Saturday, October 24, 2009

The BNP and polling

In the aftermath of Nick Griffin's Question Time appearance the BNP have soared ahead in the opinion polls. Or have they?

A poll done yesterday found they have 3% support, up a grand total of 1%. But 3% is what they got at the end of September. (UK Polling Report: YouGov verdict on BNP's Question Time) And 2-3% is how they've been generally doing in polls anyway. So despite all the outrage about the polls (see BBC News: BNP support in poll sparks anger) have we got nothing more than a standard statistical fluctuation?

Small parties are rarely the focus of opinion polls so there isn't a great deal of data to compare this one to. And the way a poll is asked can have a greater effect on a small party's result than on the larger ones - people are more likely to say they're voting BNP, UKIP or Green if the party is named in the initial list available than a generic "others" that leads to a further list. A specific poll focusing on a small party will bring similar name recognition.

The other results in the YouGov poll include a headline "22% of people questioned would "seriously consider" voting BNP". Actually it's 7% "definitely or probably" and 15% who said it's "possible". And the latter probably includes some "never say never" respondents. There is a poll from 2006 that lacked the "possible" option and found 20% would consider voting for the BNP.

There was also a question about positive/negative attitudes to the BNP, which can be compared to one taken after the Euro elections. Then it was 11% with a positive attitude compared to 72% negative. Now those figures are 9% and 71% - another statistical fluctuation.

Is there a "shy BNP factor" that makes people reluctant to admit to voting for the party? Probably - but one would expect it to be present in previous polls. And YouGov's online polling has frequently managed to penetrate the wall of embarrassment on other questions in ways that face-to-face and phone polling hasn't.

So what does any of this show? Well the overnight reaction is that despite a few headline claims there hasn't been any significant effect either way from Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time. So far it doesn't appear to have been a major boost for the party, but neither has it delivered a knock-out blow.

But this is only so far. For a long time the BNP have benefited from the way opposition to them has been divided on several points, mainly over whether to challenge them directly or pretend that No Platform policies work in this day and age. (And although more minor, the way that some on the mainstream right seem to spend more time demanding the BNP be described as a left-wing party than anything else is really not doing any good at all.) Even now people are still arguing over whether it was right to have the BNP on Question Time and I fear the confront or marginalise debate will continue, to the BNP's advantage.


Andrew Allison said...

Good news. Griffin will want to be seen as the martyr, although the BBC should not have changed the format for Question Time. That was a mistake.

Tim Roll-Pickering said...

Except that they didn't really. Audience reactions, even booing, have always been allowed. And the questions asked reflect what the audience submit on what they think are the main news stories. Is it surprising that after days of the show itself being heavily in the news that bucketloads of questions about the BNP were submitted?

Andrew Allison said...

Good point, Tim. I have been in the audience for Question Time before and if the same format is in place, every member of the audience writes two questions each for consideration. If the vast majority had written questions about Griffin, then this would be the result.

It's a pity though. I would have liked everyone to have known about the ridiculous policies the BNP have, other than its immigration policy. This way he could have been ridiculed, without it looking like a lynching. I have to admit though it was pleasurable looking at his train wreck of a performance as he tried to defend his lies and bigotry.

Dingdongalistic said...

"It's a pity though. I would have liked everyone to have known about the ridiculous policies the BNP have, other than its immigration policy."

Libby Purves puts it better than I can:

"The show covers many topics, and there was a risk that on some of them — public transport, postal services — Mr Griffin might craftily express unexceptionable points of view, without mentioning race."

The fact is he would have wanted this -- I doubt he would have been stupid enough to try and turn everything into a race debate, particularly given his audience.


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