Media commentators seem to have caught up with the fact that UKIP are challenging for third place in the polls… except that it isn’t quite a fact. As ever, the actual picture is more complicated and whether UKIP are competing for third place, or have secured third place, or are trailing in a very distant fourth place depends on the polling company and their methodology.

There are currently nine polling companies conducting regular or semi-regular voting intention polls, four of them have shown UKIP ahead of the Lib Dems – in some cases like Survation almost always, in some cases like YouGov very rarely. The other five have never done so, and in the case of ICM or ComRes’s phone polls have never shown UKIP even vaguely close to third place.

The perception that they are consistently competing for third place comes from a couple of factors. One is publication bias – polling companies that show UKIP in third or challenging for third tend to include them in their topline figures. Polling companies that have them in a distant fourth don’t really bother. This is understandable enough, but means the good figures get far more prominence than the bad ones (it is further exacerbated by the reporting of polls – UKIP in third place is a news story worth reporting. UKIP back in the crowd with 3% or 4%, as ICM, MORI and ComRes have sometimes shown them in recent months isn’t). The other factor is that UKIP tend to do better in online polls, and online polls tend to be more frequent. Between the start of June and the 25th October when I collected up the data for this post there were 153 voting intention polls, 135 were online. Even putting aside YouGov, who conducted over two-thirds of all the polls in that period, there were 33 online polls compared to 18 phone polls. The polls that are best for UKIP are also the most frequent.

The graph below shows the average score for the Liberal Democrats and UKIP for each polling company between June and October, ordered from those showing the biggest Lib Dem leads over UKIP on the left, to those showing the biggest UKIP lead over the Lib Dems on the right.

At the left ICM and ComRes (phone) are showing the Lib Dem very solidly in third place, with UKIP not far above their 2010 level of support. Populus and MORI have a big gap between the two parties. TNS and YouGov both, on average, have the Lib Dems in third place, but have both on occasion shown UKIP in third place or equal with the Lib Dems. Only Opinion and Survation give UKIP a higher average level of support than the Lib Dems, and only Survation significantly so.

As usual there are different reasons for this pattern. For example, Survation give UKIP by far the highest level of support because they prompt from them in their main question (something I’ve written about at more length here). ComRes’s phone polls probably show the lowest level of UKIP support because they use a harsher likelihood to vote filter for minor parties than for the main three (their topline figures include those who say they are 5/10 or more likely to vote for Con, Lab and LD, but only those 10/10 certain to vote for minor parties).

The main cause of the difference however, as I’ve marked on the chart, seems to be between online and telephone polling. For whatever reason, online polls seem to show a higher level of support for UKIP than telephone polls do. This doesn’t seem to be a “minor party” factor, if you compare “others” in general online polls show more support for minor parties, but take out UKIP from the equation and it vanishes, as I’ve shown in the graph below. For some reason, the consistent difference only shows up with UKIP.

There are various possible explanations for this difference. One is interviewer effect, perhaps people are more willing to admit to an anonymous web-interface that they are going to vote for UKIP than they would be to a live human being on the end of a telephone. The other possibility is that there some sort of sampling difference in one mode or the other. Are the sort of people who would support UKIP systemically less likely to agree to take part in a cold-called telephone interview than other people with the same demographic profile? Or are the sort of people who would support UKIP more likely to join an internet panel than other people with the same demographic profile? We cannot tell.

What do we have to judge by? At the last election all the main pollsters got close to UKIP’s actual level of support, so that doesn’t give us any real clue. Since UKIP’s support started to really increase in late 2011 we have had very few big electoral tests to check by, and very few where both telephone and online pollsters have conducted comparable polling.

There were two polls for the Feltham & Heston by-election, one online one from Survation and one commissioned by Lord Ashcroft and presumably carried out by Populus over the phone. Populus showed UKIP at 5%, Survation showed them on 7%. UKIP ended up getting 5.5%, so hardly a conclusive answer (UPDATE – plus, as I should have spotted, the Survation poll was telephone anyway, so the comparison couldn’t have told us anything about online vs phone polls anyway!)

In the London elections this year all pollsters overestimated support for UKIP slightly, but the only telephone poll (by Populus) showed UKIP candidate Lawrence Webb on 3% the same as online polls by ComRes and Opinium. Besides, by describing themselves as “Fresh Choice for London” UKIP did not put their party name on the ballot paper, which may have depressed their actual vote – we don’t know if pollsters slightly overestimated their support, or if UKIP underperformed by failing to mention UKIP in their party description on ballot papers.

