Lord Ashcroft has done another great big chunk of polling, this time focusing upon the rise of UKIP. Over on his site he has the results of a big poll of 20,000 people plus a series of focus groups with UKIP supporters and considerers.

Looking first at the demographics of who is supporting UKIP, amongst the 1000 people who said they would vote UKIP at the moment in Ashcroft’s poll, 45% say they voted Tory in 2010, 27% UKIP, 15% Lib Dem, 6% Did not vote, 4% Labour and 4% other parties. The demographic breaks show UKIP supporters continue to be heavily skewed towards elderly men – 43% of their support is from over 65s, just 8% from under 35s. 66% is from men, 34% from women.

Lord Ashcroft headlines his article on one of the most persistent myths about UKIP, that people vote for them over the issue of Europe and, therefore, winning the support of those people is all about offering policies related to Europe.

Past polling has shown this to be nonsense – a huge YouGov poll of voters in the 2009 European election found that Europe was only the fourth most important issue for UKIP voters after the economy, immigration and crime; a 2010 YouGov poll of UKIP voters at the 2010 election found the issue of Europe trailing behind the economy and immigration – and Lord Ashcroft finds the same now. Amongst people considering UKIP (he doesn’t provide a crossbreak for people saying they actually would vote UKIP) 68% name the economy as one of the most important issues facing the country, followed by immigration on 52% and welfare dependency on 46%. Europe is fifth on 27%… meaning almost three quarters of UKIP considerers really don’t see the issue of Europe as that important. Ashcroft found a similar pattern in his focus groups – Europe was mentioned comparatively little compared with immigration, welfare and general disatisfaction with modern Britain.

Asked which party people think has the best policy on particular issues, UKIP come nowhere at all on most issues. Even people considering voting UKIP don’t think they have policies on the economy, health, crime or whatever. There are only two issues where even UKIP considers think they have good policies – Europe and immigration. Essentially, UKIP have managed to break out of the ghetto of being a single-issue party to become a two-issue party, or a three-issue party if you count being generally dissatisfied with modern life.

As I endlessly say here though, policies really aren’t that important in determining voting intention. Ashcroft’s UKIP considerers say that they think the economy is the most important issue and they overwhelmingly think the Conservatives are the best party on that, they think David Cameron would be the best PM, they would prefer a Conservative majority at the election… yet they say they would consider voting UKIP. Why?

Crunching the data Ashcroft found the strongest correllations with considering voting UKIP were statements associated with values and party image – people who thought UKIP reflected their values, or was prepared to say the sort of things other parties wouldn’t. Lord Ashcroft also asked UKIP considerers whether they agreed with various reasons people might support UKIP. The most agreed with statement was to send a message about immigration and Europe (sadly lumped together in the same statement), followed by agreement with UKIP’s immigration policy, wanting to “take Britain back in time when things were done more sensibly” and the “bigger parties seem more interested in trendy nonsense than listening to ordinary people”.

Putting aside European elections (when much of UKIP support is from otherwise loyal Conservative voters sending a specific message over Europe), UKIP support is not particularly connected with Europe, it is an anti-immigration vote and protest vote against some aspects of modern Britain, a general reactionary vote in support of taking Britain back to a status quo ante.

Ashcroft also asked how some of the things that might stop people voting UKIP. The statements that UKIP considers agreed with least were the statements that UKIP seem “quite old fashioned”, or “seem a bit racist” – hardly surprising given the elderly age profile of UKIP supporters, their support for things being as they used to be and opposition to immigration – such voters are highly unlikely to see being anti-immigration as racist or being a bit old fashioned as a bad thing. The most agreed with statements were tactical ones about voting UKIP letting a party they didn’t like win their local seat or form the government.

So what of the future? The fact that UKIP support is not primarily driven by attitudes to Europe suggests that a referendum on EU membership is not the sort of elixir that some people seem to consider it to be. That’s not to say it wouldn’t shift votes, or appeal to people with the sort of values that lead them to support UKIP… just don’t expect it to magically lure all those votes back to the Conservatives overnight.

More pertinent is the degree to which UKIP sympathisers who prefer Cameron and the Conservatives to Miliband and Labour will end up returning to the Conservatives once an actual election arrives, and the degree to which UKIP has replaced the Liberal Democrats as a vehicle for mid-term protest votes from people unhappy with both the government and the opposition. Right now there is no good way of measuring that.

259 Responses to “Lord Ashcroft’s polling on UKIP”

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  1. @Wolf/Colin – in the hill farm sector, the cyclical element is even more pronounced. Income comes in two bursts – one after the autumn sales, and another early in the year with the single payment. This is often delayed by Defra late payments.

    As a result, farms normally run on overdraft most of the year, with the sales income being highly uncertain until sale day itself. After the wettest summer for decades, feed stocks (hay) are in very short supply, with a need to buy in more at much higher prices, and banks are squeezing overdraft allowances as part of their own debt management strategies.

    While farming families still get benefits, it’s genuinely very difficult for some of them. Whether pasta costs 29p or £29 is irrelevant if you simply can’t get the cash out of the bank to pay for it, which is the problem we see in number of cases.

  2. Colin,

    ‘I share your wish not to debate the effects upon the UK of it’s net inward migration numbers over the period of the last Labour Government.’

    Can you please not try to frame my opinions to your own convenience? I don’t want to derail the blog with a debate about immigration, not ‘the effects’ of Labour policy.

    I have made my opinions perfectly clear in the post above.

    But that is already enough.


    Without the effects of net immigration apparent in the last Census, there wouldn’t be anything to debate-except on an academic & uninformed basis.

  4. ALEC


    I remember the Single Payment delay fiasco in (?) 2006.

    Don’t tempt me to express opinions on the UK Civil Service Alec !


    Not ironic. Those were his actual words. (You should be pleased he didn’t call them benefits!) :-)

  6. Pasta for 29p, but is it edible??

  7. Wolf,
    ‘I don’t want to dispute your facts but Aldi sell pasta for 29p.’
    Sure but how much is the bus fare there and back again?

    -and how much does it cost to cook it?

    I remember a Tory minister showing How it was “possible” to eat for 50p a day entirely ignoring the cost of cooking,shopping and of course the £50+ of condiments,sauces and oils that just happened to magically appear in the cupboard

  8. @ Alec

    On Scotland and universal benefits…
    I’m in agreement with John B Dick on this: In Scotland we don’t have universal ‘benefits’; we have universal services & universal entitlements.

  9. alec

    Slab are accused of turning on SLAB introduced elderly care to ease UK labour’s problems.

    Universities are worse than the BMA and the old boilermakers for tellng us that the world will come to an end if they don’t get more money.

    Issues like the currency and membership of the EU, are NO scare stories that iwill not work by the time of the vote.

    They will be distinguished from their SLAB opponents by relative competence and te absence of negativity.

    SNP don’t count for much in Westminster votes now, but if independence takes away all Scottish MP’s DC should do well.

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