Ethnicity and voting in the UK

A very interesting analysis by Gideon Skinner at Ipsos Mori on ethnicity of voters as a predictor of voting intent. The basic facts laid out aren't terribly controversial - ethnic minorities tend to vote towards Labour - though I was surprised to read that they tend to be less likely to vote in the aggregate. I would have liked to see more discussion of how "British Asian" splits down - I can imagine voters of Indian and Chinese origin being very different to voters from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

Gideon makes his most telling point last:

As the last London Mayoral election showed, despite Labour's very strong performance among ethnic minority voters, it wasn't enough to win Livingstone the election, and to exaggerate the differences would underplay the extent to which they share many of their concerns with white voters, and are influenced by similar things. In fact, just like any other voter, taking them for granted would be the worst thing to do.

I'd go one step further, however. I would say that the biggest problem that any given minority group could have politically is when they are seen as being a "safe vote" for some candidate Mr. X. That candidate need not make many (if any) real political concessions to that group's desires, since at worst a fraction of them will merely withhold their vote. Only in the unusual circumstance of widespread disillusionment at Mr. X, coupled with a new party more radically targetted at that group's grievances, will be enough to impact Mr. X severely. George Galloway's recent election in Bradford West at Labour's expense is a case in point - a headline precisely because of the unusual result.

Worse, the opposition candidate Mrs. Y will be disinclined to spend much of her political capital wooing voters from the group, because of the perceived great effort required to detach any significant fraction of the group's voters from Mr. X. The great irony, then is that if you are a minority group and you want political representation, you need to be politically diverse, not unified. Diversity in all things!

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