In anticipation of the English Defence League's march in Bristol on 14 July, This is Bristol have released excerpts from Demos’ inside the edl: populist politics in a digital age.
To suggest there are flaws in Demos' report says nothing that authors Jamie Bartlett (left) and Mark Littler haven’t indicated themselves.
There are two areas that give me trouble.
Firstly, the sample were self-selected – ads on Facebook may have been answered by trolls, members of EDL groups who were there to give people the wrong ideas about what we are about. The authors’ guess on p35 is that about 10% of its respondents were trolls, whereas others set the figure for infiltrators at a quarter. Which is true could make a lot of difference to interpretation of the findings. Might trolls be more motivated to self-select? (I should add that self-selection was famously ridiculed when it led Dr Kinsey to report that 8% of men and 3% of women have sex with animals.)
My second problem is a table on p26 of the .pdf comparing EDL members’ attitudes on views to the "national average". A footnote reveals the national average to have been taken from the Eurobarometer 2011 study. An EU webpage indicates gaining attitudes about climate change was a priority for this, so it’s perhaps no surprise that no "national average" opinion available for "security" and "strong government" – the strongest EDL priorities - was available.
Think-tanks usually fish for funding by indicating further study is needed. But the authors’ statement to this effect on p39 is accurate, if not an admission that the "large-scale empirical study of the EDL" promised on p5 fails to materialise.
Click to go to the Demos report inside the edl: populist politics in a digital age