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. This is the poll I mentioned in the last thread. Because we’re pretty much best mates he emails me directy.

  2. This may be a stupid question: but do we know which firm did the polling for him?

  3. Chris Hanretty. We don’t “know”… but it will have been Populus.

  4. this kind of confirms the general stereotype of the UKIP voter – traditional, elderly, reactionary, anti-immigration.

    Bad news for cameron, as it essentially the old school tebbit-ite tory vote who are very disgruntled about his ‘modernisation’ of the party and want him to go further on attacking the welfare state.

    Which are exactly the policies which will drive people away from the party and guarantee the tories can never win a majority again.

    Its parallels the problems besetting the republican party in america. A lot of angry white folk who dont like the way the country is heading and fear its beastly foreigners and scroungers – aided and abbetted by the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ who are to blame.

    IF the tories tack right, it might actually help the lib dems as they become what the orange bookers always wanted them to be – right wing economics with social liberalism.

    But the first past the post shafts all of them and gifts labour the next election – as the right of centre vote gets split 3 ways.

    I admire Ed Milliband for his ability not to keep publicly pinching himself in disbelief. He is a man who is very very lucky in his enemies.

  5. “Bad news for cameron, as it essentially the old school tebbit-ite tory vote who are very disgruntled about his ‘modernisation’ of the party and want him to go further on attacking the welfare state.”
    —————————
    Actually they want him to go further on attacking the welfare state for ‘other people’. It’s pretty clear from the commentary that they believe their own tax credits & benefits ought to be retained or increased.

  6. Reg:

    Well you coud say the same about Thatcher, Major and Blair. Even Cameron, who probaby woudn’t have scraped in if labour had grasped the nettle and someone ese had taken over.

    It must be very rare to have two charismatic leaders opposing each other.

    But I agree with your concusion: I’ve been saying for a ong time that the Tories are up a cu de sac and heading down Slippery Slope towards Tipping Point Estate – a bit like Bily Connolly’s Scots in Canada:

    “Futher North noo lads ! Its nae cawd enough !!!!”

  7. Its nearly xmas and i am struggling with me “l” s typing proper.

    The rascas.

  8. Anthony have you given any thought to adding UKIP to the latest poll list on the side bar? It would be great to have those numbers complied the way you do for the big three, particularly as UKIP is such a big part of the polling story at the moment.

  9. I think Anthony is spot on with the appeal of UKIP. It is the “Isn’t life awful now with all these gays and foreigners, why can’t things be like they were when I was young?” party.

    I think the sudden upsurge in UKIP support and the current prominence of the issue of gay marriage in the headlines is no coincidence. This has probably given an even bigger impulse to Conservative discontents.

    The problem for UKIP is that it is a very “marmite” party and unlikely to appeal to the majority – or even the plurality – of voters in any one constituency. If Nigel Farage could only get 17% of the vote without other parties standing in Buckingham in 2010, their likelihood of even gaining one MP in 2015 is virtually nil.

    They will do stunningly well at the Euro elections and humiliate the other three parties, especially the Lib Dems, but come 2015, they will disappear again.

  10. “Even Cameron, who probaby wouldn’t have scraped in if labour had grasped the nettle and someone ese had taken over.”

    That would have been an interesting scenario. A Labour government forced to court unpopularity with cuts having won a parliamentary majority with about 34% of the vote.

    What’s the betting they would have been on around 24-25% by now

  11. Robert

    No idea: it was just a theoretical aside anyway.

  12. Oldnat

    Anthony has such a side bar ready and waiting, he also includes the greens to make it more pretty. I wonder when he will unveil it

  13. Worth pointing out that the polling was between 9-19 November, before their by-election results and the latest SSM fuss. So it may give a more realistic picture of their longer-term attractions to a certain sort of voter.

  14. Ashcroft has said this on ConHome –
    “But these are often part of a greater dissatisfaction with the way they see things going in Britain: schools, they say, can’t hold nativity plays or harvest festivals any more; you can’t fly a flag of St George any more; you can’t call Christmas Christmas any more; you won’t be promoted in the police force unless you’re from a minority; you can’t wear an England shirt on the bus; you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; you can’t speak up about these things because you’ll be called a racist; you can’t even smack your children.

    “All of these examples, real and imagined, were mentioned in focus groups by UKIP voters and considerers to make the point that the mainstream political parties are so in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness that they have ceased to represent the silent majority.”

    It’s the ‘real or imagined’ line which is the key here. Pretty much all of these concerns are complete nonsense, but the fact that some people give them credence means they are significant for polling.

