The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is the fourth force in British politics and is the UK’s largest national right-wing minor party. Since the last election support for UKIP has grown to a level where several Westminster voting intention polls in the past few weeks have placed UKIP in third at 8-11%, ahead of the Liberal Democrats, the hitherto established third force in UK Politics.
This has been due to a combination of two factors, firstly the decline of the Lib Dems to around 10 % support and the rise of UKIP support to the same level. The Lib Dem fall has been well documented, but what about the rise of UKIP?
At the last general election UKIP won 3.2% of the Great Britain vote and did not win any seats. Where has its extra support come from?
To analyse the nature of the UKIP support we have aggregated that last 7 non-consecutive YouGov polls conducted in April so that we can obtain reasonably sized crosstab samples. The respondent weighted average UKIP support in these 7 polls was 8.2%.
YouGov is the most frequent pollster in the UK with a several polls a week. Consequently the aggregated polls cover a period of the last 2 weeks in April. We will stick with YouGov to keep the cross tabs uniform.
One of the several cross tabs included in YouGov polls is party vote of the respondent at the 2010 election. However, these cross tabs only reference the three major parties. Nevertheless we can find the shares of these party’s 2010 supporters that now support UKIP and fit them into the current overall share of UKIP supporters. The chart is below.
We have split the UKIP support into 4 sections by 2010 vote. The Blue, Red and Yellow wedges in the pie chart represent the 2010 voters of each of the major parties. The purple wedge represents voters that did not vote for any of the major parties in 2010. It is likely that these voters are mostly 2010 UKIP voters, however the purple wedge also includes any other minor party or independent voters in 2010 and people who did not vote at all in 2010.
As you can see the largest share of current UKIP supporters are 2010 Conservative voters accounting for nearly half of current UKIP support. To current observers of UK politics this is no surprise. UKIP is party a borne of right-wing opponents of UK membership of the European Union in the late 1990’s. In recent years the party has expanded its policy position to include other right-wing issues such immigration control and flat income tax.
For the first time since the establishment of the left-right spectrum, the Conservative party has a party to its right and now the Conservatives are in government, UKIP has become a viable option for right of centre voters who are unhappy with the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government.
If we turn the above figures on their head and determine the share of 2010 major party voters that currently support UKIP, this again reinforces that it is Conservative voters which are switching to UKIP in greater numbers.
Now let us have a look at the spread of the UKIP vote over other cross tabs in the aggregated YouGov sample. A table of the demographic breakdown of the UKIP vote is set out below.
Geographically, UKIP attracts the largest share of support in Southern England outside of London, followed by the Midlands and the Northern England. UKIP polls below its national vote share in London and in Scotland. This is a similar pattern to the UKIP results at the 2010 general election.
In terms of class, UKIP attracts more support from working class voters than middle class voters. In terms of age groups, UKIP support is more pronounced with older respondents, 13.6% of voters aged 60 years or older supported UKIP compared to just 2.4% of voters aged between 18 and 24 years.
The UKIP demographic differences match the demographic differences of the Conservative Party support with the exception of class, where the Conservative advantage with middle class voters is turned on its head.
What does the current UKIP spread of support portend for UK electoral politics? The common shorthand analysis about the effect of UKIP is that it handicaps the Conservatives by splitting the right of centre vote.
But how much further can UKIP support grow and more importantly under the British first past the post system, can UKIP win any seats at Westminster? We will address this in a future post.