A poll of Conservative Party member's attitudes on a range of topics deemed to be controversial for the party has been published on Conservative Home. It is interesting reading, and can be interpreted in various ways (see Recess Monkey for one such). But the question is how out of step are they with the rest of the nation?
If we take the headlines. Two-thirds of members would go to a friend's civil partnership; according to The Christian Institute between 80 and 84% are strongly in favour. A different question but perhaps a disparity here.
Virtually 49% oppose abortion, seemingly independent of the reasons. National polls show high variance depending on the question. The opportunity for a termination has 70-80% support, but context can reduce this and prevention of pregnancy is supported as a better alternative.
34% are regular church-goers; Nationally this is 10% and sporadic.
34% also argue Immigration has been generally good for Britain; This is far higher than the national average in 2006 which was at 14%.
30% give money to International Development. Again this is higher than the national average for postal donations (21%) but two-thirds give on the street or to door-to-door collectors; so mixed responses maybe.
20% believe there should be no sex before marriage; surprisingly 25-33% agreed in a 2001 survey.
16% ride a bicycle, however Cameron is part of a 27.3% of the wider population according to research.
Only 3.2% are vegetarians, as opposed to 12% of the population.
So what are the conclusions of this less than scientific review. Well they are more liberal on immigration and pre-marital sex, but less so on abortion and civil partnerships; probably linking to their higher propensity to have strong religious convictions (though clearly this depends on the faith). But none of this actually indicates that he Conservative Party are any more reactionary or racist (and I use these terms as they are pejoratives linked to Conservative members not because I claim the party to be either) than the rest of the population. This then begs the question: why is there a divide between the leader and the party and a drive to locate themselves in a mythical political middle ground when the population don't seem that centrist or liberal anyway. Perhaps, whether everyone likes it or not, the market the parties are fighting for are actually far more reactionary than they think but it is the way the parties collect data that is flawed. Focus groups elicit responses deemed acceptable by the group, encouraging a spiral of silence, anonymous polling gains different answers, so should the Conservatives reflect the party and would they actually find a lot of people actually are 'thinking what they are thinking'?