With just over a week to go before the general election, we are literally awash with opinion polls at present. Unfortunately, few of those conducted during the present campaign have featured faith-specific issues, while the relatively small sample sizes mean that we get few clues about the attitudes of people who support political parties other than the ‘big three’.
It thus seems appropriate to recall one very large scale survey which YouGov ran for Channel 4 in the lead-in to last year’s European parliamentary elections, when the ‘minor parties’ were expected to make a strong showing in Britain.
No fewer than 32,268 electors were interviewed online between 29 May and 4 June 2009, including 2,749 persons intending to vote for the Green Party, 4,306 for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and 985 for the British National Party (BNP).
The findings, which have long been in the public domain at
have attracted scant attention. For us, they are especially useful in highlighting opinions about religious minorities, specifically Jews and Muslims, by voting intentions.
10% of all voters considered that Jews suffered unfair discrimination in Britain. Green supporters were the most sympathetic (15%), with Labourites and Liberal Democrats on 12%, Conservatives and UKIP voters on 9% and the BNP on 6%.
6% overall thought the Jews benefited from unfair advantage in Britain. Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green supporters all stood at 5%, UKIP at 6% and the BNP at 12%.
Asked whether there was a major international conspiracy led by Jews and Communists to undermine traditional Christian values in Britain and other western countries, 17% said this was completely or partially true.
The proportion rose to 21% for UKIP and 33% for BNP voters, the other parties ranging from 9% (Greens) to 19% (Conservatives). Those who said the statement was completely untrue numbered 62% in the aggregate but only 48% in the case of BNP followers.
Just 1% of the sample registered as holocaust deniers (and no more than 2% even for BNP voters). However, 8% of UKIP and 18% of BNP supporters thought the scale of the holocaust had been exaggerated.
Turning to Muslims, 21% of all voters held that they suffered unfair discrimination in Britain. The highest percentages were for the Greens (40%) and Liberal Democrats (33%), with Labour on 29% and the Conservatives on 15%. UKIP (8%) and BNP voters (3%) were least sympathetic to Muslims.
39% felt that Muslims in Britain enjoyed unfair advantages, and this figure rose to 61% in the case of UKIP and 70% for BNP voters. They were followed by the Conservatives on 44%, Labour on 27%, the Liberal Democrats on 26% and the Greens on 22%.
Still larger numbers agreed that, even in its ‘milder forms’, Islam constituted a serious danger to western civilization. 44% overall held this view, with 64% among UKIP and 79% BNP voters. Conservatives stood at 49%, Labour at 37%, Liberal Democrats at 32% and the Greens at 27%. Those in disagreement were 32%, with only the Greens achieving a majority (55%); among UKIP supporters the figure was 17% and for the BNP’s 7%.
Three conclusions emerge from these results. First, there is significantly more prejudice against Muslims than Jews. Second, the actual level of prejudice varies considerably according to the measure used and the wording of the question. Third, Green and Liberal Democrat voters are most tolerant (but by no means totally unprejudiced), and UKIP and (in particular) BNP supporters apparently most prejudiced against Jews and Muslims.
It should be noted that all the above data relate to the views of those intending to vote for one of the six political parties in May-June 2009. These views may not necessarily be current. Nor should they be confused with the official positions of each of the parties as set out in their general election manifestos or by their leadership.