Who supports the English Defence League? YouGov has conducted an interesting survey of public attitudes towards the EDL that was commissioned by the Extremis Project.
It found that the EDL has quite a high public profile – only 25% of respondents had never heard of it – which no doubt reflects extensive media coverage of the organisation since its formation in 2009, combined with the local disruption caused by the numerous EDL protests across the country over the past three years. However, of the 75% of respondents who had heard of the EDL, 42% were unsure what it represents, so the survey concentrated on the 33% of respondents who said they did know what the EDL stands for.
Only 11% of those surveyed (i.e. 3.66% of all respondents) said they would consider joining the EDL, while 85% said they would not. 19% of respondents from the C2DE social grades would consider joining, compared with only 6% of ABC1s. On the plus side, only 5% in the 18-24 age bracket would consider joining, compared with 13% those aged between 40 and 59.
Only 6% (2% of all respondents) said they agreed with both the values and methods of the EDL, while 23% (7.33% of all respondents) said they agreed with the EDL's values, but not its methods. Again, the figure was higher for C2DEs, 31% of whom said they disagreed with the EDL's methods but supported its values. 69% said they disagreed with both the EDL's values and methods.
There were some regional variations in potential support for the EDL, with only 9% in Scotland saying they agreed with the EDL's values but not its methods. This is hardly surprising, given the EDL's identification with English nationalism. Demonstrations organised by the EDL's sister organisation the Scottish Defence League have attracted negligible support.
Few of these respondents who said they knew what the EDL stands for bought the EDL's fraudulent claim that it rejects racism. 74% agreed that it is a "racist organisation", while only 17% took view that the group is not racist.
As I say, I think this survey is interesting, but it doesn't tell us anything new. It is well known that the far right has its main base of support among C2DEs, and that young people are more emphatic in their rejection of racism than the older generation are. As for the low level of support for both the aims and methods of the EDL, it seems self-evident that a movement with the well-deserved reputation of a gang of violent racists will have difficulty appealing to the wider public.
This doesn't augur well for the EDL's entry into electoral politics. But the real danger isn't that the EDL's political wing, the British Freedom party, will be able to emulate the earlier successes of the BNP and actually get some of its candidates elected to political office. That has never been on the cards. With the electoral road blocked to them, however, the likelihood is that the EDL's rank and file, stoked up with paranoid far-right fantasies about the threatened Islamisation of the UK, will turn to more violent forms of direct action.
Update: The British Freedom party has reported the results of the poll under the bizarre headline "Survey reveals EDL support base is potentially 7 million strong". They reach this figure by extrapolating from the 11% of respondents who said they would consider joining the EDL. They have overlooked the fact that it was 11% of the 33% of respondents who said they knew what the EDL stands for (3.66% of all respondents). The real prospects for the EDL/BFP are more accurately reflected in the steady decline in numbers at EDL protests and the derisory votes BFP candidates received in the local elections in May.