07/03/2013 20:18 GMT | Updated 08/03/2013 12:04 GMT

English Defence League Supporters Are Mostly Full-Time Workers, Survey Finds

The image of English Defence League supporters as jobless, uneducated young men is largely wrong, according to a major new study.

In fact, people sympathising with the far-right group are mostly white-collar, managerial or skilled workers, the Chatham House think tank said.

They are likely to vote for one of the mainstream parties - contrary to the perception of people cut adrift by politics.


EDL supporters in Bristol

Overwhelmingly male, they are also extremely pessimistic about the future and more willing to countenance violence, Chatham House said.

And they were no more likely to have been alienated by the economic slump than the wider population.


80 per cent of EDL supporters say Islam is a threat to Europe

Launching his report into so-called 'counter-Jihad' supporters in London on Thursday, Dr Matthew Goodwin said: "They are not predominantly young, unemployed, working class.

"They are far more evenly spread across society than we would presume."


Goodwin said "xenophobia, rather than traditional racism" was the hallmark of the attitudes.

Of a panel of 1,666 adults, Chatham House questioned 298 who had both heard of the EDL and said they agreed with its values.

Only 16 per cent were aged under 30, while most were over 44 years old.

Half of them worked full-time, with 53 per cent in 'non-manual, professional or managerial' occupations.

Less than a fifth said they "do not identify with any party" - the same proportion as the wider sample - and just eight per cent said the political system was "completely broken and cannot be repaired".

Responding to the report, Labour MP Gavin Shuker, whose Luton South constituency has been at the forefront of EDL activity, said: "'They' are more like 'us' than we give them credit for."

While EDL supporters had very low levels of trust in politicians and political institutions, this had to be seen in the context of record low satisfaction levels across the country, Goodwin said.

Although the EDL is largely associated with Islamophobia, supporters are "not simply anti-Muslim, but anti-immigration", the report says.

Nonetheless, 80 per cent of supporters believe Islam is a danger to Western civilisation.

"The message is clear: there is and will remain plenty of potential support for counter-Jihad groups or similar movements," Goodwin said.

"Whether this is mobilised will depend to a significant extent on the response from policy-makers and opinion-formers."