A Yougov poll conducted 29/05-04/06 has been used failry bluntly to explain voting for the BNP, but actually it reveals a great deal more about the state of engagement in British politics. In terms of the election itself it is questionable whether it matters, or whether the results can be translated into a national trend; the majority are expressing their views on Britain's relations with Europe or on the British 'political scene'; the problem is that both are transient and as Europe is unlikely to be a General Election issue, and the scene could well change following Brown's reforms, the next election will be framed by a very different context. Perhaps then the other revelations offered by the poll are more interesting.
Firstly, something which we were probably aware of, has been the break in generational loyalty but what is surprising is that this is least pronounced for Labour where 66% of current Labour voters are copying their familial predecessors. Currently Labour has lost the faith of those who are most loyal, but their allegiances are now spread across competitors; hence they may be able rescue their position electorally if they are able to recapture their heartland voters. Of course the erosion of loyalty from Labour is not new, I identified this in research in Barnsley back in 2002 after the famous low-turnout election of 2001, but is is perhaps becoming more pronounced and so leading to more protest voting. However, given that Labour is still perceived on the left and, perhaps more importantly, the Conservatives on the right and for the rich; an image that remains hard to shift particularly perhaps in the wake of those moat cleaners and duck houses. That said it seems that there is little real difference between the perceptions of parties in relation to issues or voter satisfaction. In fact the only slight difference, which one could note and say here is where the voters for any particular party can be identified from others is confidence of prosperity in years ahead. Supporters of the Conservatives and UKIP seem to have more fears than do voters for the more left parties; is this an opportunity for the right? Certainly the figures offer some insights into potential strategies; however the data needs more sophisticated analysis of the raw numbers to really glean powerful insights.
A final point, however, while many talk of media usage and the power of online across all the parties the traditional mass news media predominates; well almost. The BNP website is in many ways the most interactive; interestingly, and despite the media coverage, their supporters are more likely to use party websites (12% over 3/4% the next highest and joint median average). Are the BNP capitalising on the negativity of the mainstream media coverage and gaining direct communication with current and potential supporters, if so this is worrying as not only does this allow for purer persuasion (indoctrination perhaps) but also influence via the two-way communication facilitated on their forum. Something else to throw into the strategy pot.