This week has seen many try to compare the US election result to the UK’s referendum on leaving the EU this summer.
The media and commentators have been quick to do this because both are momentous election results that they did not expect, or want.
However, Brexit and Trump are two very different things. Lumping them together is a simplistic answer to a very complicated issue.
For example, the UK’s EU referendum saw huge grassroots support – thousands of people across the country campaigning and hundreds of thousands engaging. The Trump victory seemed the opposite. His campaign focusing largely on mass media, though he used Twitter regularly.
The EU referendum was also a policy decision: the British public votes on a specific policy, which was to leave the EU. The UK public voted for something they wanted. However Trump was, you could argue, a protest vote in response to something the public did not want. They did not want the status quo and business as usual.
In addition, whereas Trump built his campaign on promising an end to free trade agreements, Vote Leave wanted the UK to sign more. Trump argued that globalisation brought only destruction to the middle class, Vote Leave argued that the problem wasn’t globalisation but rather the distribution of its benefits.
Yet, in both instances there are two key lessons.
Firstly, we are seeing the public responding with the kind of language they use down the pub. People like straight talking English the way most people speak, and to address the issues many in the Establishment don’t want to. We all know how politicians stick to The Official Line religiously and try to control every type of messaging. The public are fed up with this. They want to know what politicians and businesses really think.
Secondly, this has not been a good time for the experts. We saw again this week, for example, the pollsters taking yet another hit. In the same way that the public don’t want to hear The Official Line, they also want something, or someone, that understands the issues they feel need addressing.
The public doesn’t want someone from the metropolitan elite telling them what they should think and how they should vote or act. The majority of the electorate’s fears are about getting their kids into a good school, affording Christmas, and whether their children will be able to buy a home when they’re older. It’s no coincidence that May is consistently concentrating on those who are ‘just about managing’.
It’s time those in the Westminster Bubble woke up to these fears and began doing something that makes the public feel that their country is indeed working for everyone. Until they feel this is the case, they are going to vote for someone or something that offers something new and is going to change things for them.
Measurement and evaluation