Ethnic minority candidates still suffering at the polls

Perhaps because the general election saw an increase in the overall number of MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds, little attention has been paid to patterns in the constituency results that suggest white voters are still somewhat reluctant to support minority candidates.

Our guest writer is Stephen Fisher, the Lecturer in Political Sociology at the University of Oxford.  Together with John Curtice and Robert Ford, he wrote Appendix 2 of The British General Election of 2010 to be published today by Palgrave.

Perhaps because the general election saw an increase in the overall number of MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds, little attention has been paid to patterns in the constituency results that suggest white voters are still somewhat reluctant to support minority candidates.

A detailed analysis of the election results, published this week in The British General Election of 2010, shows that in constituencies with a relatively small ethnic minority population (that is, three quarters of all seats), Labour and Conservative ethnic minority candidates did noticeably less well than their white counterparts.

The Labour share of the vote fell by an average of 10.9 percentage points where their candidate was an ethnic minority, but by 7.1 points elsewhere.  Similarly ethnic minority Conservative candidates saw their vote rise by just 2.3 points, less than the 3.9 average for their white counterparts.

But in areas where more than 10% of the population was from an ethnic minority, overall candidate ethnicity differences were much smaller and any disadvantage can be accounted for by other factors.

These patterns mirror similar findings from the 2005 election.  So not only did ethnic minority candidates who replaced white candidates do less well than those in seats fought by whites in both 2005 and 2010, but those white candidates (from either the Conservatives or Labour) who replaced minority candidates did about 1.4 points better, apparently benefiting from the unwinding of an ethnic penalty suffered by their predecessor.

The performance of Liberal Democrat candidates is more complicated, but it seems that ethnic minority candidates who fought predominantly white constituencies were not under the same disadvantage as their Conservative or Labour counterparts.

The average candidate ethnicity effect seems to be too small to affect the outcome except in the more marginal constituencies.  After controlling for other factors influencing the vote, it is in the order of two percentage points.  So fear of a white backlash should not prohibit parties from selecting ethnic minority candidates for winnable seats.

Indeed, it was not by fielding substantially more ethnic minority candidates overall that the Conservatives increased their number of ethnic minority MPs from two to eleven, but by raising the number of candidates among seats they were likely to win anyway.  The strategy appears to have cost the Tories some votes but no seats.

It is the rise in the number of Conservative ethnic minority MPs that accounts for most of the overall increase in minority representation, from fifteen after the 2005 election to 26 this year.  This is still just four percent of the Commons from a group that constitutes over ten percent of the population.

17 Responses to “Ethnic minority candidates still suffering at the polls”

  1. John Lees

    The electorate can not be trusted so perhaps some seats should be made minority only.

    Are there any statistics on whether white candidates in ‘minority majority’ seats do worse than minority candidates? Also I guess to do the study more fully you would need to see whether the candidates were of equal ability, I like DA but she came last because she is not of a very high calibre not because she is black. In fact was it not a bit patronising having her in the race at all as she is obviously not up to the job of being Prime Minister?

  2. Red Ed

    This can be simply and easily counterbalanced by encouraging the use of more postal voting by ethnic minorities.

  3. Philip M

    If Diane Abbott said this, a bunch of reactionary idiots would accuse her of being racist: //twitlink.ws/2Ez

  4. Robert Chambers

    Only Israel has more Jewish MPs than the UK. It’s convinient this wasn’t mentioned in the article.

  5. John Lees

    Good idea Red Ed, if we make postal votes more easy to apply for – perhaps give them out at fast food restaurants, we will get many many more Labour votes in ehtnic minority areas. It worked to a degree in Tower Hamlets where multiple postal voting made up for white peoples predudices – perhaps we can brand those who say it is fraud are closet racists?

  6. Robert Chambers

    John Lees: “The electorate can not be trusted”

    So lets abandon democracy and install somebody like Peter Mandelson as our glorious leader.

  7. Palgrave Politics

    Ethnic Minority candidates at a disadvantage in 2010 election? //ow.ly/2MeRZ

  8. Red Ed

    John – Unless you regularly and frequently shout from the rooftops that you are not a racist then, if you’re white, you most probably are.

  9. John Lees

    Red Ed – you are right but I shout it alot and for good measure lash myself to atone for being white. I wonder if the answer is to follow the Conservatives and institute an A list that white males are banned for. This would go a long way to make up for teh historic injustices people like me have inflicted on the world.

  10. Colleen Wiltse

    Ethnic minority candidates still suffering at the polls | Left …: A detailed analysis of the election results, p… //bit.ly/afDkNY

  11. Red Ed

    Remember too you are a potential rapist, but I can solve that for you with a couple of bricks.

  12. John Lees

    Yes I agree we should be presumed to be guilty until proven inocent on that one, definitly no anonymity. It should only take the word of a woman to send us to jail – perhaps we should also be denied defence councel it would save money. We really do have a lot to say sorry for. I still feel guilty for my role in supressing the Indian mutiny and the slave trade not sure how people will forgive me.

  13. Philip Cowley

    Steve Fisher on the electorate's prejudice against ethnic minority candidates: //bit.ly/9mQJvH

  14. Red Ed

    We don’t forgive you. Instead we will cleanse the earth of your kind. I’m not joking.

  15. Richard Gadsden

    Well, that’s the last time I read the comments on LFF. They’re practically Guido quality.

  16. John Lees

    “But in areas where more than 10% of the population was from an ethnic minority, overall candidate ethnicity differences were much smaller”

    – Does this actually mean that minority electors favour minority candidates? Obviously it is only right for minorities to prefer voting for minorities and entirly justifiable as we are bad people who need to apologise more.

  17. Khinchagashvili

    RT @leftfootfwd: Ethnic minority candidates still suffering at the polls //bit.ly/afDkNY

Leave a Reply