|The BBC News website today carries a feature item asking ‘Why do so few Muslims vote?’|
The BBC article draws on data from a poll carried out by Ipsos MORI after the May 2010 general elections, in which 45 Muslims were represented in a total sample size of 3,586.
From the BBC:
“At the 2010 UK general election, 53% of Muslims did not vote, according to a study by research company Ipsos Mori for the Electoral Commission.
“This was a higher percentage than any other religious group in the country.
“The data, based on 3,586 adults aged 18 and older across the United Kingdom, also found that 15% of Church of England Christians did not vote, along with 28% who were neither Christian nor Muslim and 23% who said they did not belong to a religion.
“Dr Roger Mortimore, director of political research at Ipsos Mori, said: "Ethnic minority turnout is historically lower. I would expect it to be lower than white British turnout, but that is only a small sample."
Talha Ahmed of the Muslim Council of Britain tells the BBC, “I'm not totally surprised, but I'm not happy about it” and that “political parties in the past have not helped themselves either.
“Although Mr Ahmad believes that parties are improving in terms of reaching out, he thinks that Muslims need to take the initiative too, especially as in many areas of social deprivation they "are the worst affected".
“"Political awareness is very low - a lot of Muslims in this country are still first generation and feel alienated from the political process.
“"They don't appreciate the power of elected officials, but our feelings are meaningless if we don't make our voices heard," he said."
The Ipsos MORI poll showed that there were more first-time Muslim voters in the 2010 election than in any other religious group. With British Muslims having the youngest age profile of religious groups in the UK, this figure is expected to rise in future elections.
The BBC article continues, “A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission said that it had not done any specific work within the Muslim community because "this is the role of parties and campaigners".
“"Our role focuses on encouraging people - of all groups and backgrounds - to register to vote so, if they choose to, they can vote on polling day."
“Mr Ahmad highlighted the recent success of the Respect Party in Bradford West as an illustration of what can happen when Muslims "feel strongly" about politics.
“"For issues that matter to them they do turn out. George Galloway has electrified the Muslim community of Bradford."
“"This year, I'm confident that there will be an increase in turnout."”
The Ipsos MORI survey reveals some interesting insights on why people did not vote at the general elections:
• 29% of Muslims who said that they did not vote in the 2010 elections said it was because of ‘disinterest’ or because there is ‘no point’. The figure was 15% for people of no religion, and between 11-13% for various Christian denominations.
• Christian denominations were the most likely to state that they did not vote because of the parties or candidates, with the figure standing between 12-22%. Only 3% of Muslims who didn’t vote stated this as being the reason why.
• ‘Elections are not important’ was the least stated answer across all religious groups and people of no religion questioned.
Voter registration and voting has traditionally been lower in minority ethnic and religious communities in the UK. According to the Runnymede Trust’s Ethnic Minority British Election Study (EMBES), 88% of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis surveyed were registered to vote in the 2010 election. This compares to 95% for the population as a whole. However, the figures for voter registration falls to 78% (Pakistanis) and 73% (Bangladeshis) when voter registration details are validated.
Moreover, the recent report by Lord Ashcroft for the Conservative Party, Degrees of Separation, shows that 31% of Muslims polled did not vote in the last general election. Higher than the figures recorded for Hindus (27%) and Sikhs (27%).
Political apathy and decreasing voter turnout has been a matter of concern for many years now with the Power Inquiry of 2006 issuing a number of recommendations to improve political engagement and electoral participation. More recently, the home affairs select committee report on ‘The Roots of Violent Radicalisation’ refers to the importance of "building trust in democratic institutions at all levels" to address political alienation.
The Hansard Society’s Audit of Political Engagement, published last week, points to “a growing alienation from national politics” amongst the British public, with 42% of the public stating that they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ interested in politics. A slightly higher percentage- 44% of respondents from BME backgrounds expressed ‘a fair amount’ of interest in politics.
The data from the Ipsos Mori poll is available to review here.
To find out more about the upcoming elections on May 3rd please visit our website, Get Out and Vote.
UPDATE: The BBC has amended its online article to remove any reference to the Ipsos MORI poll.
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