Election 2015

Election 2015: 24% of Asian voters 'undecided'

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Media captionSheetal Parmar reports on the quest to woo Asian voters

Nearly a quarter of Asian voters do not know which party they will support at the general election, a BBC survey suggests.

The BBC Asian Network/ICM poll of 500 people also found that, of those who had decided, 39% said they may change their minds before 7 May.

It shows the Asian vote in Britain, traditionally considered to lean towards Labour, is still up for grabs.

Half of those questioned said they wanted tougher immigration controls.

The poll questioned 500 people across England, Scotland and Wales who described themselves as Asian between 25 March and 2 April.

The poll found that 24% of respondents were still undecided about which party to vote for - in line with the population as a whole.

Personal circumstances

There has been much interest in the "Asian vote" since the 2010 general election - when Labour secured 68% of ethnic minority votes.

The Conservatives, on the other hand, managed 16%.

Since then, several studies have suggested the ethnic minority vote could play a significant role in key marginal seats.

Dr Alexandra Kelso, associate professor of politics at the University of Southampton, said: "For a party like the Conservatives, in key marginals that they need to take, such as Southampton Itchen and others… there's quite a lot of work to do to convince those voters to vote Conservative."

Personal circumstances, rather than party loyalty, appear to be a key consideration for some Asian voters.

Ram Kalyan, a community radio station manager from Southampton, said: "I'm an undecided voter. Traditionally our family has voted Labour, but I'm not sure whether that will be the case… I'm now waiting to see what the party leaders are going to put on the table, and then I'll make my decision."

Solicitor Rashidul Islam said it would come down to hard cash: "I have seen more money in my pocket as a result of economic policies this government has, and also my own circumstances - and that's going to dictate it."

'Track record'

In 2013, a study by Operation Black Vote concluded the ethnic vote could determine the outcome of the 2015 general election.

The study found that in 168 marginal seats, the black and minority ethnic vote was bigger than the sitting MP's majority.

Southampton Itchen is a case in point. Labour's John Denham won the seat in 2010 with a majority of just 192.

All political parties say they would like to field more Asian and minority ethnic candidates in order to better represent Britain.

Speaking last year, Mr Cameron said he hoped to see an Asian prime minister in his lifetime.

However, 85% of Asians surveyed told BBC Asian Network they would not vote for a candidate simply because of their race.

Voters said an MP's abilities was a major issue.

"I wouldn't vote for someone just because they're Asian," Rashidul Islam said.

"I would look at what their policies are, what their track record is… their own credentials rather than what their background is. If they're Asian, it won't make a difference to me."

Immigration concerns

The poll also asked about immigration. Some 50% of Asians said they wanted the next government to be tougher on immigration.

Although many respondents were second, third or fourth generation British Asians, EU migration was of concern.

Southampton student Mickey, 26, said: "Britain needs to be more proactive: controlling more strictly how many immigrants come in, what they have to offer, are they good enough for the economy or not - and if not, that's questionable."