Where do UKIP voters come from? There’s a lot more of them than there used to be – and with the oldest age profile of the main parties, most of them will have voted before for someone else. But who?
The conventional wisdom is that UKIP’s new voters are, by-and-large, disaffected Tories. Nigel Farage, on the other hand, insists they come from all parties and none.
So who’s right? In a hugely informative piece for the Telegraph, Robert Ford and Matthew Goodwin reveal the truth – which at first glance appears to confirm the standard view:
“It is certainly true that new recruits to Ukip are more likely to have voted for the Conservatives in 2010 than any other party.”
In fact, two-thirds of UKIP new supporters voted Conservative in 2010:
“…around one third of new Ukip recruits report backing someone other than the Conservatives at the last election – a fifth of their new support comes from former Lib Dems.”
Only one-in-ten voted Labour.
But dig a little deeper and things get interesting:
“…portraying the Ukip rebellion as simply a split on the Right glosses over two important facts.
“First, focusing on trends since 2010 is misleading. Ukip has only recruited most strongly from the Conservative Party since the Cameron-led government began. When Labour were in charge of the country under Tony Blair, and then Gordon Brown, Ukip picked up more support from Labour than from the Tories.”
In fact, when new UKIP voters were asked who they’d voted for in 2005, 13% said Lib Dem, 39% Conservative and 45% Labour. In other words, many of these so-called disaffected Tories are actually alienated Labour voters who turned to David Cameron in 2010, before moving on to Nigel Farage:
“Ukip’s supporters look more like Old Labour than True Blue Tories. Ukip’s supporters tend to be blue-collar, older, struggling economically, and often live in poorer, urban areas, with big pools of support in the Labour heartlands of the North. Middle-class suburbanites do not dominate Ukip. They shy away from it.
“In fact, Ukip are Britain’s most working-class party. Blue-collar workers are heavily over-represented. Middle-class professionals are scarce. Such voters often express as much hostility to the Conservative party as they do to Labour.”
Ford and Godwin provide a timely reminder that UKIP voters are not the same as UKIP members:
“Committed activists and politicians, the kind of Ukipper the media are most likely to encounter, very often are middle-class, Southern and suburban former Tories (particularly the Ukippers you are likely to stumble across in the Westminster village, where most journalists congregate). Add to this the continual fascination in the media with Conservative splits over Europe and it is easy to see how the “Ukip = angry Tories + Euroscepticism” formula has taken hold.”
This is why the idea of a Conservative-UKIP pact over Europe is a pipe-dream. It is not Europe that is driving the surge in UKIP support, but a much broader range of discontents. Given UKIP’s proven ability to mobilise angry working class voters, one has to ask why the party’s leadership would put that at risk by cosying up to a bunch of Tory toffs.
Indeed, the last thing Nigel Farage wants is for the Labour Party to be spared the fate of the French Socialists under Francois Hollande. With Ed Miliband and Ed Balls making the hard decisions in Downing Street, UKIP will be perfectly positioned to ride a new wave of working class anger.