34% of electorate uncomfortable with ethnic minority PM

October 03, 2013, 8:30 AM UTC

A third (34%) of the British public is “uncomfortable” at the prospect of an ethnic minority Prime Minister

The research, conducted by YouGov for Demos and Birkbeck College and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), is part of a study about responses to ethnic change in Britain. It looks at how comfortable or uncomfortable respondents feel about people from ethnic minorities in certain roles and reveals widespread discomfort at non-whites filling various positions.  

YouGov’s research finds that concern over a non-white Prime Minister is strongest among UKIP supporters with almost six in ten (59%) of the party’s backers being “uncomfortable” at the possibility. 45% state they are “very uncomfortable” with the idea.

The findings show sizable numbers of people who support other political parties are also resistant to a government led by someone from an ethnic minority. Over four in ten (41%) people who plan to vote Conservative, nearly three in ten (28%) Labour supporters and a quarter (25%) of Liberal Democrats say they are “uncomfortable” at the prospect of a Prime Minister from an ethnic minority.

The Birkbeck study finds that more Conservative and UKIP supporters are uncomfortable at the prospect of a non-white person in 10 Downing Street than are at ease with the idea. A third (33%) of Conservatives and one in seven (14%) UKIP backers would feel comfortable with the prospect compared to almost half (47%) of Liberal Democrats and over four in ten (43%) prospective Labour voters.

Professor Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck College says: "Differences between party supporters are not explained by divergent age, education, regional or class profiles. Young university-educated London Tories are significantly less comfortable with a minority Prime Minister than young university-educated London Liberal Democrats."

As well as asking about the position of Prime Minister, YouGov’s survey also asked about how people feel about non-whites filling other positions of responsibility. It finds that one in six (18%) would be uncomfortable with a non-white babysitter.

The survey found that more UKIP supporters would be uncomfortable (32%) than comfortable (22%) with a babysitter from an ethnic minority. However, the opposite is true among backers of the other parties. 45% of Conservatives would be happy with a non-white babysitter and 16% would be troubled by, with similar numbers for Labour (48% and 18%). More than half (56%) of Liberal Democrats would be comfortable with the idea and 12% would be uncomfortable at the prospect.

YouGov’s research found that all the parties were closely aligned when asked about non-whites being part of the respondent’s peer group. Over four in ten (45%) prospective UKIP voters would be comfortable having a friend from an ethnic minority, compared to 58% of Conservatives and 57% of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters. By comparison, 10% of UKIP supporters would be uncomfortable having a non-white friend, similar numbers to Conservatives (9%), Labour (9%) and Liberal Democrats (13%).

The research was commissioned by Professor Eric Kaufmann of Birkbeck College, University of London, and Demos, with funding from the ESRC. The data is part of Professor Kaufmann’s study into the responses among the white working-class to diversity in Britain. 

Image: Getty

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