The last couple of years have been bleak for Britain's gnomes. Once a common or garden sight around the UK, the last 18 months has seen a slew of stories charting their decline. A study showed that 94% of us wouldn't find space for them in our gardens, while last October, the Home Office released figures that showed that gnomes and other garden ornaments make up almost 10% of all reported robberies.
Homeprotect recently commissioned a major study of UK homeowners to uncover the reason for their disappearance, but what we found was a fascinating peek over the garden fence. How the UK treats their garden gnomes can almost be used a barometer measuring the nation's political views, neighbourhood relations and even people's choice of Bond Actor. Surveying over 3,000 Brits, not only did we find that Labour voters were more likely to own gnomes, our study discovered that Conservative gnome ownership voters were the least trusting and that UKIP voters should always keep an eye on their garden ornaments.
The Politics of Gnome Ownership
Politically speaking, gnome owners are a mixed bag. 18% and 17% of the people surveyed supported Labour and Conservative respectively. When it comes to looking at the gnome super-owners though, UKIP's messaging has clearly worked. 45% of those surveyed who own over 6 gnomes or more voted UKIP in the last general election.
Our study seems to suggest that the more left-leaning your views are, the more risks you take with your gnomes. We found that Labour voters are more likely to keep their gnomes in the front garden, while Conservative and UKIP voters are more likely to keep them in the back. Guardian readers followed the same pattern, with Sun and Daily Mail readers more likely to keep them in the back. 56% of Green Party voters told us that they moved their gnomes around.
Surprisingly, the results of our survey showed that conservative-leaning voters were among the largest groups of people who had lost gnomes in the last 5 years. Daily Mail and Sun readers reporting many missing garden gnomes, but UKIP voters seem to have the worst luck. Our survey found that supporters of the party have lost significantly more gnomes over the past five years when compared to the followers of every other party.
So maybe it's not paranoia - they are out to get you.
Where Do You Keep Your Gnome?
When it comes to looking after their gnomes, the majority prefer to keep them in the back garden. Over 55% of people we asked keep their gnomes out the back as opposed to a meagre 15.4% who keep them in the front and the 7.2% who keep them in both their front and back gardens.
Where you live in the UK does appear to influence where you keep your gnomes. 30% of the people who said they kept their gnomes in the front garden lived in the South West, while 25% of the people who said they put their gnomes in both front and back live in the North East. The Midlands is the most cautious area, with 25% of people saying that they kept their gnomes in the back garden.
Despite recent evidence to the contrary, keeping your gnomes in the backyard does seem to be the best way to prevent losses. Our survey showed people who keep their gnomes in the front garden or move them around statistically lose more gnomes than those who display them in the back garden.
Knowing the Gnome Owners
Our survey has helped us to paint a portrait of the average British gnome-owner. They come from all walks of life, but for the most part they are the older generation; our survey indicating that 33% of gnome owners are over 50. However, it is interesting to note that The North East differed by having the youngest population of gnome owners with 64% of respondents under 45 - not that we're pointing fingers.
40% of gnome owners read either The Sun or The Mail while 13% read the Guardian. Their shopping habits are also normal: 18.5% saying they shopped in Tesco and 11.8% saying they shop at Asda. Sainsburys and Waitrose both attract roughly the same amount of gnome owners, with 8.9% of respondents visiting both.
Even their taste in Bond actor tracks with recent trends. Our survey found that Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are roughly equally popular.
The Great Gnome Conspiracy
The UK is losing gnomes at an alarming rate. Four in five gnome owners told us that they had lost at least one gnome over the past five years.
The results show that the North is suffering a higher attrition rate that the South. While the bulk of the UK's gnome population is split between Scotland and the South East, Wales and Northern England seems to be the real blackspot for gnome disappearances.
The North East is particularly hard hit. Not only does it have one of the smallest populations of gnomes in the country, it also has the highest proportion of gnome casualties. The results speak for themselves; the average gnome owning household in North Eastern England has lost 3.8 gnomes over the last five years and 36% of people surveyed told us that they've lost more than five.
This begs the obvious question: why are so many gnomes going missing in the North East? Is it just one person? Is there a sinister network smuggling gnomes to Scotland and the South East? Whatever the answer, we have only scratched the surface of what could be the biggest gnome conspiracy in UK history.