New study of the English Defence League and the Counter-Jihad
A new report suggests the popular stereotypes of the EDL are as distorted as the group's own views on Islam and Muslims.
According to figures from thinktank Chatham House, 53 percent of EDL supporters work in professional or managerial jobs, while less than one in 10 have no qualifications at all.
Debunking the image of EDL members as young and poorly educated, it was found that a majority of the supporters of the extremist group are more than 44 years old. They are no more likely than average to be unemployed and claiming benefits.
Exposing the gap between the stereotype of an EDL supporter - as embodied in this TV interview - and the data presents a challenge for policymakers, warned Chatham House.
'Roots of Extremism' author Dr Matthew Goodwin said: "Some of the best-known stereotypes about counter-Jihad supporters are wrong.
"The seeds of support for counter-Jihad groups such as the defence leagues lie among citizens profoundly concerned over immigration."
'Extremist' supporters of the EDL also share many views with the average citizen about party politics, blurring the line between where the middle ground ends and extremism begins.
Levels of distrust for politicians, parliament and local councillors are similarly high among EDL supporters and the broader populace - around 75 percent.
Goodwin continued: "Policy approaches that frame the counter-Jihad challenge as being primarily a phenomenon among deprived working-class communities should also be reassessed. In fact supporters are spread quite evenly across society.
"Thus although those who support extreme groups such as the EDL do express lightly higher levels of dissatisfaction, their views are generally consistent with those of a population that has become profoundly distrustful of its politicians and institutions."
On attitudes towards immigration and Islam, the report found a broad correlation existed between EDL supporters and pensioners or adults nearing retirement.
Goodwin said the EDL "are not simply anti-Muslim or overtly racist, but xenophobic and profoundly hostile towards immigration." He added that the EDL's widespread backing among older people speaks of wider concerns in society about immigration.
"Large numbers of citizens are yet to be won over by arguments that set out the case for immigration," Goodwin said.
"The message is clear: there is and will remain plenty of potential support for counter-Jihad groups or similar movements.
"For respondents in the full sample, immigration was ranked as the second most important issue behind the economy, and few appear convinced that the country is set to benefit over the longer term from continued immigration."
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