Election 2010: Asian voter turnout 'set to fall'
By Adam Pasternicki
Politics reporter, BBC Asian Network
April 19, 2010
The record number of South Asian candidates standing in the 2010 election appears to be doing little to encourage members of their communities to head to the ballot box, according to a survey.
The findings stand in sharp contrast to the high Asian turnout at the last election five years ago.
An ICM poll commissioned by BBC Asian Network over the Easter period interviewed 500 people over the age of 18 from Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds.
It suggests that just over four in 10 Asian voters intends to make the trip to the ballot box.
The figure is lower than the population at large. According to a recent ICM Guardian poll 55% of the general population is expected to vote.
The findings add weight to a recent campaign – backed by leading Muslim scholars – to try to get more people from the Asian community to vote.
Among the Asian groups, people of Indian origin are the most enthusiastic when it comes to participating in the election, while Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were turned off when it came to casting their vote.
Last time around the vote was higher among the Asian community than the general population.
A spokesman from the University of Warwick's Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations stated that in 2005, 67% of Pakistanis, 70% of Bangladeshis and 67% of Indians voted – compared with just over 60% nationally.
Among those who are expected to exercise their right and vote on 6 May, 2010, more than a third are thinking of supporting a minor party – a figure even higher among Muslims.
The results appear to signal a disillusionment from Asian voters when it comes to Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats – despite more Asians vying for election than ever before.
There are 89 Prospective Parliamentary Candidates of Asian origin this time around compared with 68 in 2005.
Many are standing in areas with a large Asian population but their ethnicity will not help their chances, according to this poll. Only 15% of those surveyed would vote for a candidate because they are Asian.
Lack of interest
“Politics doesn't interest me, to be honest,” said 19-year-old student Paresh Parmar, from Bradford. “There is other stuff I'd rather be doing – even if it's just watching TV.”
Rikki Duggal, an 18-year-old from West Yorkshire on a gap year said: “I'm probably not going to vote. It's not a subject that interests me. I don't think my vote will make any difference.”
Tahir Khan is 37 and from Bradford. He says he has never voted: “What politicians say makes no sense to us. They're just trying to outdo each other. I feel like we've always been lied to.”
However, Bradford club promoter Mandeep Singh – who does vote – disagrees with those opinions: “It's something that's always annoyed me. Their vote can make a lot of difference, but some people don't have the drive to vote. It's the mentality. People think their vote won't count.”
When it comes to the issues that will influence the Asian vote, the three most important priorities were the economy (23%), the health service (20%) and education (16%), while asylum and immigration was at the lower end of the scale with 4%.
However, 56% of those who took part said that the next government would have to get tougher on immigration.
Forty percent believe they will never see an Asian prime minister, although 21% think there will be one in the next 20 years.
In a test of Asian hospitality, those polled were also asked which party leader they would invite to their home for a curry.
Gordon Brown's 35% made him the most welcome, with David Cameron 28% and Nick Clegg at 8%.
You can hear more on the BBC's Asian Network Reports radio show or via the BBC iPlayer.
ASIAN VOTER SNAPSHOT :
Certainty to vote is quite low at only 44%
Religion does influence 26% but for most it has nothing to do with the way they vote
36% would consider voting for a smaller party
50% said their family tended to vote for the same party
56% of Asians thought whoever wins election should be tougher on immigration
40% do not think there will ever be an Asian PM, although 21% think there will be one within 20 years