Research has found British National Party Membership is higher where whites and non-whites live separately in segregated areas.
Oxford University academics, Dr Michael Biggs, a sociologist & graduate student Steve Knauss used the BNP database posted on Wikileaks that contained 12,000 members’ details and matched them with census data on more than 200,000 British neighbourhoods to make the findings.
Dr Biggs suggested that some white people felt threatened by segregated minority communities. Close contact among neighbours, however, broke down racial prejudice.
Whites are more likely to belong to the BNP in a highly-segregated city like Bradford where just under a quarter (22%) of the population is non-white, compared to a well-integrated area like Brent in London where over half (55%) of the population is non-white.
The research discovered that whites are less likely to belong to the BNP where they had a substantial proportion of non-white neighbours.
When the non-white category was divided into ethnic groups, BNP support was higher in towns and cities where British Asians lived rather than Black British. When religion was analysed, BNP membership responded primarily to Muslim communities.
BNP membership was found to be higher in areas with lower education levels and with more self-employed people and small business owners.
Membership was also higher where people live in overcrowded housing and rented from private landlords, rather than owning their own properties or living in council houses.
White people were also more likely to belong to the BNP in Labour constituencies. The researchers said whites might perceive a political threat from concentrated non-white communities, with Labour being perceived as favouring minorities.
The research, surprisingly, found that higher unemployment actually reduced the probability of BNP membership suggesting that economic competition is less of a threat than cultural difference when people decided to join the party.
Dr Biggs explained ”The BNP thrives where the non-white, particularly South Asian or Muslim, population is large, but only if this population is also highly segregated; segregation means that white British people are less likely to have contact with non-whites beyond the immediate neighbourhood. It also creates a greater sense of cultural or even political threat”.
The data found the BNPs heartlands are the Pennines, Leicestershire and Essex. The researchers noted that BNP voters were not always concentrated in the same areas as its members. The membership database revealed significant levels of support for the party in Wales and Scotland, which was not apparent in voting figures. Therefore, membership did not necessarily translate into electoral success.
Support for the BNP has grown ten-fold in the past decade. In 2001, it won 47,000 votes at the General Election, in 2010, it won over half a million (563,000) votes.
The researchers’ paper called "Explaining Membership In The British National Party: A Multilevel Analysis Of Contact And Threat”, will be presented at the British Sociological Association conference in London on 7 April 2011 and will be published online during April by the European Sociological Review.