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. Statgeek

    Oxfam Scottish poll tables now up

    “Taxes should be raised for people with the highest income and wealth”

    Responses from those in the 20% least deprived areas

    Agree 70% : Disagree 20%

  2. But what to Bronco Bama?

  3. Willard Mitt Romney jumbled up is L Modern W Mitty Liar, which could be important.

  4. I, my torment…, or Mitt drill war money, to give him his full name Willard Mitt Romney.

  5. If Miliband is reading this
    `Can you please stop these Brownesque mouth movements?`

  6. Mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose wisely. –Woody Allen

  7. Did my due diligence today in deciding who to vote for in the PCC elections… Now, you may be leaning to voting an independent, to “keep politics out of the job”, and I was till I read up on those standing in the Thames Valley PCC.

    I was forced to come to the conclusion that the best qualified candidates to take on the job, were those who were also party candidates! The independents, tho well meaning, and giving statements I could agree with, just weren’t experienced in what I consider realms that you need to know about for the job. One even said they had very little to no contact with the police!

    Which means that in the end… I’m forced into making a political decision! Bah.

  8. Woody sounds like a bit of a pessimist.

  9. @JayBlanc

    At least you have a vote :(

  10. I haven’t even looked at the PCC elections. :(

    When is it? I will most likely vote Labour, or an indpendent if I think they are good.

  11. Looking at the website, the Lib Dems arent even standing in my area! HA! Probably know they will lose

  12. Colin thankyou,My post was only a gentle reproof.Not worthy of serious
    Political comment.

  13. From 2008:

    “Mitt Romney has gotten
    accused of switching his positions too often
    should we trust him after all that flip floppin’
    or should we trust his anagram My, I’m Rotten

    …was Barak just a flash in the pan
    or can he still strike like A Cobra Kabam?”


  14. RiN

    Great Woody Allen quote :-) :-)


    I came to the same conclusion in my area, sadly.

  15. @Phil

    You’re right to draw attention to self-selection bias in phone research. (Although there is a distinction to be drawn between response rates and hit rates for phone research). However, this is something that can be levelled at all research. If someone doesn’t want to respond, then you won’t get their data. The issue which we’re debating are more to do with sampling.

    Sampling by telephone is the closest you can get in practice to a pure random sample. There are two main biases. One is households with no landlines, which is around 15% of households. The other is differential non-response.

    With an online panel, you have the initial bias in the panel membership. Online panels bear little resemblance to the general online population. They are a small and very skewed sub-sample of the online population which, in itself, is a skewed sub-sample of the total population. As such, the response rate is fairly academic as the sample universes are completely different.

    I know YouGov have a method of weighting to newspaper readership but it is generally accepted in research that, unless you use some sort of propensity weighting method, it is very dangerous to apply the results of an online survey to the total population.

  16. While we’re on the subject of anagrams of politician’s names, although I can claim no credit for any of them, these tickled me: –

    George Bush – He bugs Gore
    Saddam Hussein – UN’s said he’s mad
    Adolf Hitler – Heil, old fart
    Chairman Mao – I am on a march ( a long one too, I presume!!)
    Monica Lewinsky – Nice silky woman.

    and my particular favourite……………..

    Margaret Thatcher – That great charmer!!!


    You said “…Woody sounds like a bit of a pessimist…”

    Yes, but I preferred his earlier, funnier pessimism… :-)

    Regards, Martyn

  18. Jay and Colin

    I hope they both (perhaps the same being, who knows) appreciate your support. Cough, choke.

  19. Forgot the splutter.
    RCP and 538 ‘call it’ for Obama (see, I understand yankee now) albeit that RCP do so with the aforementioned cough, splutter, choke. So no need to wait up tomorrow night.

    If you want a laugh, read about the first televised oath taking of the new Dutch Cabinet that had to be repeated because national television was broadcasting the ads when they did it. So they had to do it again. The Queen was not amused and asked if they were taking part in a scene from a play (which of course they were).

    I am sounding like ‘letter from Holland’ so will stop doing my Alistair Cooke impressions,

  20. I never ever thought I’d see the day when the Telegraph would publish these rumours. They’ve been around since Scallywag…like Hillsborough anybody who knew anything about it knew it was a cover up…

    I’ve got to say, good on Cameron if he really shines a light on this.

