Unfortunately the data sets have not been released so I can't go swivel-eyed pouring over them. Thankfully, Jon's own commentary provides meat enough to be going with. His overall view is that the British electorate are fiscally conservative but economically radical. Most voters, including Labour voters, agreed that "we must live within our means so cutting the deficit is the top priority". So this doesn't stand in isolation, other views were sought on whether they're more likely to vote for a party promising rich-to-poor wealth redistribution, favour parties that meet their individual financial interests, and whether the British economy works for the benefit of the rich and the powerful. The first two cases found a plurality in support, and the last affirmed by a majority. As Jon observes:
The Tories won because voters believed they would cut the deficit, even though a majority understand that the economic system is unfair. The Tories’ message on the deficit was clear, Labour’s was not. The Tories were trusted to manage the country’s finances, Labour was not.Does that justify the anti-austerity spin? When considered in tandem with the supportive Graun piece, yes. Punters' comments on why Labour didn't win were full of stuff like "Free stuff! We’ll give you free stuff and somebody else will pay!" and "Chaos, more public spending, more borrowing, more tax! Strong anti-business rhetoric."
Even then, should that be counted as support for austerity? Well, no. On two counts. As Jon well knows, "cutting the deficit" does not necessarily mean public spending cuts. We've addressed it many times here, as have others elsewhere. Since 2010 the Tories performed a great confidence trick and have connived with their media chums to reduce the measure of economic competence to perceptions of deficit cutting, of transforming a crisis in the economy into a crisis of public spending. On this score they failed their own targets and abandoned tight spending completely during the election campaign. Labours response however was hopelessly contradictory: it half-criticised deficit determinism while capitulating to its "commonsense". Mixed messages make a muddle. The key, which Ben Folley makes in his Corbynite reply, is coherence.
Another disappointing aspect of Jon's inquiry is not so much how he leaves his inferences open to easy criticism, but the rather naive empiricism with which he approaches the issues. Surprising considering his previous life as a philosopher, and doubly so that he doesn't address himself to them as a politician. When we're dealing with social facts, when individuals and organisations undertake mass surveys, what they uncover is a snapshot. A moment not just in the life of individuals, but a snippet of what a cross section of society is thinking and doing. The truths established are not eternal, they are always shifting, always changing.
Where Jon's inquiry falls down is he establishes the reasons why a significant sample of people did not vote Labour. But as someone au fait with epistemology and politics, he should have also asked why those surveyed thought what they thought and what Labour can do to win them back. He did not capture where they were coming from or where they were going. In other words, the truly useful information the party needs wasn't even investigated. For instance, every single quote used in the Graun piece simply regurgitated Conservative attack lines. They bore absolutely no resemblance to Labour's real manifesto. What Jon has done, and the party is in danger of doing, is accepting this as established wisdom instead of trying to change things. That is not political leadership, that is not meeting people on their own ground and seeking to persuade them the merits of your position, and that is not the way you can win people back.