Even the worse polling for UKIP shows them increasing their support from the last election, mostly quite significantly, so I think we can be confident they have gained support since 2010. Just how much we can’t really tell – the pollsters range from the relatively modest all the way up to trebling their support or more.

199 Responses to “How much support do UKIP have?”

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  1. Still going to stack up on tins on baked beans just in case though. If Romney wins, I’ll be cowering under my table waiting for the world to end.

  2. MintheM:

    You can go to bed early if you want – I shall go at my usual time of 8-30 pm

  3. Seeing all this doom-mongering about Romney is actually giving me the hope that he wins. It will be interesting to see everyone’s reaction.

  4. WOLF

    “What are the odds on UKIP getting a seat in the next Parliament? Less than Respect I would think”

    If UKIP put all of their resources into one area of the country, say the South East (including London) then they could just pull out a seat from the hat.

    Mind the Greens won a FPTP seat so every chance UKIP could do the same.

  5. C N-S
    I recognise all the factors you mentioned but I opined earlier that Con voters are more aware than to hand Lab or Lib a free ride by splitting the vote (usually Lib because the seats concerned are rural or sleepy seaside like Torbay).

    Leftish- wing parties are demonstrably not so aware.

    If you could name me a seat where you think there is a real chance of a UKIP win, I should be very interested.

  6. While the focus is on UKIP’s share of the vote what pollsters are actually interested is in predicting the winner and that is decided by seats not vote share. In that respect UKIP’S as far as I can see come nowhere near challenging in a single seat.

    There best chance is a by election in a seat with a disgraced Tory where they pick up a right of centre anti Cameron vote.

    Oddly enough, although I am hoping that the vote in 2014 means there are no Scottish seats up for grabs in 2015, in terms of seats there is an outside chance of the SNP being the third largest party in Westminster.

    If the LibDem’s don’t recover many of their twelve seats in Scotland will be vulnerable, particularly to the SNP. It depends how people would view voting SNP after a “No” vote… Not worth it or safe now the referendum is out of the way.

    With the SNP on six and the LibDem’s on twelve we could well overtake them in Scotland, but with some predictions putting both on current polls on seat numbers in the teens it is at least a probability.

    Oh and just to make it clear I am still going all out for “Yes” in 2014!


  7. Allan Christie – the Green party’s victory in Brighton Pavilion didn’t come from nowhere, they were in a very strong 3rd place in 2005, so people could see it wasn’t a wasted vote, and they had a strong organisation on the ground built up over a long period of time, as evidenced by them having 6 of the 20 councillors in the seat in 2003 and 9 of the 20 councillors in 2007.

    UKIP don’t have those foundations built up in any target seat, and no obvious sign of doing so. If they do very well, it is more likely that it will only serve to identify some potential targets which they could try to build up in time for 2020.

  8. It is well documented that members of online panels are different in a number of ways, even after taking demographics into account. For instance, they buy more new gadgets, are more likely to switch their bank accounts, do more gaming and are heavier internet users. So it is not that implausible that they may also have some other characteristic (say Euro-skepticism) compared with those who aren’t members. However, as far as I am aware there is no evidence for this other than the data shown in Anthony’s graphics. But it is an interesting hypothesis.

    Phil, your worry about the “assumption that a tiny sample of the population which is readily contactable and willing to be interviewed can be held to be representative in voting terms of the vast majority of the population who clearly aren’t, simply by weighting by characteristics common to both”, is an odd one if you are comparing their validity to online polls, which are usually drawn from a panel of frequent responders in the region of tens of thousands – which we know up front is skewed in a number of ways, whereas phone polls have, in theory, the opportunity of capturing any of the 20 million homes who have a landline (and, in ICM’s case, some of those who don’t as well through their mobile contacts).

    In theory, phone polls should be much more reliable and valid. It is mainly cost that is driving many to use online polls.

    (I write as someone who works in research, both with offline and online methodologies.)

  9. Of course, one of the main reasons UKIP get lots of media coverage is because certain large newspapers are very anti-EU and anti-moderate Conservative.

  10. Cameron has asked Government departments to look into what they knew/know about the North Wales child abuse case.

    Unless this is just a first step, is that going to tell him much? Good to see some activity on it though.

  11. looking through a number of american conservative websites ,they seem certain that romney(who a few months ago were saying was a dangerous liberal) is going to win by a landslide. i don’t understand how the polling evidence can give such different expectations to them. they believe much of the polling which favours obama or a close race is wrong. millions of americans are going to be depressed however way this ends.

  12. @Howard

    “If you could name me a seat where you think there is a real chance of a UKIP win, I should be very interested.”

    Buckingham (assuming no notable independents run in 2015).

