Ethnic Minority British Election Study pilot

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Social Sciences


Since 2010 there has not been a single representative survey dedicated to political and social attitudes fielded among the UK's fast-growing ethnic minority population. Existing social science surveys with representative ethnic minority samples invariably lack space to ask many crucial political attitudes questions (e.g. Understanding Society) or have too small a sub-sample of minorities for detailed analysis (e.g. British Social Attitudes and the British Election Study), and the British Election Study Internet Panel, despite including a large number of ethnic minority respondents, is largely unrepresentative of minorities. In that time there have been three General Elections, and two referendums (EU and Scottish) that have reshaped politics across Britain. There have also been huge political events which have particular importance to minorities including the Black Lives Matter protests, racial disparities in experiencing the global Covid pandemic, and the Windrush scandal. Nonetheless, we know relatively little about how minorities have reacted to the huge political events of the last decade or how long-standing issues for ethnic minority populations in Britain such as political under-representation and under-registration to vote have changed. In short, in a crucial period of British political history, we have enormous data gaps in understanding how minorities perceive and understand politics broadly, and political inequality and exclusion more specifically.
These data gaps are caused predominantly by the difficult and expensive processes needed to achieve a representative sample of ethnic minorities. This already expensive and difficult task of surveying minority populations is further compounded by the ongoing pandemic, which directly prevents face to face survey research. As all surveys struggle to respond to the pandemic, many, including the British Election Study have moved to use a push-to-web approach to continue surveying the general British population and has found this approach largely successful.
This proposal is for a pilot study to study whether the surveying techniques adopted by the British Election Study in the pandemic - push-to-web methods - can be successfully deployed in surveying ethnic minorities. The answer to whether and how these can be successfully used raises the possibility that these can be employed in other contexts and at other times, without a pandemic, as a way to deliver high quality value-for-money representative surveys of minority populations.
The push-to-web approach-as used by the British Election Study-is generally cheaper as it limits staff time as first contact with sampled addresses is done by mail and the interview itself is conducted online. Given the additional benefits of conducting the interview online, such as reducing social disability bias, ability to randomise and introduce survey experiments, if successful in recruiting a new representative sample of ethnic minorities this approach would be a game changer for surveying ethnic minority public opinion.


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