingham or Edinburgh:

The picture that’s emerging appears to be that Momentum’s Facebook supporters aren’t old-school hard-Left types — they’re the young idealistic millennial types I talked about above. And that’s something that’s confirmed when you look at the other sites they’re into:

Yes, there are the usual left-wing voices you might expect — Owen Jones, 38 Degrees, Russell Brand, The Guardian. (Though interesting to see the blogger Another Angry Voice up there.) Top Gear appears to be listed because everyone loves Top Gear — in fact, as the 0.4x to the right shows, Momentum-ites love it less than most.

But they also like Family Guy, the Lad Bible, I Fucking Love Science. Normal people stuff, in other words.

This is, obviously, only a snapshot. But it appears to suggest that Momentum’s online support base is not the traditional working class but middle-class, student-union types who backed Corbyn for PM and have retained that loyalty. (That’s not to say its leadership don’t have a slightly different agenda.)

But here’s the final, and perhaps most important, point — the same can be said of the Labour Party.

When I had the idea for this piece, I decided to focus on the Corbynites because I didn’t want to accidentally include people who had signed up to support the Labour Party under previous leaders, who might have different views.

But in fact, the — vastly larger — pool of online Labour supporters matches the Corbynites in pretty much every detail.

OK, so they’re actually a bit younger:

But they’ve got the same good degrees:

They’re in the same kind of jobs:

And they like the same sort of people and pages:

In other words, the online Labour party bears little to no relation to the traditional party of the miners and labourers: it’s young, passionate, middle-class and highly educated, with a strong secular/scientific bent. Now, maybe those traditional supporters are still out there, just not on Facebook. But on this data, the Labour Party looks a lot more like Jeremy Corbyn than Nye Bevan — or, indeed, Tony Blair.

I’ve now repeated this exercise for David Cameron and the Tories. Short version: their fans are exactly who you’d expect, but his really aren’t.

Robert Colvile

Written by

Author, The Great Acceleration’ (Bloomsbury) & Editor at CapX (www.capx.co).

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