    Cameron really is in a difficult position here. He can act completely irrationally, and try to tackle non existent issues to pacify some of his potential supporters who believe these things, or he can try to centralize his base, and risk further antagonism.

    Two thoughts enter my head at this point. The gay marriage issue seems to have been a catalyst, and may well turn out to be a mistake. When the economy is priority 1,2,and 3, tackling the GM issue was a political calculation that seems to have had a negative impact on traditional Tories way beyond the issues salience and significance. Perhaps he has exposed divisions in the Tory party for an issues that affects few and carries very little political significance. Was it worth it?

    Secondly, we’ve got to ask where these flawed opinions comes from. The short answer really has to be the press. I would argue that our glorious free press is once again damaging democracy by propagating untruths that distort reality and make sensible government difficult.

    Regulating the press isn’t the option – regulating press ownership would be far more beneficial to all of us.

  15. Ashcroft’s poll only goes to show how many do larly tap voters that are in this country.
    Why they are given so much prominence is beyond me as they are the only party for malcontents in this country.
    Malcontents do form governments, neither do they come second or third

  16. Amber

    I don’t see that the press is bigging up ukip, yes they do a lot of OTT reporting of issues that help ukip but ukip itself is ignored. Been waiting for days for the DT to report on the latest ukip surge, but when they did they quoted one of the least upbeat polls for ukip and did not mention all the other polls where ukip has made big advances, you can be sure that if the Tories were making similar strides the press would have it as headline news for days. I can imagine that ukip supporters feel that they are getting a raw deal at the hands of the establishment press, such is life for the ignored third force in British politics(forbidden simile thing)

  17. I should have said do NOT form governments

  18. alec

    I think of it is as the Fox News factor. The bad news for the Murdoch and Dacres of this world is that it apepars they can influence and/or pander to a sizeable minority of Tebbit/Redmond or other hankerers after the England of Dixon or maybe Jim Davidson, but it is a shrinking minority and it’s anathema to the (growing) majority.

  19. Aec:

    Very sensibe points.

  20. Oh dear: keep forgetting to press L extra hard

  21. Reggieside,

    “Which are exactly the policies which will drive people away from the party and guarantee the tories can never win a majority again.”

    There’s never any such guarantee. Sorry, politics is like football: you never finally win. Thatcherites and Owenites really thought the Labour party was finished in 1983, since they could barely scrape past a quarter of the vote despite about 3 million being out of work.

    The analogy to the Republican party has some merit, in that people overstate the significance of Obama’s win. Again, it’s comparable to how people thought the Democrats were finished in 1984, although then there was at least the justification that the popular vote was hugely in the incumbent’s favour, rather than about 4% in 2012. Or how Nixon rejoiced at a New (Republican) Majority in 1972.

    Given the quantity of cuts now scheduled for after 2015, I’m coming close to repeating my prediction from late 2009/early 2010: the winner of the next election is the loser of the next election after that. This is especially true since we’ll be due a world recession in the later half of the decade.

  22. @ RiN

    I don’t see that the press is bigging up ukip, yes they do a lot of OTT reporting of issues that help ukip but ukip itself is ignored.
    ——————————–
    Quite. And skewing issues is much more powerful than backing a particular Party; especially a Party which is a ‘one-man-band’. People would quickly tire of Nigel Farage were he to be constantly in the media. Pushing his agenda is more subtle & effective.

  23. Robert C,

    I think we’ll find out how a Labour government deals with such challenges in 2015, when it’s faced with a major deficit, a possible debt downgrade, another world recession and rising unemployment.

    One strategy is to preserve current spending, cut government borrowing costs by squeezing bank lending to the private sector and forcing banks to accumulate more government debt (recapitalisation), and then defer deficit cuts until well after the next election; this is then branded as stimulus. It is possible that the Coalition will adopt this strategy in 2014-2015 if the danger of a debt downgrade disappears.

  24. @ Alec, RiN

    Almost all the things mentioned by the focus groups (which Alec quotes in his comment) aren’t personal experiences, they’re things which happened to other people & the focus group person had heard about or read about it in the media.

  25. I think it’s very likely that at least some of the current UKIP voters will return to the Tories come the next GE, but the real question for the Tories (and Labour) is how many.

  26. The rise in UKIP is both a massive problem and a massive opportunity for the Tories.

    It’s a problem because it may prove difficult to get most of the new UKIP supporters back, even come a GE. How do they align their policies to appeal to such voters? Do they change track on certain issues/policies, and risk looking populistic and desperate, not to mention downright incompetent?

