The Green Party is growing much faster than you might think. This is why

It’s not easy being green, as Kermit the Frog used to say*, and the Green Party know that better than anyone.

The party was founded in 1990, but it’s not until this year that anyone has taken any notice of it.

From being perceived as a party of hemp-wearing, solar-panel-powered, tree-hugging idealists with no substantial political experience outside of local councils, the Greens have blossomed into a serious political force, almost overnight.

But what’s behind this rise? Let us peer behind the emerald curtain…

The polls

Green party supporters

While they’re still a long way from a majority, the Greens are currently – and consistently – polling around 8%. Most of the time, that’s higher than the Lib Dems.

In a YouGov poll on Friday the party held on to the 8% of the vote it gathered the month before and, similarly, a ComRes poll at the end of December put the Greens at 7%. In a November poll by Ipsos MORI, the Greens garnered 9%, following an all-time high of 10% in July this year.

People are ditching the other parties

Green Party membership has doubled since January, to more than 30,000 across England and Wales (38,000 across the whole of the UK), and the party is gaining 1,000 members a week.

Part of this is likely to be down to the dwindling support for other political parties. Tory party membership has nearly halved since 2005, when David Cameron became leader, from 253,600 to 134,000.

Labour membership has also dropped from 193,961 in 2010 to 189,531, and the Lib Dems have seen their membership fall by a third since 2010, to 44,526.

Smaller parties have all benefitted from this, with the Scottish National Party and UKIP also seeing a big membership boost. In fact, SNP members now outnumber Lib Dem members 2:1.

The rhetoric from Labour and the Conservatives has always been that a vote for a fringe party is effectively a vote for the opposition. But the successful integration of the Lib Dems and Conservative parties to form the coalition has proved to voters that a minority party can have an influence in government.

MPs please

While Green parties in Scandinavian countries have been successful enough to lead governments, the Green Party of England & Wales never managed to get an MP – until 2010, that is, when Caroline Lucas became the MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Following the success of this MP and the ballooning of members, the party has said it will have candidates in 75% of constituencies by the general election in May.

In fact, in a recent YouGov poll, the Green party came third when voters were asked, “If candidates from the following parties were standing in your constituency and had a chance of winning, how likely would you be to vote for them?”. One in four people surveyed said they would be “likely” to vote for the party, placing it ahead of UKIP and the Lib Dems in the poll.

UKIP controversy

Green party poster

While in many ways politically opposite to the Greens, the rise of far-right party UKIP has proved to voters a minority party can garner support and pose a threat to the main parties. This could have been the catalyst that gave voters the confidence to throw their weight behind the Greens.

The Green Party might be less vocal than UKIP, but up until this year where it gained two MPs at by-elections, the anti-immigration party had none.

When UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage was invited to join a general election television debate, a number of petitions were started with one now reaching more than 270,000 signatures to have Green leader Natalie Bennett on the panel too.

Who supports them?

The Greens are arguably finding it easier to scoop up support from women because key party figures are female, compared with male leaders of all the other parties.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

Caroline Lucas MP, Green leader Natalie Bennett and London Assembly member Jenny Jones are the names people are most familiar with in the party, and two of the party’s three MEPs are also women.

According to an Ipsos MORI poll, female voters are more undecided than male voters, and don’t tend to like any of the three main party leaders (nor Nigel Farage). For each main party leader, the majority of women said they didn’t like them.

Being arrested usually puts an end to a politician’s career but, if anything, it provided a boost for Lucas.

Caroline Lucas arrest

Lucas was arrested in 2013 at a non-violent fracking protest in Balcome, East Sussex. She was later found not guilty of obstructing a public highway.

Jenny Jones was also arrested, in October, for “obstructing police” at an Occupy protest in Parliament Square. She was subsequently “de-arrested” once police had her details for a summons (or *ahem* found out who she was).

Rather than being seen as a negative thing, the arrests have been largely perceived as demonstrating the courage and conviction of the party, particularly by young people.

Support for the Greens has doubled among 18-24 year-olds since May.

A poll by YouGov in August shows the Greens matching the Lib Dems in support, coming joint third, ahead of UKIP.

Another poll by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft showed 19% of young people intended to vote Green, ahead of the Conservatives, UKIP and the Lib Dems.

The Young Greens, the party’s youth segment, has seen membership numbers rise from 1,700 to 4,500 in less than a year. This is the fastest rise of all the UK political party youth factions.

Members put this down to a lack of choice in other parties, and a sense of betrayal from the Lib Dems over tuition fees.

People actually agree with them without knowing

If people voted for policies instead of parties, the Green Party would be the outright winner at the general election next year, according to Vote for Policies.

Using the Vote for Policies survey, 27% of participants agreed with the Green Party’s policies, compared with the next best – Labour at 20% and the Lib Dems at 17%.

 

Green party policy support

Green party policy support

The Greens came out top in five of the nine policy areas – crime, education, health, economy and environment – and came second in three others.

It’s worth taking the survey, as the results can be quite eye-opening.

But the obvious downside to this research is that there is clearly something stopping people voting for the Greens.

This could be due to lack of knowledge about the party - a sense that voting Green is a wasted vote or just that there are not enough candidates.

Either way, the party will need to tackle this if they are to make significant gains at the next general election.

*In case you don’t know the reference from the intro of this article…

How do you think the Greens will do in the general election? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter or in comments below.

 



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Readers' comments (4)

  • Of course everyone is keen on saving the environment. What they don't realise that if the Greens were allowed to implement their policies in full, no fossil fuels, no nuclear, relying entirely on intermittent wind-power, solar (which only works by day) and tidal, which is regular but again intermittent, not only would fuel prices double, but thgere would be constant brown and black-outs, as none of the 'green' generating sources are reliable and consistent. Until we have batteries which can hold the enormous amount of power used every hour, or carbon capture from fossil fuels can be achieved, both of which are a long way off if ever achievable at all, their policies are a recipe for a return to the 18th century. No electricity, no computers, no internet, no shops-our reliance on electricity is total, and the Greens have no answer as to how it can be provided whilst following their dogma.

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  • Sorry Ian but that's just not true. In fact Norway relies on renewables for 99% of it's domestic energy usage, so it's simply false to say that there's no way renewables can be used to power a country without blackouts

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  • Loads of good clear points from Robyn - but not one mention of the first-past-the-post election system being the reason for lack of MPs up to now. This stacks the odds in favour of the big 2 at the expense of the others - effectively stealing their seats.
    Personally I'm fed up with having to vote tactically and refuse to be bullied into it by the FPTP system. Now voting for what I want, and have joined the Green Surge.

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  • Anonymous

    I'm voting green because it is the only party that has sustainability at its heart. The others therefore appear to want to aid the destruction of planet,I could never support that.

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