By Nina Lovelace, deputy editor
Up to one in four people may be prepared to vote for the British National Party, despite not really liking it, research published this month will reveal.
The report found that although the party is not well-liked, polls show between 18 and 24% of the electorate are prepared to vote for the BNP in the future.
'Indicators of this support include the performance of the BNP and UK Independence Party in the European elections and in London and responses to our questions after these elections,' says the report.
'The figures suggest that, beyond actual voters, there is a penumbra of others who are more sympathetic to the party.'
The report suggests some BNP voters feel they have no alternative because of their fears over immigration and asylum. For example, one BNP voter said they had only done so to act as a 'wake-up call' to prime minister Tony Blair.
The report continues: 'The proportions of respondents claiming they 'might vote for' these parties in the future were higher than the figures for those who 'like' them suggesting that people contemplate voting for these parties even though they do not have positive feelings for them.'
It adds that it is at the local government level which the BNP is doing well, as it is successfully exploiting local resentments and fears. The type of people most likely to vote for the party come from skilled and semi-skilled white working-class communities.
One of the authors, Professor Stuart Weir, director of democratic audit at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex writes in LGC this week; 'The BNP is no longer the marginal far-right presence of conventional academic and political thinking. The party has in its last seven years grown into a national phenomenon, significant and widespread across several English regions.'