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Was the Euro-result a flash in the pan?


2:00 pm - June 20th 2009

by Mike Killingworth    


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There was only one story following the recent elections to the European Parliament – the success of the parties of the far right (UKIP and the BNP). Unlike most contributors and commenters on LC, I have consistently argued that the votes for these parties should be seen as a bloc. Campaigning against the BNP – as the left and indeed the centre-right for that matter have focussed on – probably merely had the effect of shifting a few votes from the party seen as wingnuts to the one seen as (relatively) more respectable.

Some evidence for my view has now emerged in the form of a mega-poll conducted – apparently as the result of an internal commission – by the on-line pollster YouGov. I say “mega poll” because its sample size was over 32,000 – about twenty times that of an “ordinary” opinion poll. This large size was necessary to achieve enough BNP (and UKIP) respondents to make analysis of their views statistically respectable. As with almost all contemporary polls, it has been “weighted” to match the demographic characteristics of respondents to those of the population at large.

Although it is possible to have reservations about the concept of on-line polling, YouGov have established a track record that places them as being at least as good as predicting election results as anyone else. And it is probably the only methodology that could deliver a sample of this size. The “on-line” method also eliminates interviewer bias, of course.

The first common myth that the poll dispels is that BNP voters are disenchanted Labourites. Only 5% of them intend to vote Labour at the next General Election (as against 16% for the Tories and 71% for the BNP). There is more substance to the view that the UKIP vote consisted of temporarily hacked off Tories: 37% of the UKIP vote intends to return to its Tory home at the General, with 47% staying with UKIP.

A major difference between UKIP and BNP voters is the rationale for voting in the Euros – as might be expected, 69% of the former thought their vote was about Britain’s relationship with Europe – twice as many as in any other Party.

The poll suggests that the BNP have considerable scope for growth. One Tory vote in ten and nearly one UKIP voter in 5 (18%) have a positive image of the fascists, which means that if they could translate that into actual votes, they would attract 13% – over one in eight of the electorate. In particular, it is clear that UKIP voters are, if anything, closer to the BNP than the Tories on the issues of immigration and discrimination.

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There are substantial differences between UKIP and the BNP in terms of

  • Age profile – the BNP support is middle-aged whilst UKIP’s is elderly – hardly surprising that a fascist party finds it easier to recruit people who have no memory of World War II

  • Attitudes to Jews and the link (or lack of it) between race & intelligence and race & “Britishness”

  • Class – the BNP is the most working-class of all the parties (36% of its supporters are manual workers, as against UKIP’s 23% and Labour’s 21%) – conversely the Greens are the most middle class.

    Overall, the poll provides support for the view that the NuLab coalition of centrist and centre-left white-collar workers (often but by no means all in the public sector), ethnic minorities and the “traditional” Labour core vote is shattered beyond repair. Nor is any alternative bloc immediately apparent. For Cameron and those polemicists who identify themselves as “Red Tories”, on the other hand, the rise of the Far Right offers the seductive prospect of turning the Conservatives into a Party of the political centre, more or less permanently in government, with no plausible alternative in sight.

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    About the author
    Mike is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He does not yet blog anywhere.
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    Story Filed Under: E-democracy ,Europe

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    Reader comments


    Overall, the poll provides support for the view that the NuLab coalition of centrist and centre-left white-collar workers (often but by no means all in the public sector), ethnic minorities and the “traditional” Labour core vote is shattered beyond repair

    No it doesn’t: it provides support for the view that working-class Tories are voting for the BNP, which we knew already. And they’re doing that not least because Cameron’s focus is on winning votes from centrist white-collar workers and ethnic minorities.

    2. Shatterface

    Re: the age profile. If the BNP were soaking up votes from those with no memory of fighting fascists, why middle-aged people but not the young?

    After all the middle-aged grew up in an age when fighting fascism was still celebrated, not in an age when they were meant to agonise about killing our European partners.

    I think you’ll find far fewer middle aged people who regard the firebombing of Dresden as a war crime than younger people.

    Looking at that poll data (thanks for the link) it seems that 40 per cent of all respondents think that the group of people in society most discriminated against is “white people”.

    A similar number think Muslims are the group receiving the most unfair advantages.

