The puzzle of high political partisanship among ethnic minority young people in Great Britain

Nicole Martin, Jonathan Mellon

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Previous studies have found that ethnic minorities in Britain have similar levels of partisan attachment as white UK respondents. However, we find that this hides substantial ethnic differences in levels of partisanship within age groups (minorities are younger on average) and that there is a substantial minority party attachment premium that is greatest for the youngest respondents. Our paper examines the factors that account for the substantial partisanship gap between minority and white UK respondents by the time they enter the electorate. Using waves 3, 5 and 7 (2011–2016) of the Understanding Society youth panel, which follows 10–15 year olds in the UK, we model both the early attainment of party attachment among respondents (the first time we observe them as part of the youth panel) and the subsequent retention of this party attachment up to age 15, or acquisition of party attachment among young people who had no partisanship at the time of first observation. We find that differences in levels of parental partisanship and political engagement are the key factors in explaining the difference in minority and white UK acquisition and retention of party attachment during this critical period of political development.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Early online date16 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Ethnicity
  • partisanship
  • party attachment
  • politics
  • young people

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute


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