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With UKIP recording their highest standing that Ipsos MORI
has ever seen in our Political Monitor this week, and ahead of Prime Minister, David
Cameron’s greatly anticipated and then postponed speech on Europe, it is a
pertinent time to take a deeper look at UKIP voters. We have looked at our
aggregate data from 2012 (combining all our polls from 2012) to build big
enough base sizes to try to answer some questions about UKIP voters: who are
they, where have they come from and what do they care about?
Following UKIP coming second in the Rotherham by-election
last year, Nigel Farage, the party’s leader took the opportunity to claim “We're not just a protest
collection of Tories from the shires.” Is he right?
Looking across everyone in 2012 who told Ipsos MORI they would
vote for UKIP at an immediate general election, 43% of them had voted for the
Conservatives in 2010. Therefore almost half of the support for UKIP is coming
from former Conservative voters (note of course , this does not mean half of
2010 Conservative voters are switching to UKIP as we discuss later). Around a
quarter are loyal UKIP supporters having voted for them in 2010. The rest is
made up of handfuls of Liberal Democrats, Labour and BNP voters as well as
people who did not vote in 2010.
A note on those loyal supporters from 2010: like the
Conservatives and Labour, UKIP are holding onto to most of the people who voted
from them two and a half years ago. Three quarters of UKIP’s 2010 vote remains
loyal, as does 83% of the Conservatives’ and 92% of Labour’s. However, just 46%
of those people who voted for the Liberal Democrats at the general election say
they would vote for them now, with a third going to Labour, and around one in
12 each to the Conservatives and the Greens.
Looking at 2010 Conservative voters in more detail, across
the year exactly the same proportion (6%) left to UKIP as to Labour – though
there are some indications that the increase in UKIP’s support over the last
couple of months is coming increasingly from the Conservatives. It is also
worth noting that almost one in ten 2010 UKIP voters have moved to the
Conservatives, although in absolute terms this is smaller than those going the
When we look at who UKIP voters actually are, the answer may
not be much of a surprise. UKIP voters are far more likely than the average
Briton to be a Daily Mail, Daily Express or Telegraph reader, while just 2%
read the Guardian. Two thirds of the UKIP vote is made up of men, more so than
for any of the three main parties. Their support is also mostly from those aged
55+; their reliance on the so-called “grey vote” is greater than even the
Conservatives and of course older people are the most likely group to actually
vote so their support is important. The pattern of support for UKIP across the
country is similar to that of the Conservative Party, with strongholds in the
Midlands and the South (excluding London). Indeed, 60% of UKIP’s support comes
in Conservative held seats, thought they are more likely to be in safe
Conservative constituencies than in Tory held marginals. Mr Farage was not
wrong to say his party is not just a
collection of disgruntled Tories in the shires, but they do make up a
considerable chunk of his support.
A look at the satisfaction ratings for the government and
the three main party leaders provides some clues as to why UKIP have slowly but
clearly risen in the polls recently: UKIP voters are generally dissatisfied
with everyone. Seven in ten or more UKIP voters are dissatisfied with the
performance of each of Mr Cameron, Mr Miliband, Mr Clegg and the Coalition
government. Does this make them the protest party of the day? It certainly
points to UKIP successfully harnessing the frustration many voters feel with
the establishment, in the same way the Liberal Democrats were often credited in
doing in the days before the Coalition.
Are UKIP a one trick pony? A party set up with the sole aim
of, as the name suggests, withdrawing the UK from the European Union, has had
to develop beyond that narrow remit with its increased exposure. And indeed the
European Union is, in fact, only fifth on the list of UKIP supporters’
concerns; a fifth (18%) saw it as among the most important issues facing
Britain in 2012 with the economy, race relations and immigration, unemployment
and crime all rated as more important than the EU. However, the one in five
UKIP supporters naming the European Union is much higher than the 6% of the general
As among the wider public, UKIP supporters were more
concerned about the economy than any other issue. Six in ten (59%) UKIP
supporters placed it among the most important issues in 2012. However, unlike
the public on average, the second issue of concern for UKIP supporters was race
relations and immigration; 51% of them mentioned it compared with just a fifth
(21%) of Britons overall. Crime and law and order is also more important to
UKIP supporters than to the general public. Race relations and immigration are also
particularly important issues for Conservatives as well as UKIP supporters, highlighting
once again the similarities between the two sets of voters.
The one thing polling cannot tell us at this stage, of
course, is how this increased (and apparently increasing) level of support for
UKIP in mid-term polls would translate into votes at a General Election.
Clearly, their supporters are frustrated with the government and the three main
parties as they stand. The challenge for Nigel Farage and his party will be to
maintain the momentum and gain in credibility as a party that is worth voting
for at a general election, and persuading people they are not a “wasted vote”.
This summer’s local elections and the European elections next year provide UKIP
with opportunities, but even then the past has taught us that success in
mid-term elections (both local and European) are no barometer for success in
subsequent general elections.
The challenge for UKIP is obvious, but of course, there is
also a challenge for David Cameron and the Conservatives. He is losing voters
to UKIP but he is also losing voters to Labour. To win a majority at the next
election the Conservative Party needs to expand its support from the last
election. The Prime Minister will hope his Europe speech, when it does
eventually happen, will pacify his own party and also nullify some of the now
obvious threat from UKIP. However, he will also need to focus on winning back
support his party has lost to Labour.