    That’s pretty disturbing.

    “The first common myth that the poll dispels is that BNP voters are disenchanted Labourites. Only 5% of them intend to vote Labour at the next General Election (as against 16% for the Tories and 71% for the BNP).”

    If you want to know whether someone is a disenchanted Labourite, surely the important question is how they voted at the last election?

    I’m not sure ‘ad’ has gone far enough – to see if they’re disenchanted Labour supporters, you might want to ask them about votes in 2005, 2001 and 1997, but more imoprtant is their total view of New Labour.

    Would they vote for ‘old’ Labour? Did they become disenchanted over Clause 4?

    Just a point on methodology: #4 and #5 would produce inaccurate results, especially #5. A higher percentage of people tend to say they voted for the winning side at the last election than actually did, so you can prove that the number of disillusioned Labourites in any group of people is greater than it actually is by including a question about voting history at the last GE. Similarly there are lots and lots of people who say they identify with “old” Labour and that New Labour has moved away from their concept of what the Labour Party should be about, but who never voted for the Labour Party when it was like that!

    7. Planeshift

    So 94% of BNP voters thought that “all further immigration to the uk should be halted”. What did the other 6% think they were voting for?

    8. Shatterface

    Being Nice to People?

    Fascinating survey, thanks for the link. Three things that stood out to me.

    First, for all their talk of Christian values and British culture, the BNP has by far the lowest membership of “church or religious organisations” at a mere 5% and by far the lowest membership of “cultural organisations” at a mere 2%.

    Second, 17% of people think it is at least partially true that “there is a major international conspiracy led by Jews and Communists to undermine traditional Christian values in Britain and other western countries”?

    Third, if this survey is accurate, it unfortunately does a lot to dismiss the notion that a great many BNP voters aren’t themselves racist.

    “The first common myth that the poll dispels is that BNP voters are disenchanted Labourites. ”

    I disagree – it more likely confirms it. 47% of bnp voters say their parents traditionally voted labour, only 25% tory.

    A lot of good info in that survey

    “The first common myth that the poll dispels is that BNP voters are disenchanted Labourites. Only 5% of them intend to vote Labour at the next General Election”

    Surely a more apposite question would be who they voted for at the last GE?

    12. Dan Ashton

    The other 6% want to bar everyone but the Gurkhas, presumably. Either that or they’ve been dragged along to BNP meetings by spouses while secretly pining for Nick Clegg.

    Then again, ask a hundred people what colour a traffic light is, I imagine at least six would answer ‘blue’. It is the way of things.

    Mike writes: “Unlike most contributors and commenters on LC, I have consistently argued that the votes for these parties should be seen as a bloc.”

    I voted for UKIP. I would rather scratch out my eyes with knitting needles than vote BNP.

    From the poll since 43% of BNP voters think of the Conservatives “Used NOT to care about the concerns of people like me, and still does not do so nowadays.” This is by far the highest rated answer for that question. Also when asked about the Labour Party 54% of them thought that it “Used to care about people like me, but doesn’t nowadays.” Also the most picked answer. They were not Conservative voters, but disillusioned Labour voters.

    “I would rather scratch out my eyes with knitting needles than vote BNP”

    I bet you wouldn’t really though, if you actually were confronted with that choice.

    Re 14 – though 54% of BNP voters did say that, it’s actually roughly the same figure as for ALL non-Labour voters regardless of their party. In fact, the proportion of BNP voters who believed that Labour “used to care about people like me” was slightly less than the average voter. On your logic, roughly half of all Euro election voters should be described as “disillusioned Labour voters”.

    Similarly, though a plurality of BNP voters say their parents traditionally voted Labour, that is also true of ALL voters, 42% of whom say they had Labour-voting parents compared to 27% Conservative – only very marginally different to the figures for BNP voters.

    It should also be noted than when asked to place themselves on a left-right scale, BNP voters put themselves on +25 and the Conservative Party on +27 while they think Labour is still a left-wing party, on -21.

    BNP voters clearly do tend to come from traditionally Labour-voting areas. But there is little evidence that the majority of BNP voters are disillusioned old Labourites in the sense that they are left wing protest voters.


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