  21. My favourite all-time political anagram (sadly not my own invention) is Virginia Bottomley: I’m an evil Tory bigot.

  22. Nadine Dorries heading to Celebrity jungle-Anyone predicting a rise in Tory VI?

  23. Ladies and Gents – my final US Presidential Election prediction:

    OBAMA – 303, ROMNEY 237

    Obama to win – Colorado (9), Iowa (6), New Hampshire (4), Ohio (18) and Virginia (13).
    Romney to win – Florida (29) and North Carolina (15).

    Florida is the only one I’m unsure about.

    Basically, if I’m right, it comes down to +/- 33 ECVs. I’ve put the totals above so you can mix and match scenarios for Romney to win ;)

    The most likely is…wait for it…Romney having to win FL, NC, OH, VA AND one of IOWA, COLORADO or N HAMPSHIRE. Virtually impossible.

    As for popular vote, I go for Obama 51% to 48%.

  24. @ RAF

    You’ve likely seen these polls already:

    And there’s a final brace of Reuters/Ipsos battleground state polls – and Obama is batting three from four:

    Virginia: Obama 48%, Romney 46%

    Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 46%

    Florida: Romney 48%, Obama 47%

    Colorado: Obama 48%, Romney 47%


  25. @Amber
    Indeed I have. Those are very good numbers for Obama, as Ipsos have tended to show a closer race/better Romney numbers than some polls.

    I think the final straw for me was the announcement that Romney will campaign TOMORROW, and do so in Pennsylvania – a state he is very unlikely to win, but which does have 20 ECV, and Ohio where he is also now some way behind.

  26. @Amber @All

    Can I correct my headline prediction (12.26am). It should read:

    OBAMA 303, ROMNEY 235. (Not sure where my,extra 2 ECV for Romney came from!

  27. i agree rogerrebel . the welsh authorities were going to take action independently but fair play to cameron .hopefully we’ll get the truth and convict the scumbag or clear his name if the senior tory is innocent.

  28. @ Old Nat

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

    Although this is only a personal anecdote, you make me think that the Romney GOTV effort is not particularly good. I mean, robocalling registered Green Party members is not good targeting. (If anything, I would imagine it’s counterproductive because Romney’s irritating voice might push someone on the fence to vote for Obama “Omg, I have to listen to THAT guy for 4 years?”).

    There are other anecdotes of very poor GOTV efforts in VA. One snarky VA blogger (NotLarrySabato) discussed his surprise at having a Romney volunteer knock his door and ask him if he was voting for Romney. He’s a Dem (a semi prominent one) and the neighborhood/precinct is 70% plus Democratic. That’s not good GOTV practice at all.

    Those are just anecdotes of course. But if that’s his campaign, the Obama GOTV effort will probably be able to outmatch his.

  29. My biggest fear tommorrow is that some Romney supporters will resort to threats, physical intimidation, polling place disruption, and even outright violence in order to impose their will. You have teabagger groups out there talking about organizing watch groups against “voter fraud.” They will go into heavily minority precincts and they will do their best to stop people from voting. You’re a historian and I’m sure you are well aware of what angry white southerners did after the Civil War ended and then after they got their way in forcing the end of Reconstruction. It’s this same angry and violent spirit guiding so much of the Republican Party today (and why, as you’ve noted, so many of Romney’s voters aren’t voting for him and instead most are voting against Obama).

    You know, after the Civil War, there were a number of blacks iin prominent positions in the government in the south including a very large number of black Congressmen and black state legislators (interestingly enough, all Republicans). By the end of the 19th Century, they were all gone (the last one was elected in 1890). Southern whites reasserted themselves and clamped down on blacks. They stopped voting in through unconstitutional laws that prevented blacks from voting and using outright violence. They reasserted white power and blacks would not be elected again or serve in any governmental role for almost a century.

    Don’t forget what southern whites did to economically prosperous blacks in Tulsa Oklahoma during the 1921 Greenwood Race Riot. Don’t forget the violence and resistance of southern whites against the Civil Rights movement. The decision of white southerners in elected office and judicial office to act with complete lawlessness and disgrace their own offices in order to keep down civil rights shows you the level of hatred (one example of southern resistance is where Supreme Court Justice William Brennan had to, upon the 8th straight reversal, inform the Alabama Supreme Court that he had the power to arrest them and was going to if they dared disobey the Court for the ninth time).

    Today’s southern whites view Obama in the same way that their ancestors viewed black elected officials. An imperial imposition by others that must be stopped. It disgusts me, it frightens me, and it also saddens me. I hope that history does not repeat itself tommorrow.

    With that depressing historical account out of the way, I am very excited and very nervous for tommorow. I will be going to bed shortly as I willl awake early tommorow morning to go do voter protection for a full 14 hour shift. I’ve got my bag packed (except for my snack and lunch that’s in the fridge) and I will be as prepared as a boy scout.

