A major opinion poll by Ipsos MORI was published at the weekend. Polls, of course, need to be treated with caution, and it's never wise to read too much into a single set of figures, but MORI is a reputable pollster and there is some interesting information to be found - especially in the detailed figures. And the news is pretty grim for the BNP!
The base polling figures for the minor parties run UKIP 4%, Greens 3% and BNP 2%. Of course, when you get down to figures like this there is a significant margin of error. The number of people responding is low, and the risk of sampling error is high, but the basic message is simple. None of these parties have any sort of widespread, national support in the context of a general election.
Regional breakdowns are even more subject to sampling error, since the numbers involved are smaller still. For the BNP their 'best' region is the Midlands (4%), with 1% recorded in the South and the North. Support shown in London was so low that it failed to register - technically it was 0%, though obviously that doesn't mean that nobody will vote BNP in London at the general election. But what it does suggest is that, in the context of a general election, the BNP will struggle to poll above 2-3% across London as a whole. It certainly isn't encouraging news, for example, if you were a prominent BNP member who had decided to look for a London seat in which to stand ... thinking perhaps that the party's best chance was in that area ...
MORI also breaks down responses by age group. The BNP polls 4% in the 18-34 age group, 2% among the 35-54 age group. For over-55s their share is less than 1%. Their apologists might claim this as evidence that the BNP was "the party of the future", but there are two flaws to such an argument.
Firstly, the under-35s are far less likely to turn out to vote; turnout is highest among over-55s, the very group where BNP support is weakest. Secondly party loyalty is weakest among young voters; strongest in older voters. So the BNP is strongest among voters who are less likely to vote, and most likely to change their minds and perhaps drift away. The BNP is weakest among voters who are most likely to vote, and who are less likely to switch (e.g. to the BNP).
There are some further interesting findings:
- Social Group : BNP support is 1% in Social Groups A, B and C1 - professional, managerial and skilled; 3% in Social Groups C2, D and E - unskilled, unemployed, economically inactive.
- Housing Type: In social rented housing BNP support reaches 5%; it's 3% in the private rented sector, 1% in owner-occupation.
- Amongst tabloid readers: Con 41%, Lab 34%, Lib Dem 14%, UKIP 5%, Green 3%, BNP 2%.
- Amongst broadsheet readers: Con 42%, Lib Dem 25%, Lab 24%, Green 4%, UKIP 3%, BNP 0%.
So, to summarise (with tongue firmly in cheek!). For success the BNP needs a constituency in the Midlands; with a high proportion of under-35s; who live in social rented housing; are in social groups C2, D and E; and only read tabloid newspapers. And even there they would only just climb above 5%!
Seriously, there will be areas where the above demographic combines with one or more of the following - an active local BNP group; incompetence/ idleness in the mainstream parties; a particular local issue which benefits the BNP. And where that happens, on a very local basis, the BNP will poll well above their national levels.
None of this polling means that we can relax, or that we can ignore the danger of BNP progress at the general election. But what it does mean is that despite the election of two MEPs, despite Question Time, despite all the boasting, despite the lies and distortions in the popular press playing to the BNP agenda; despite all this the BNP have failed to make any significant progress in winning the hearts, minds and - especially - votes of the vast majority of the British people.