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

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.

 

COMMENT from Andy Chyba (Bridgend Chair)

Interesting analysis from Josiah, but we are still a long way away from replacing Labour as the perceived party of the working class – especially here in South Wales. Where Josiah is correct is that we are very much the party whose policies best look after the interests of the working class, given the fact that Tory Blair has recast the Labour Party, ‘New Labour’, as red Tories. The figures above truly highlight that the Green Party is the home of the intellectually enlightened – but that still translates into a large percentage that still fit the old stereotypes very well!

This is why Green Left is so important within the greater Green Party. It is Green Left that challenges middle class members with middle class aspirations – the ecocapitalists. Our task, within Green Left, is to communicate the message and values of ecosocialism to the wider membership and – the ultimate challenge – to the wider public. Only then will we actually become the true party of the working-class.

2 thoughts on “Think the Greens are the party of the middle-class? Think again (Josiah Mortimer)

  1. Wallace X. Crawford

    Under the façade of an equal pay dispute, the council are seeking to cut the salaries of employees in order to reduce spending by Brighton & Hove City Council. The council vote on the 8th May has seen the Green Party utterly shamed. The proposal was accepted with all four Green councillors and all Conservative councillors voting in favour, and the two lone Labour councillors staunchly opposing. Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton & Hove, responded with condemnation of her fellow party members.

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