Goth and Politics
Unlike punk, goth has never been associated with the raised fist of revolutionary fervour. Where punk faced outward, actively confronting politics, goths turned inward towards the personal experience of living in a deranged world. Unsurprisingly, discussions of goths focus on clothing, music, art and the irritating controversies of school shootings while politics is but a distant topic left to individual consideration. It would seem, then, that the final word on goth and politics is summed up by a paragraph at Wikipedia:
Goths may, indeed, have political leanings ranging from left-liberal to
anarchist, but they do not express them specifically as part of a cultural identity. Instead, political affiliation, like religion, is seen as a matter of personal conscience. Unlike punk, there are few clashes between political
affiliation and being goth.
Yet with goth being so notoriously difficult to pin down beyond Ill know it when I see it, could it really be so easy to separate politics from goth? The Wikipedia summary seems intuitively correct, but is there proof? To find out, I conducted a survey to go beyond anecdote and snap a more
tangible snapshot of goths political views.
Methodology and Disclaimer
The questionnaire consisted of 21 questions on topics ranging from voter registration to the war in Iraq. Although collecting demographic information was not the surveys purpose the correlating factor was respondents self-identification as goths some information, such as age and education, was collected to put responses in context. Race, although arguably an important piece of demographic information, was set aside as being outside
the scope of this current survey.
Respondents were solicited between May 1st and August 1st 2008 from readers of Morbid Outlook and participants in the gothic.net discussion forums. Responses received after August 1st were excluded.
A few disclaimers are necessary, however. First is that without any indication as to what constitutes the goth population in general we dont have the benefit of a census its difficult to create a representative sample of respondents. But while this means that the survey isntscientifically rigourous, this doesnt mean that the surveys 68 respondents cant reveal something meaningful about goth culture in general. Both Morbid Outlook and gothic.net have diverse audiences, and the demographic data
reveals a variety of respondents from across the country and throughout different age groups. The survey thus serves as a snapshot, however informal, of trends and patterns an impression that sets the baseline for future surveys.
Second is that the survey was developed to gauge reactions against a common standard the politics of the presidential primaries and certain key issues like health care, abortion, gun control, and the war in Iraq, as presented in the media. But between semantics and a necessity to keep the survey conceptually manageable, a certain amount of nuance had to be sacrificed (much to the irritation of anarchist respondents). Future surveys will build
on the results of this preliminary survey and tailor more specific questions.
Starting with the basics, 42.6% of respondents were male, 57.4% were female. Most respondents, 55.9%, were above age 20 (33.8% between 20-34, 22.1% between 35.54); the remaining 44.1% were between ages 13 and 19. Given that
94.1% had, at minimum, completed high school, most respondents were clearly in the upper end of the 13-19 range.
- In terms of education, 44.1% of respondents cited high school as their highest completed grade level. The remainder was broken down as follows: Elementary (5.9%), Associates Degree(16.2%), Bachelor (17.6%),
Masters (7.4%), PhD (2.9%), and Vocational School (5.9%).
- 50% of respondents described themselves as religious, 72.1% informed themselves about politics either often or on a daily basis, and 64.7% were registered to vote.
- Party registration tilted towards Democrats, with Independents coming in close second. [see Respondents Party Registration]
- Liberals formed the largest group among respondents, at 38.7%, with libertarians coming in second at 16.2% and anarchists third at 14.7%.
[see Respondents Political Orientation]
- When asked which candidate of all potential presidential candidates in either the Democratic or the Republican party was their preferred candidate, Barack Obama led for the Democrats with 29.4%, while Ron Paul led for the Republicans with 22.1%. A larger percentage of respondents preferred no Republican candidate (57.4%) to no Democratic candidate (29.4%)
- Given that John McCain became the GOP presidential nominee early in the primaries while the Democrats held a long primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the next series of questions involved hypothetical match-ups between McCain and Obama, Clinton and McCain, and Obama and Clinton. Results overwhelmingly favoured the Democratic candidates, with 64.7% preferring Clinton to McCain, and 75% preferring Obama to McCain.
So what about the big issues? Respondents were evenly divided in the class
of issues most important to them domestic, international, economic, and social. Results were more dramatic with other questions:
- At 94.1%, respondents were overwhelmingly in favour of allowing gays to marry. And when it came to the Iraq war, 83.8% disapproved of President Bushs handling of the war and 76.5% believed the war to be unjustified.
- Results were more nuanced with healthcare a 51.5% majority supported a blend of government and private-sector management, with 30.9% preferring a government-only solution.
- Similarly, respondents preferred gun control to no gun control by 39.7% to 33.8%.
- Less split were respondents views on abortions: 75% believed abortion should be legal, although a significant portion qualified their response by supporting restrictions on procedures like partial dilation and
With such strong results in favour of gay marriage and legal abortion, and a clear preference for Democrats over Republicans (even among self-described anarchists), the results support the view expressed in Wikipedia that goths
are politically and socially liberal. Overwhelming numbers also mitigate, to some extent, concerns that the sample may be unrepresentative of goths in general.
There are, however, some interesting results that dont quite fall into place, namely, the 51.5% majority who essentially support the health care system as it is both private and public. Admittedly, the choices offered
were restricted to mainstream discussions on healthcare. But with the number of self-described libertarians and anarchists, results for private-sector solutions (7.4%) or unsure (10.3%) could have reasonably been expected to be larger. Similarly, that the numbers for gun control opposed and in favour are so close suggest that goths may generally be liberal, but they are not necessarily consistently liberal. Another interesting result is how among those stating a preference for one particular Democratic candidate, dark horses like Kucinich didnt have a strong showing (13.2%), while among preferred Republican candidates, Ron Paul was the most preferred (22%).
So what can we say about goths and politics? Is being goth indicative of a particular kind of politics? The tentative answer actually may be yes. Insofar as goth is open-minded, lifestyle oriented, and focused on individual expression social qualities, in essence goths are liberal as demonstrated by overwhelming support of gay marriage and legal abortion. But on issues that are independent of these social qualities, like health care
and gun control, goths tend to be inline with the general population.
This is just scratching the surface, however. The next step is to develop a more precise survey that will examine in greater detail how politics intersect with goth culture both in principle and in terms of civic action/political activism. But at least now we now have a baseline to work with.
For more thorough discussion of the results, I invite you to read my blog
where Ill break down the results into the details in upcoming posts.