Anti-immigrant, politically disaffected or still racist after all? Examining the attitudinal drivers of extreme right support in Britain in the 2009 European elections


David Cutts, Institute for Social Change (ISC), University of Manchester, Humanities Building, Bridgeford Street, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. E-mail:


The elections to the European Parliament (EP) held in June 2009 marked a breakthrough for the extreme right British National Party (BNP), while in other European states extreme right parties (ERPs) similarly made gains. However, the attitudinal drivers of support for the BNP and ERPs more generally remain under-researched. This article draws on unique data that allow unprecedented insight into the attitudinal profile of ERP voters in Britain – an often neglected case in the wider literature. A series of possible motivational drivers of extreme right support are separated out: racial prejudice, anti-immigrant sentiment, protest against political elites, Euroscepticism, homophobia and Islamophobia. It is found that BNP support in the 2009 EP elections was motivationally diverse, with racist hostility, xenophobia and protest voting all contributing significantly to BNP voting. The analysis suggests that the BNP, which has long been a party stigmatised by associations with racism and violent extremism, made a key breakthrough in 2009. While racist motivations remain the strongest driver of support for the party, it has also begun to win over a broader coalition of anti-immigrant and anti-elite voters.