Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Swamping Myth

You will hear all kinds of people in authority say that immigration, or population growth, is causing people to turn into racists and vote BNP, either just because (the rightwing version) or because of "pressure" on public services (the Decent Left version).Therefore, they usually say, we need a stingier immigration policy. If you're reading this, you probably think this is crap. But now, I can prove this scientifically. Thanks to the leaked BNP membership list, we can empirically measure how many people are active racists, active and committed enough that they joined a political party and paid a subscription. Using the data by county, I established a table that matched the UK regions.

Now, if immigration or population growth really is causing people to go fascist, we'd expect to find a correlation between population growth and BNP membership. Or, perhaps, we might find that places that are losing population are economically depressed and hence susceptible. A further detail might be changes in population density; becoming more urban might lead to a perception of being "swamped", or becoming more rural/exurban might lead to one of isolation. So I drew up a table of population growth from 1991 to 2006, change in density for the same period, and BNP members per 100 citizens.

Here are the results.

Population growth is on the Y axis, bigots on the X axis; the size of each dot represents the change in density. There is no correlation whatsoever. Anyone who tells you this story is talking nonsense.


vavatch said...

It would be good to compare with the percentage of racial minorities in each region directly rather than indirect possible correlations like population growth. After all much population growth is caused by migration between regions of the UK - which presumably BNP members are fine with.

To make myself clear, hereabouts I bet Edinburgh has experienced a higher growth of population than Glasgow in the last 20-30 years - but most of that growth is of course from posh sorts moving to Edinburgh from all over the UK.

Meanwhile Glasgow has the largest asian population in scotland by far and whilst much of its economy has been doing ok overall it is not exactly a magnet for UK migration.

And when I look on the BNP maps I see that there seems to be many BNP members in the glasgow area as compared to the rest of scotland - although the glasgow area is about half the population of scotland so that is expected. It owuld be interested to see if there is a correlation between the asian population and increased levels of BNP membership . Hell maybe it is the opposite - perhaps exposure to actual asians reduces racism!

cabalamat said...

It doesn't work on my system (Firefox 3 on Ubuntu) -- when I click on the scattergrph it just goes away. Is there I URL I could go to to view the data?

cabalamat said...

Ah, found it at

I think manyeyes will have to make their website easier to navigate.

guthrie said...

Yes, it would be better to consider population changes in areas. Then you'll probably find that there is a nice correlation. I do not however know enough to be able to do such a comparison.

For example, I work in a factory which recently moved from the centre of Bellshill- working class North Lanarkshire, a few miles away from the empty space that was Ravenscraig. The older guys at work used to work there, or Caterpillar, where there was a large long strike back in the late 80's or so, but then the union stabbed the workforce in the back, or so I heard.

So, we have an area which was socially destroyed by Thatcher and her allies, by removal of jobs. Thus the area became even more poor. Meanwhile, it is also an area which has problems with protestant and catholic bigotry, the Protestants seeming to be larger and beter organised. Into this mix come immigrants from England, and foreigners, mostly Moslem. North Lanarkshire being a depressed place, its a nice cheap place to live and housing etc are easier to find.

But interestingly enough, there isn't any real overt racism that I have seen, even after we took on a Ghanaian engineer a couple of years ago. Instead, what the workers are saying is that the BNp is attractive because it talks about looking after our people first- the elderly, infirm, give children schooling and jobs etc etc. It is basically a return to tribalism. In economically depressed areas such as Bellshill it has a lot of traction. The local politicians couldn't care less, this was an area where you could put the red rosette on a donkey and it would still get voted in. Basically, the major parties, including Labour, shoulder the blame for pissing everyone off and losing their grass roots backing.

To try and make it clearer- the BNP have toned down their racism, and are now operating more on the basic tribalism which appeals to much of the populace. This attracts even people who were on the Caterpillar strike that I mentioned previously. They see billions being spent on financiers, foreign wars, and consultants; Gordon Brown strolling about pretending he is in charge, meanwhile their local hospital gets shut down, the school has a leaky roof or is beign rebuilt using the PPP, and they can't get a care home place for their granny.

So why should they vote for labour or the conservatives?

Alex said...

It was actually made on FF3 on a linux machine. I'm now looking at it from a Windows box, and the same problem is apparent. It appears that IBM has thrown a hissywoo at the traffic (an average of 200 hits a day! server-smoking stuff!) and is hiding.


cabalamat said...

Or change the name to feweyes.

Anonymous said...

The breakdown by area of BMP members by Newsnight included Blackpool as a hotspot. Could this because Blackpool is bedsit/B&B central, with a high transient, underclass population (both indigenous white/ethnic and NEW immigrant populations?

Guthrie makes good points about disillusionment over the generations. When your local council can't/wont find you and the kids somewhere to live, you are living in squalor in a damp B&B on the very edges of society in a depressed area with few jobs, and you see the list for council accomodation and services growing ever longer thanks to newly-arrived foreigners, it is understandable - although distateful to many - to be feel let down by all 3 major parties and to search for a party that appears to speak to you, your life and needs. It was noticeable during the last election, after Margaret Hodge talked about BMP gains in her constituencey, that those expressing agreement with BMP included people from the black and asian communities, who were born here. That is the British urban poor, whatever their colour or creed.

From experience, queueing for basic "services" in the dead zone of shitty council buildings is soul-sapping. I did it in Nottingham for some years, and listening to other people talk, there is a constant chatter from the mainly white indigenous population about foreigners coming into the area, taking the housing and services. Now, in a different area up north, the talk is of why NEW immigrants are favoured over our Nan and Grandad, the disabled, youth clubs etc.

It is hard for many (who are a part of society) to understand the hand-to-mouth existance of the underclass, fighting over the crumbs of a perceived small cake in your local area to make day to day survival easier.

This doesn't make recourse to BMP fascist right, nor stop the BMP from being an inherently racist party(although many of their voters are not racist), but the reasoning for their increasing grip on certain areas needs to be looked at far more closely than many in politics and the media seem to wish to do.

Bruce said...

That's an interesting analysis.

There's a few possible problems...

Your data points misrepresent the data because the same data is included in several points (e.g. the point for UK includes data that is already in England).

I redid the analysis with your data, only taking the 9 disjoint areas (Scot, Wales, NI, NW, NE, WM, EM, SW, SE). For Nazis per capita, there was no significant relation with either density change or population growth. (Same result as you found.)

It would be wise to include more data points, each representing fewer people. Is the popn growth data available for XY12 type postcodes? This will capture more of the variation in the data and make any relationships between population and membership clearer.

You don't account for the effect of membership of a party in general. This affected by a variety of socioeconomic factors (e.g. the middle classes are more likely to be a member of a party). What matters is the number of people who joined the Nazis rather than another party. E.g. an area that has 2 BNP members and 2 liberal democrats is actually more nazi than a postcode with 3 BNP member and 100 liberal democrats. Your "per capita" needs to be "per political party member" rather than "per person". I don't know whether data on the fraction of people who are a member of any party is available, that would allow you to compute this.

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