    I’m hopeful that tommorow will be a nationwide Lavender Sweep. Could happen depending on how things go in Maine, Maryland, and Washington on their ballot initiatives and also whether Tammy Baldwin wins in Wisconsin (I’m so hopeful she can do it…’d really be a great upset).

  30. @ Old Nat

    My last post was intended for you (but was doing multiple things at once so forgot to include your name). Hopefully, your presence in the U.S. will help bring us some good Scots Nat luck. :)

  31. @ Amber Star

    “And there’s a final brace of Reuters/Ipsos battleground state polls – and Obama is batting three from four:

    Virginia: Obama 48%, Romney 46%

    Ohio: Obama 50%, Romney 46%

    Florida: Romney 48%, Obama 47%

    Colorado: Obama 48%, Romney 47%”

    PPP is more accurate. Final numbers from PPP:

    Virginia: Obama 51%, Romney 47%

    Ohio: Obama 52%, Romney 47%

    Florida: Obama 50%, Romney 49%

    Colorado: Obama 52%, Romney 46%

    I would go with those.

    I will have you and all my other friends here on my mind tommorow. :) Hopefully, the next time I chat with you, we’ll only have good news to discuss.

  32. SoCalLiberal,

    “Hopefully, the next time I chat with you, we’ll only have good news to discuss.”

    I hope so too, but I have to admit it: I don’t fancy Gary Johnson’s chances at this stage.

  33. RogerRebel
    Much like with Ryan Giggs, many journalists already know the identity of the person mentioned on newsnight – if journalists know, then the PM will probably have been informed.

    But, and quite rightly, he has to wait until the investigation is done before anything can be done about it.
    Also I’m not sure that ‘cover-up’ is probably the correct angle for the story – I think it’s more likely a case of ‘It’s legally difficult to name people without direct proof’.

    Con 35, Lab 44, Lib 8, UKIP 7
    Approval -32

  34. I think the Nort Wales case and the similar in Sunderland:

    illustrate the dangers of off-loading too much power to local areas and agencies without some sort of over-arching oversight. Similar problem to press regulation. How do you let them do waht they want without risking them doing terrible things? Too much power locally or centrally is dangerous.

    Maybe that’s the thinking behind Police Commissioners? Somebody locally elected who can oversee things?

    I can see problems unless the Home Secretary retains oversight, and then we are right back to square one!

  35. Socal

    @”Hopefully, the next time I chat with you, we’ll only have good news to discuss.”

    Hopefully-but not if RAF’s predictions are correct.


    There is understandable media concentration on the former politician. But he won’t be the only one.

    I am waiting to see if there is a former Policeman on the list. If there is , then we can talk about conspiracy.

  36. tingefringe

    “Also I’m not sure that ‘cover-up’ is probably the correct angle for the story”

    I disagree, respectfully of course. The deeds were terrible and remain so, but like Hillsborough the machine that protected the establishment ( and here it is the worse sort of criminality not negligence) is very much the story too.

    I like to believe that Cameron really wants the Gordian knot severed, but having the Civil Service looking at their files needs to be a preliminary step only.

  37. NICK

    from your link:-

    “In North Wales, it was Alison Taylor, the manager of a children’s home, who spent five years banging on the door of her employers at Gwynedd Council, the police, the Welsh Office, the Department of Health, and the Social Services Inspectorate. All turned her away. “

  38. colin

    Oddly I am not really interested in whether the unnamed person is a Tory or not. The political capital to be made is debatable, especially with Cameron as investigator-in-chief.

    He will deserve some kudos if he drains this boil of all its poison. I agree with you it ain’t just an unnamed Tory.

  39. NICK

    I wonder if the soon to be late lamented Police Authorities for North Wales & South Yorkshire will be asked if they ever gave these rumours & accusations a passing thought as they sipped their municipal coffees & subjected their police forces to the laser like glare of their assembled scrutiny?

    Bet they can’t wait to be former Police Authorities-just in the nick of time.

  40. NICKP


    Oddly I am not really interested in whether the unnamed person is a Tory or no”

    Aye right, all of your christmases have come at once!!!;)

  41. Not as exciting as the US election polls, but there is another set of contradictory poll numbers to get everyone thinking.

    A few days ago we saw healthy results from the CBI Distributive Trades survey data for October, which was trumpeted in the press (and on here) as showing a strong rise in retail sales. At the time, I was a little unsure about some of the headlines applied to this news, as the survey only covered half of the month and I wasn’t clear about how the data is gathered for this particular survey.