  13. Some really quite poor PMI data out this morning from the dominant services sector. It fell in October from 52.2 to 50.6, which if all the various PMI data is to be believed, means that the economy probably contracted in October.

    More worryingly, the service data suggests reduced new business and falling employment. In the case of the employment indicator, this is the second month in a row that service employment appears to have dropped, and along with construction and manufacturing also continuing to shed jobs, gives a strong indication that we are going to see potential rises in unemployment.

    That +1% figure seems an age away already, and although it’s too early to draw firm conclusions, the October data has put the option of a triple dip firmly on the agenda, for now at least.

  14. NICKP

    @”Good to see some activity on it though.”


    The Childrens Commissioner in North Wales has said a new investigation is needed.

    Fingers crossed.

  15. @Howard

    There’s a difference between a good UKIP vote and UKIP winning a seat. Even if all the unknown factors work in UKIP’s favour and they manage to get into third place (unlikely but not impossible), the electoral system is stacked against them and it will be very difficult to get a seat anywhere.

    The only direct effect this might have on the next election is eating away at the Conservative vote. Should UKIP get a high number of votes and no seats, it might make the Mail et al think again about their beloved FPTP, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

  16. Survation’s Barnsley Central poll was also a telephone poll. Realocation of Conservative/Lib Dem undecideds possibly accounts for their overestimate of the Con vote, and understimate of UKIP VI.

    After realocation they had Con on 13% and UKIP on 9%, but before realocation Con and UKIP were tied on 11%… so this was closer to the actual result: UKIP 12.2%, Con 8.3%.


  17. NICK

    Carwyn Jones seems to be hedging his bets .

    @”Seeing all this doom-mongering about Romney is actually giving me the hope that he wins. It will be interesting to see everyone’s reaction.”

    Judging by worldwide sympathies, you could pretty well guarantee mass hysteria & worse………except in Israel perhaps !

  19. I’d be interested to hear US election addicts’ views on this You Gov poll in the States : Apparently ‘one of the most extensive polls ever conducted’. Really?

  20. @ Colin

    Bibi will be disappointed if his old friend and colleague (from 1976-7) unfortunately loses tomorrow, which seems increasingly likely as the polls aren’t shifting.

  21. Who is Bibi ?

  22. Good Afternoon All.

    I do hope the truth comes out over the children’s homes in Jersey, Wales and Northern Ireland.

    Perhaps this is the Government to do the cleansing.

  23. @ Colin

    Bibi is a widely used nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu, current Prime Minister of Israel.

  24. @Cyberkarst

    The question is: is the self selection that clearly exists in online polls sufficient to make them worse than telephone polls with far lower response rates? From AW’s various comments, I think he claims a response rate of >50% from a panel in the hundreds of thousands, and that compares with a response rate averaging 8% for phone polls.

    My point is only that given an 8% response rates clearly some significant filtering is going on with phone polls, which may lead to different sorts of less predictable bias than that likely to result from internet only polling. Just because it’s harder to predict the direction of that bias, I don’t think you can conclude that phone polls are necessarily better nowadays. That might have been a reasonable conclusion 20 years ago when response rates to unsolicited calls were much higher. But bear in mind that even in 1992, Butler and Kavanagh attributed about 1.5% of the error in the 1992 election result to self selection by differential refusal to take part in polls.

  25. The attitude of those on the centre right of UK politics towards the US presidential election intrigues me. In the past, there have always been strong links between the British Conservative Party and the Republicans, not just in terms of endorsing each others candidates at election times, where diplomatic niceties allowed of course, but also in the sharing of policy ideas and electoral tactics. It wasn’t long ago that Cameron was publicly wishing for a McCain victory in 2008 and only very recently has he become a little more ambivalent now he finds a Democratic occupant inside the White House. The relationship between Reagan and Thatcher, and their seemingly telepathic political instincts, brought the links between the two parties even closer.

    Labour’s relationship with the US Democrats has historically been close too. It was no secret that Blair and Brown in the early New Labour days paid frequent visits to the Court of Bill Clinton and, as I remember it, Brown when he was PM in 2008 made it pretty clear he favoured an Obama victory. Most leading Labour politicians did likewise.

    That’s why I’m intrigued to see so many Conservative supporters now claiming to be hoping for Obama’s re-election. Leaving aside the puppy dog admiration Cameron obviously has for the US President, Obama’s an anathema to the modern Conservative Party, isn’t he? Healthcare, a belief in Government intervention to save key industries, public spending and fiscal stimuli to boost economic growth, liberal social policies; what’s there to like amongst that little lot for your current mainstream Conservative? Surely Romney is much more up their street, I would have thought and I can’t quite understand the faux enthusiasm for Obama at all. In that respect, I think Colin’s disdain towards Obama is far more representative of what real Conservatives feel about this election. I don’t agree with him but I respect his candour.

