Dr Matthew Goodwin writes about his report which revealed UKIP supporters are more extreme and closer to the BNP than Nigel Farage would have us believe.
Last week, we released an exploratory report (pdf) into the views of more than 2,000 citizens toward a range of different issues, including violence and armed conflict.
Following the events in Norway last year, and a recent home affairs committee that called for more evidence on right-wing extremism in Britain, we set out to explore the views of a large sample of far right supporters toward violence, and the future direction of British society.
Though we expected to find some sympathy within the ranks of the far right, the levels of support we found are striking.
Almost two-fifths of BNP supporters in our sample consider armed conflict justifiable when defending the national way of life; more than three-fifths think violence may be needed to protect their group; and almost 90% thought violence between different ethnic, racial or religious groups is ‘largely inevitable’.
Clearly, this is not to say these citizens are on the cusp of a campaign of violence, or that every supporter of the far right would support such action. But the fact that significant numbers of self-identified supporters back these ideas (while affiliating with a party that has renounced violence) remains surprising.
The report has been discussed in various media, but it has also attracted criticism from supporters of UKIP for including their party in the study.
Unfortunately, these critics have largely ignored the fact that we were careful to distance UKIP from the right-wing posturing of the BNP. Instead, Nigel Farage has dismissed the study as flawed, even suggesting we might have surveyed EDL activists who were posing as Ukippers.
• UKIP MEP thrown out of European Parliament for Nazi slur 24 Nov 2010
• The new BNP? UKIP stands by racist PPC 9 Apr 2010
• UKIP crisis over “extremist views” of Euro allies 13 Jan 2010
The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has also voiced disapproval, describing the inclusion of UKIP as “‘ludicrous”. More generally, scores of UKIP supporters took to Twitter to attack the underlying assumption that some voters in modern Britain might view their party as a ‘polite alternative’ to the more toxic BNP.
First, let’s address the point about the 1,505 respondents who self-identified with UKIP. When an individual registers with Yougov, they provide various information about their background, party of choice and past voting. This is continually updated and monitored, and many respondents have been registered on the panel since 2000 (long before the EDL was established in 2009).
The accuracy of the YouGov sampling method is perhaps best reflected in the fact that YouGov were able to accurately predict the UKIP share of the vote at the last set of European elections. Moreover, our questions were included as part of a longer survey on public attitudes and, as such, it would be impossible for a respondent to guess that the study looked for BNP, EDL or UKIP respondents.
Now, putting methodology to one side, what do the findings reveal about the views of UKIP supporters? To be absolutely clear, and as we note in the report, the followers in our study are significantly less likely than their BNP rivals to back the idea of pre-emptive action when defending the national way of life.
More than two-fifths of UKIP supporters thought “preparing for conflict” between groups is ‘never justifiable’, whereas BNP supporters were more willing to back this action (see Chart 1).
Similarly, when asked whether “armed conflict” is justifiable, most Ukippers disassociated themselves from this more extreme measure: as Chart 2 shows, almost three fifths branded armed conflict ‘never justifiable’ while only a paltry 3% considered this action ‘always justifiable’ (the equivalent figure among our BNP group was almost four-fold higher).
Clearly, then, the message is that respondents who identify with UKIP are significantly less likely than those who identify with the BNP to legitimate pre-emptive action and armed conflict.
But to what extent do these stark differences remain when we step away from violence and look at broader attitudes among these groups? Many UKIP supporters claim their party does not pitch for the populist anti-immigrant vote; supporters of UKIP have little in common with those who back the BNP, so the argument goes.
Far from being driven solely by their anxiety over European integration, almost half of the supporters we surveyed ranked either immigration or Muslims in Britain as the most important issue facing Britain today. In fact, UKIP supporters were more likely to rank immigration as the most important issue (38%) than the national economy (35%).
These concerns about immigration were further revealed in the responses of these supporters to a battery of other questions: as Chart 3 shows, around half of our UKIP sample reject the suggestion Britain has benefitted from diversity, the same portion associate immigrants as the main cause of crime and almost two fifths (37%) back the idea of repatriating immigrants, whether or not they had broken the law (see the report for further questions).
Nor do Ukippers exhibit much faith in the future of diverse Britain.
Initially, we were interested in probing the extent to which BNP affiliates believe the country will soon become embroiled in an impending apocalyptic-style ‘clash of civilisations’. We included UKIP as a right-wing control group, but the results that emerged were rather intriguing.
As Chart 4 shows, large numbers in both groups agree with the suggestion violence between different ethnic, racial or religious groups is largely inevitable.
In fact, while they felt less strongly than those who align with the BNP, three-quarters of Ukippers agreed that inter-group violence is largely inevitable. Clearly, without a national comparison we cannot understand whether such views are unique to these two groups, but the results remain striking.
Large numbers of BNP and UKIP supporters appear to share a belief that, rather than heading to a stable and harmonious future, diverse Britain will soon become marred by inter-group violence.
Similarly, we asked respondents about the extent to which they agree or disagree that violence may be needed to protect their group from threats. Again, the BNP are (by far) the most extreme in their response: well over half agreed that violence may be needed in the future. But still, more than one out of every three of our UKIP supporters agreed that violence may be needed, while large numbers of them (32%) remained undecided.
Yet, it is when we turn to explore their views toward Islam that we see the greatest convergence between both groups. When asked about the extent to which they agree or disagree that Islam is a non-threatening religion, 85% of Ukippers surveyed disagreed, a figure remarkably similar to that found in the BNP group (88%).
Similarly, as Chart 5 shows, when asked how they would feel were a mosque to emerge in their community, 83% of Ukippers would feel ‘bothered a lot’ or ‘a little’, as compared to 92% of BNP affiliates (or a national equivalent of 55%). Such findings suggest significant numbers of supporters of both parties are deeply concerned about Islam and settled Muslim communities.
Supporters of UKIP claim these results are flawed, or that researchers such as myself are driven by a secret desire to portray the party as the ‘new bogeyman’ of British politics. This is nonsense. Like other political scientists, I am simply interested in what the evidence tells us about voters in modern day Britain.
Nor do these findings mark a radical departure from past research that has reached similar conclusions. In an earlier post on Left Foot Forward with Dr Robert Ford, we provided similar evidence of a faction within the UKIP base that appears remarkably similar to followers of the BNP: more working class; more likely to come from Labour backgrounds; more likely to struggle financially; and driven more strongly than other UKIP supporters by xenophobia and political dissatisfaction.
Perhaps, then, our decision to include UKIP is not as ludicrous as some suggest.