This Monday, I’m featuring a very interesting and witty resource I discovered on Twitter: UKIP Maths are debunking affirmation made by UKIP members in their campaigns, and fighting them with cold hard facts.
Let’s look first at this graph; column on the left shows the Government’s estimates of the percentage of the UK population born overseas; the column on the right is from a 2013 ONS poll and shows the percentage of the UK population that respondents intending to vote UKIP at the next elections believe was born overseas.
(In case you’re wondering, the general public estimated the number of foreign-born people in the UK as higher than the actual figure, at around 25%; but UKIP supporters overestimate it by a wider margin).
So, UKIP supporters tend to think there are much more immigrants in the country than there actually are. Fair enough.
But it gets more interesting…
Here’s a map of England and Wales showing the non-UK born population as a percentage of all usual residents:
Now let’s look at a map of UKIP councillor wins:
It’s quite visible that the areas with most UKIP supporters are also the areas with even lower levels of immigration than average.
The percentage of foreign-born residents of London is 37%, close to what UKIP supporters believe the national average is. In my neighbourhood (Forest Gate, in Newham) it may easily be over 50%; and only 16% of the borough’s residents are white British. Where I live, immigration is highly visible: easily within walking distance, I can find a Romanian grocery store, a Polski Sklep, a Lithuanian shop selling very tasty sausages, an African-Asian-Carribean supermarket, three or four Indian grocery stores, two or three greengrocers selling stuff like plantains, dudhi and celeriac, an Afghani restaurant, a Brazilian restaurant, a mosque/Muslim cultural centre and a cosmetics shops selling products for the care of African hair. If I were to extrapolate and generalise purely on my personal experience, overestimating the number of immigrants in the UK would make a lot of sense. All three of our councillors in my ward are Labour (as are all councillors in Newham), and 2 of them are from ethnic minority groups.
The areas with a lot of UKIP councillors look nothing like this. The percentage of foreign-born residents is below the national average (around 5%-ish, judging by the map) and you may be hard-pressed trying to find plantain in the local shops. So, if they are the ones likely to most overestimate the number of migrants in the UK, it is not for speaking from experience.
What would then be the explanation? Purely speculating, what I find a quite provocative hypothesis is that their belief that immigration is a bad thing, rather than a good thing precedes their looking at the fact. Therefore, when asked how much immigration they believe there is in the UK, unconsciously, they will come up with a number that would justify their fears and their beliefs.
Social psychologists refer to this phenomenon as cognitive dissonance: when what we see around us does not match our beliefs, we feel uncomfortable; and therefore we adjust our perceptions, so that we won’t have to change our mind. The facts that less than 15% of the population are migrants, that they contribute in taxes 37% than they take away, that many of them are students or qualified professionals- they conflict with the belief that “we are swamped with an invasion of migrants who scrounge on the benefits system”; and if this belief is part of your political identity, you might be more inclined to believe anything that reinforces it and very little of what contradicts it, regardless of source, methodology or arguments.
With this in mind, let’s look at some more UKIP maths charts
So, what do you think?
P.S. Please tweet this to Russel Brand (@rustyrockets). Or any other graph.