    Today we’ve got news of the British Retail Consortium’s October sales figures, which tend to be reasonably comprehensive, and these paint a much grimmer picture. Like for like sales fell 0.1% on the month, and if this set of numbers is correct, it backs up the PMI data from construction, manufacturing and the service sector, which have all pointed sharply down in October.

    I’m getting the sense that the 1% GDP growth last quarter is possibly an overestimation, but in any event was more influenced by one off factors and corrections from previous quarters than people originally assumed. September did appear to be a reasonably positive month in some parts of the economy, but it’s beginning to look like October has seen something of a nose dive across pretty much all sectors.

    Another month like this, and we’ve got a triple dip. I really wouldn’t like to be in the government’s shoes to try and explain that, and every quarter of poor economic performance that slips by is another quarter lost to the task of persuading voters ready for the next election.

  42. Things I don’t understand -1

    How does this US election work?

    Whose name(s) is/are on the ballott paper ?

    Is it the “Voters” to form the State Electoral College?

    How are they chosen-and by what process do they finish up representing the political balance of their State.?

    When do the College Voters vote-and is the “result “only announced after they have voted?

    Are all the State Senators & Representatives re-elected on the same day?

  43. On the day that we learn that directors of FTSE 100 companies have seen their pay increase by 27% in the last year, this story seems to hit a nerve –

    Here we have another director with a record of failure, being paid very handsomely to fail again. No doubt he will pick up other work on similar rates in due course, with no apparent embarrassment that he doesn’t seem able to deliver.

    Clearly, the revolution has been postponed for now, but I’m still struggling to understand why politicians (and many of the general public) still seem to accept the nonsense that highly paid executives are a)good value and b) have the remotest idea what they are doing.

    Separate Point – M&S half yearly profits have slumped by 10%. I’ve never tested the theory out, but I’ve always been surprised at the number of times I’ve noted M&S profits moving in line with Tory poll ratings.

    Is there anyone out there who can be bothered to test the hypothesis?

  44. @Colin

    No, it’s Obama and Romney’s names that are on the ballot. The allocation of electoral votes is down to the state constitutions, but with one exception it’s winner takes all across the entire state.

    The electoral college is nationwide, not statewide, and notionally the election isn’t over until they cast their votes, although in practice it’s a formality. There has been occassional faithless electors, although they have never resulted in a changed result…

  45. Things I don’t understand -2

    Lin Homer -Perm. Sec. of HMRC ( and formerly head of UK Border Agency of blessed memory) was given a right roasting by Margaret Hodge’s PAC on Monday ( Hodge is good at this stuff)

    The subject was HMRC’s efforts to collect tax from multi national companies. PAC were not impressed with Homer ( there’s a surprise). THere is still a huge amount of tax uncollected-and also our equivalent of the “Greek” list , which seems to have received about as much attention by our tax authorities, as theirs did.

    It is reported that GO is pushing , via G20, & with the support of Germany for international action against cross border profit shifting.

    What you never , ever hear is a CoE commenting on HMRC’s tax collecting efforts.

    Is there a chinese wall of some sort between the Chancellor & HMRC tax officials?

    Why doesn’t Osborne go before PAC & say-I have told Homer to pull her finger out ?


    Now I am totally confused.

    I thought Electoral Colleges were State entities.

    And if it is “winner takes all across the entire state” -why is tv reporting the result in terms of total ( national) Electoral Votes, rather than State votes?

  47. @Alec

    Also the UK is to grow more than the other European countries:

    I’m fast coming to the conclusion that good growth means big executive rises, while the opposite means big executive payoffs. If I ever leave a job, the only extra money is due to holiday entitlement balances.

    Yes, it’s tough at the top.

  48. @Colin

    Sorry! Didn’t mean to confuse things. I’ll try again.

    State X has 10 electoral votes. In the election people vote for Obama or Romney and the candidate with the most votes wins. All of the winner’s electoral college representatives (10 of them) are chosen to represent state X in the electoral college. These 10 people go to the state capital and cast their EV ballots for the state winner (actually they get two votes, one for Pres and one for VP). The EVs are summed nationally and one candidate gets more than 270 and we have a winner!

  49. A little while ago I suggested holiday plans being a sure guide to FGF polling.

    I don’t like giving links here but this one

    may indicate I was not so far off the mark.

    Of course, I do remember a disgruntled MP, after the duty went up on Scotch, saying, we’ll need a dram after that budget’. Feel Bad Factor then?

  50. h ttp://

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