Are ethnic and religious minority voters key to election success?

  • Date

    Fri 5 May 23

New research led by experts from The University of Manchester, the University of St Andrews, the University of Essex and the University of Nottingham suggests that people from ethnic and religious minority groups are more likely to be interested in politics than White British people.

The Evidence for Equality National Survey (EVENS) is a major new survey of racism and ethnic inequalities carried out by the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE). It polled 14,200 participants between February and October 2021 and asked people to rate how interested they were in politics.

The results could prove pivotal in the forthcoming elections, particularly in light of how the leading political parties are positioning themselves on matters of interest to these groups.

Whilst 60% of White British, White Eastern European and Gypsy/Traveller groups said they were ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ interested in politics, the level of political interest amongst some ethnic and religious minority groups was much higher. For example, the level of political interest was closer to 80% amongst Black African (78%), Mixed White and Black African (78%), Any other mixed background (77%), Indian (77%), Jewish (81%), and White Irish (83%) groups. Just one in three Roma people (31%) said they were interested in politics.

“The relatively high political interest amongst most ethnic minority groups clearly shows that political parties need to seriously engage with the ethnic minority electorate, and their particular needs and concerns” said Dr Magda Borkowska, from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex and part of the EVENS research team. “As demographic change means that the population of ethnic minorities will grow, the ethnic minority vote will increasingly matter for election results.”

“Despite many people from ethnic and religious minorities reporting high levels of interest in politics, we also know that society is not addressing the basic equality needs for many people from minority groups,” said Professor James Nazroo, from the University of Manchester and part of the EVENS research team. “Our research also found many minority groups were experiencing widespread racism, and unacceptable inequalities in health, housing and employment. Now we have this data, we encourage politicians to use it as a tool for reducing inequality.”

The survey also asked if people had a preference for a particular political party. Around three quarters (73%) of White British people said they preferred a particular political party, alongside 79% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani people, and 80% of Jewish people. Rates were lower for some groups, with 62% of people identifying as Mixed White and Asian, and 63% of people identifying as White Eastern European indicating a party they would vote for. One in three (33%) Roma people indicated a party preference.

The highest support for Labour was from Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Black African and Black Caribbean people, at over 60% of each group. Half of Jewish respondents said they would vote Conservative, but just 14% of Black Caribbean respondents said the same. The Liberal Democrats got the highest level of support from White Eastern European, Chinese, and White Other groups (between 20-30% of respondents from each group). In comparison, among the White British respondents, 35% supported Labour, 35% Conservative, 10% Liberal Democrat and 20% other parties.

“EVENS is the first nationally representative study since 2010 that allows for detailed analysis of political interest and preference in ethnic and religious minority groups,” said Professor Nissa Finney, University of St Andrews and part of the EVENS research team. “The innovative, robust survey techniques used mean we have a larger, more detailed dataset on people from ethnic and religious minority groups living in Britain than ever before.”

EVENS, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is the most comprehensive survey of ethnic and religious inequalities in Britain for over 25 years. It is produced in partnership with 13 voluntary, community and social enterprise groups.

Results from EVENS are available in a new open access book Racism and Inequality in a Time of Crisis: Findings from the Evidence for Equality National Survey, which is available in print, e-book and as a free PDF. The book will be launched in Manchester on Friday 12 May and the full dataset will be available here in June 2023. The data will be hosted by the UK Data Service which is housed within the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex’s Colchester Campus.