    So, my innate cynicism wins through on this, I’m afraid. If you see a Tory who tells you he’s hoping Obama wins on Tuesday night, you’re probably looking at someone who is resigned to him winning rather than hoping he does so. It’s called wanting to be on the winning side whatever the outcome. My hunch is that most British Conservatives will be secretly rooting for Romney and, come to think of it, why on earth wouldn’t they?

  26. @Billy Bob

    Whether they’re up by 50% or 200%, UKIP have clearly picked up some genuine support since 2010. So there’s a really big risk that that reallocating don’t knows based on the 2010 election result will understate their support, because the reallocation ignores their growth in support. While there are plausible reasons to reallocate don’t knows, in trying to address one problem in such a crude manner as currently practised there is a big risk of creating another. In such circumstances, a don’t know reallocation will only work if there is a genuine tendency of voters to revert to type, but predicting such a reversion would be a controversial underlying assumption to build into any poll.

  27. It does look like the polls are drifting away from Romney, so that he may not actually win the popular vote, whereas he had a reasonable chance of doing just that recently. I expect Obama to get 290-300 ECV’s, thanks to getting votes in the right places.

    As for UKIP getting a seat, if they did, what difference would that make? If there is a hung parliament, then it’s reasonable to assume there will be several possible coalition partners, most with more than one seat to offer and probably more agreeable to work with. I can’t see one seat having more than symbolic value.

  28. @Crossbat11
    “That’s why I’m intrigued to see so many Conservative supporters now claiming to be hoping for Obama’s re-election.”

    The Conservative MP on Question Time last week was a case in point. I wonder if Conservative voters have noticed the pattern. What’s striking is that such backing is so out of line with the instincts of Conservative voters, who split 68% for Obama against 12% for Romney according to the latest YouGov poll.

  29. @Crossbat11

    Sorry. I completely misread your comment. What I’d noticed was a significant number of prominent Conservatives backing Romney, the Conservative MP on Question Time being one case in point. Granted, it may still be a minority, but still a sizeable one.


    Okay good points and agreed that the Greens has a solid foundation in the seat they won and UKIP don’t have a solid base from where to start from (in any seat).

    I was probably to premature on saying UKIP could win a seat in 2015 but 2020 most definitely.. :)

  31. The You Gov US election poll is very similar to the Nate Silver 538 forecast:

    You Gov Obama + 2 Popular Vote 303 – 235 Electoral College
    Nate Silver +2.1 Popular Vote 307 – 230 Electoral College

    Regarding the Republican certainty they will win – they are hoping for more enthusiam for Rs and/or higher % white vote than 2008 and/or independents voting for Romney and/or people still to decide breaking for the challenger. But these are hopes – some or all may happen but there is no empirical evidence that any of it will – so it is a hope and a prayer.

    The Democrats KNOW they are winning because they have the early voting returns in the key states and they are wracking up a big lead that Romney will have to pull back on election day plus they are not seeing anything happening on the ground to worry them.

    So it looks good for Obama

  32. @Ikeaddy.

    Here’s a link to the actual poll figures and a write up from Peter Kellner.
    There doesn’t seem to be any doubt in his mind who will win. There is the assumption that the Yougov poll is accurate of course.

  33. UKIP have been around for quite a while now. I find it absolutely extraordinary that they haven’t learnt to target resources and go for intensive long term campaigning in at first wards, and then with a cluster of those, constituencies. They appear to the outside observer to “make a splash here, and then make a splash there” – never seriously and consistently “building up” over months and years in target seats? Why not? Is there something about UKIP that doesn’t actually want to “win” elections under FPTP? Perhaps they are content to win under PR for European elections, but just be a protest vote/spoiler for all other levels in FPTP elections?
    Perhaps someone from within their campaigns department could explain their strategy because it doesn’t make sense to conventional party professionals!

  34. Buckingham for UKIP!

    Prior to it being the speakers seat the Tories hadn’t got less than 50% of the vote since the nineties. UKIP last got about 4% close to 50% behind Berscow when he was a Tory candidate.

    It’s not a swing they need its a trapeze!


  35. Speaker : John Bercow : 22,860 : 47.3%
    Indi : John Stevens : 10,331 : 21.4%
    UKIP : Nigel Farage : 8,410 : 17.4%

    If UKIP are on the increase, and Farage has a go at it in 2015, I’d pop a quid on him getting 30% or more (again assuming there are no notable indi candidates.

