Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Racism and voting

People are aghast at the BNP getting two MEPs. Some are so determined to stop this ever happening again that they’ve taken to throwing eggs. At a party that makes great play of its supposed victimhood. Nice tactic, guys.

But should racists be allowed to vote, and to form political parties? Alas, yes. So: how many racists are there in Britain? The BNP got 6.2% of the vote last week, although this was only 2.1% of the electorate.

It’s hard to find out how many racists there are, because most of them will cunningly say “I’m not a racist”. The fiends.

The British Social Attitudes survey regularly asks: “How would you describe yourself... as very prejudiced against people of other races, a little prejudiced, or not prejudiced at all?”

We can be sure that this question under-records racial prejudice. Nonetheless, the latest survey (2007) found 2.6% of people saying that they were very prejudiced and 29% a little prejudiced. These figures have been pretty consistent through this decade and last.

So if we don’t want racist parties to win votes, then we can: (1) make racists (or people who don’t care about anti-racism – a debatable distinction) less inclined to vote for racist parties; (2) make non-racists more inclined to vote for non-racist parties; (3) make people less racist.

Almost all reaction to the BNP in recent years can be classed as (1) or (2) – which fits with the prevailing cross-party and mainstream media mood that public attitudes are to be responded to rather than changed. Both approaches are worthwhile. (3) is much harder, and slower to work, but much more rewarding because it tackles the problem at root.

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