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Twenty per cent of British voters agree with BNP

19 May 2009

New evidence has revealed that the extreme right in Britain is only realising a fraction of its electoral potential.

Dr Rob Ford from The University of Manchester found widespread support for radical BNP proposals such as the re-imposition of the death penalty, a total halt to migration and large expansions in police powers.

However the BNP continues to face serious obstacles in realising their potential because, according to Dr Ford, of a severe image problem.

The research will be published in a book this September called The New Extremism in the 21 Century Britain.

One of the book's editors, Dr Matt Goodwin also from The University of Manchester will publish the results of the largest ever survey of people-  by Ipsos MORI -  who are prepared to vote BNP in a second chapter.

The results show a marked difference in far right  support when compared to the heyday of the National Front in the 1970s.

Also according to Dr Goodwin’s research, ethnic competition for social housing does not increase support for the extreme right.

Dr Ford said: "The data shows that many Britons are in favour of the sort of draconian measures regularly proposed by the BNP, such as a complete halt to migration, the denial of benefits to migrants and even repatriation of settled migrants.

"It suggests the BNP could appeal to an electorate far larger than it currently wins over - perhaps as many as 15-20 per cent of voters.”

Though the potential is high, the BNP is still some way from a serious electoral breakthrough says the researcher based at the University's School of Social Sciences.

While BNP support has risen sharply since 1997, even in their best ever performance of 2005 they received only 0.7 per cent of the total vote.

“Most British voters hold very negative views about the BNP, and one recent survey suggested that British voters become more reluctant to endorse a policy when they become aware of a BNP connection,” he said.

“The BNP therefore faces serious obstacles in mobilising support even from those who agree with its arguments.”

Dr Ford added: "The salience of immigration has since 2006 been at or near the highest  levels ever recorded by Ipsos MORI since it began tracking public political priorities in 1974.

"Voters are also not impressed with the solutions offered by the main political parties in these areas and are losing faith in their general ability to respond to and resolve the problems they care about.

"Party identification, membership and activism are at their lowest levels for decades, and voter volatility is at a post-WWII high, all of which mean the British electoral market is more open to new  entrants than it has been in modern history."

Dr Goodwin said: "It is often suggested that younger voters are more likely to register support for challenger parties such as those on the extreme right.

"However, this is not the case in our British sample. Instead we find that support for the extreme right in Britain is concentrated among older respondents.

"In an earlier study, support for the NF was found to be concentrated primarily in London and the West Midlands, areas that both historic strongholds of the extreme right.

"But in our more recent example, support has moved divisively northwards – they are now much less popular  in London and other regions in the south.”

He added: "In our sample we find that like in the 1970s, support for  the extreme right continues to be concentrated heavily among the working-class.

"However, the strongest support now arrives from those at the bottom of the economic ladder, namely unskilled manual workers and the residual class of those who are dependent on state benefits."

Notes for editors

Dr Ford drew upon a range of survey data collected in the last few years, by academic survey organisations such as the National Centre for Social Research and by commercial polling organisations such as Ipsos MORI and YouGov.

The New Extremism in 21 Century Britain, edited by Professor Roger Eatwell from the University  of Bath and DR Matthew Goodwin from The  University of Manchester will be published by Routledge in September.

Data was gathered by Ipsos MORI and analysed by Dr Goodwin and colleagues. Face to face interviews were conducted as part of the Ipsos MORI twice monthly omnibus survey which is based on a nationally representative quota sample. In total, 190,882 adults aged 15 or over were interviewed. From this sample, 1,001 said they either had voted or intended to vote for the far right.

Dr Goodwin and Dr Ford are available for interview.

For media enquiries contact:

Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 567
michael.addelman@manchester.ac.uk