Migrant voters are almost as numerous as UKIP supporters and so the way they vote is likely to affect the outcome of the next general election, according to a new report from Manchester University and the Migrants Rights Network.
According to the report "…around one voter in every ten eligible to vote in 2015 will be a migrant voter, and many more will be the children of migrants." The migrant vote could be decisive in up to 70 key elections across England and Wales, where the number of migrant voters is substantially greater than the winning margin of incumbent MPs at the last election.
With a general election due in less than 100 days, immigration is expected to be high on the agenda for political parties. Both Labour and the Conservatives are expected to try and counter the rise of UKIP be being seen to be 'tough' on immigration.
Labour and the Conservatives should question the wisdom of courting the UKIP vote and potentially alienating migrant voters.
Importance of migrant voters
Just under four million British citizens are regarded as first generation migrants in the UK. Apart from those from the Republic of Ireland, the largest concentrations of migrant voters come from well- established migrant communities originating in Commonwealth countries, with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and South Africa heading the voting list.
European Union nationals are expected to be under-represented at the polls, as the majority do not have British citizenship.
Migrants do not tend to vote as a 'block', according to the report, but there are trends in the way that they vote.
They tend to be more liberal about immigration, and more concerned with discrimination and support parties that are trying to combat racism.
Earlier research suggests that a political parties' attitudes towards migrants and minorities can have a lasting impact on the way in which migrants vote. A political party's support for hard line immigration policies may cause migrant voters to change the way they vote for the long term, rather than just in one election, causing long term damage to the size of their support base.
The power of the migrant community is only expected to increase in the UK, as more and more children of first generation migrants become of voting age.