    There’s no other seat that UKIP have had quite the same impact.

  36. Bookmaker pays out on Obama win:


  37. crossbat11

    So, my innate cynicism wins through on this, I’m afraid. If you see a Tory who tells you he’s hoping Obama wins on Tuesday night, you’re probably looking at someone who is resigned to him winning rather than hoping he does so. It’s called wanting to be on the winning side whatever the outcome. My hunch is that most British Conservatives will be secretly rooting for Romney and, come to think of it, why on earth wouldn’t they?

    I think you’re wrong. I believe a lot of Tories are genuinely horrified by the current Republican Party in the US for two main reasons. One is the extreme social conservatism that seems to have taken that Party on things such as abortion and gay rights; the other is their attitude towards the US deficit – the feckless increase of it under Bush and the current lack of plausible plans to tackle it coming from Romney and Ryan.

    Republicans may have embraced the rhetoric of damning the deficit (which they suddenly noticed in January 2009) ironically after they saw how it was being used as an excuse for welfare cuts in the UK. But they still want to cut taxes for the rich and keep up military spending and medical spending for the elderly. Even most UK Conservatives can’t see how that can be made to work.

    Of course there are some Tories who believe all the nonsense that all you need to do is give even more money to multi-millionaires and magic will happen. Most of these are multi-millionaires, employed by them or terminally gullible. But many Conservatives do realise that current Republican policies are at best deluded and (if actually applied) could end up trashing the world economy.

  38. Latest polls looking good for Obama, with time now having run out for Romney to turn it around.

    If Paddy Power consider that Romney has no more than a 10% chance of winning ,then paying out on £400k of Obama bets effectively costs them £40k. They’re making a call that the now fairly minimal cost risk is less than the benefit of the free publicity for being the first to pay out.

  39. @CrossBat11

    Interested as to where the links between the Republican Party and the Tory Party come from. The name of the US party might suggest a certain lack of common purpose between it and the Tory Party. Before Tony Blair most Prime Ministers kept their distance from the US political system – most notably Harold Wilson who kept the UK out of Vietnam – if anything it was the Tory Party that was closest to the US and they preferred the Democrats especially Harold Macmillan who famously compared Britain to Greece and the US as Rome under JFK .

  40. Romney now only 1% ahead with Gallup on the national vote. It amounts to good news for Obama as Gallup had gone silent for a week following the hurricane and were previously putting Romney 5% ahead or thereabouts for a sustained period. Their likely voter adjustment is, apparently, significantly tougher on Obama than the other companies. So one of the last straws for Republicans – that Gallup were right and all the other polling methodologies wrong – has just disappeared.

  41. North Carolina looks very close.

    There’s a barrage of TV adverts and calls (Mitt phoned personally :-) but wasn’t impressive).

    PPP poll – “Our last three polls in North Carolina have all come out as ties. Barack Obama has built up a 54/45 lead during the early voting period, but Mitt Romney’s ahead 57/41 with those planning to vote on election day. Romney is making up for the registration advantage Democrats in the state have with a 55/40 lead among independent voters. Beyond that the race pretty much breaks down as you would expect. Obama is up with women (54/46), African Americans (87/12), and young voters (55/42). Romney is winning with men (54/44), whites (62/37), and seniors (58/41).”

  42. I think that Ed Miliband has been reading this site. I was writing a few days ago about one way Labour can help make sure I vote for them is if they abolish workfare, and raise the minimum wage to be the living wage.

    Well not mention of workfare, but he has annouced today about the living wage

    Not a legal requirement, but a good step towards it, only awarding contracts to those who pay living wage, and naming and shaming those employers who don’t.

    Personally I think the minimum wage should just be changed to the living wage, ie £7.30 etc.

  43. MiM,delusions of grandeur perhaps?

  44. Get your money on Obama getting all those swing states.

  45. Ann

    I don’t think MiM is suffering from delusions of grandeur, some time ago I jokingly said to amber that DC must be reading her posts and AW more than hinted that DC did on occasion visit these pages. I realise that ed is a busy man but after wading through the partisan nonsense that we all are guilty of, he would find some genuine gems of insight into which arguments are persuasive and how some of us think. So it might be worth his while


    Just for DC then –

    Prison Officers Association of Scotland annual conference votes Yes to independence.

  47. Barack Obama is an anagram of Bomb Raaaack.

    Mit Romney is an anagram of Try Me On , I’m……..

  48. I’m with Ann.

    We all take ourselves far too seriously sometimes.

  49. Mor Baaa Back

    Trim Money

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