    It’s an opportunity because there are clearly many voters who are now UKIP supporters who could go back to the Tories come a GE, especially as voters will have to make a conscious decision of who they’d prefer – MIliband or Cameron as PM, and Tories or Labour in power.

    Personally, I suspect we’ll end up with a situation where many of the current UKIP supporters will stay with UKIP during local and European elections, but at least some will change to the Tories when they have to vote at the next GE in 2015. The key for both the Tories and Labour is how many will decide to make the switch back in 2015.

  27. Paulcroft: That’s the thing about Christmas – you get Noel. (I’ll get my coat…)

  28. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that potential UKIP supporters want to take us back to a Britain that never existed.

    Maybe they should choose a Hollywood campaign slogan;

    “Back to the Future”

    Peter.

  29. Even the policies that would win many UKIP voters for the Tories which DON’T upset a lot of moderate voters would require time that the Tories couldn’t spend talking about other issues. And, from 2001 and 2005 (and the elections of 1974, actually) we know that marginal moderates just aren’t interested in Europe, so a referendum on EU membership isn’t going to excite them.

  30. I was going to suggest having UKIP in the “UKPR Polling Average” section on the right. ATM, it seems they will not easily go back to insignificance soon.

  31. jonathan:

    My implicit joke was much better than your explicit one so I shall get your coat for you.

  32. @Wastorynowlabour – “Malcontents do [not] form governments, neither do they come second or third”

    I always urge a little caution and suggest people take a slightly more historical stance on occasions. Lib Dems developed their base for 2 decades, with no prospect of power, apparently. To the north, the SNP were classic malcontents, until they came second, and then first.

    Nothing stays the same in politics, and sometimes parties can build and grow. In doing this, they usually adapt, and become a broader, less single issue based group (ref SNP again). UKIP could possibly do this, but to do so they need to show more depth and be less of a one man band, with the SNP again providing an example here. UKIPs biggest single drawback at present is this factor I would say, as it is increasingly gaining traction for a wider suite of policies than just getting out of Europe.

    In terms of where we are now, the danger is less from Tory-UKIP switchers I think, but more from the effect of disenchantment of the Tory base. Suppressed turnout is normally what devastates sitting governments, and having UKIP show some Tories the One True Path could be a step to disillusionment.

    I have felt for a while that UKIP will play a significant role in the next election, even if their vote share stays low. I would also never write off any parties future prospects.

  33. To sum up, UKIP are protest party for the right wing.

    And those on the left who are anti-EU need to look elsewhere – like at the Greens.

  34. Oliver

    Anthony have you given any thought to adding UKIP to the latest poll list on the side bar? It would be great to have those numbers complied the way you do for the big three, particularly as UKIP is such a big part of the polling story at the moment.

    Would that be fair? The Greens have an MP. They ought to be listed too.

  35. RiN

    It was Oliver who “asked for more”.

    I was being a good little workhouse pauper, just settling for what was doled out to me.

    I imagine that Oliver has been soundly beaten for his temerity.

  36. Of course, the other intriguing question to pose here is to what extent will a successful appeal to this essentially right wing rump of the old Tory core vote alienate left leaning liberal Tories still clinging to Cameron’s vision of modern Conservatism? Will adding 4% to his VI gained by attracting UKIP returnees, lose him 3% in alienated 2010 converts? In other words, how large a hole is Cameron in?

    My considered view is that it is a rather large and deep hole. If Cameron tacks right, and this poll suggests that he’ll need to do it on a whole raft of non EU specific policies, then I can see a fair few existing Tory voters dropping into Miliband’s lap. The mistake with politics sometimes is to imagine that changes can occur in isolation and without reciprocation. That’s a fanciful notion and winning back UKIP voters will not be without consequences for other sections of the existing Tory vote. If detoxifying the Tory brand wasn’t about dissociating the party from the sort of voters now making up the bulk of UKIP’s support, then what was it about? Answers on a postcard to Lord Ashcroft, I guess.

    Of course, the abiding hope and expectation of Tory supporters, and Anthony expressed it in his preamble to this thread, is that most of those saying that they would vote UKIP now will return home in 2015 to prevent the election of a Labour Government. That’s possible, of course, but then again it’s a static view of politics that ignores the dynamics of what might be going on elsewhere on the political playing field. One of those intriguing dynamics is what offer Labour make to the electorate come 2015 and this may queer the pitch further in terms of who goes where on the electoral chessboard in the next General Election. Playing the Labour bogeyman card might not necessarily bring the faithful dutifully home, although this tactic will no doubt feature strongly in Lynton Crosby’s strategy!

  37. I agree with Alec. There are also some other factors which have not been mentioned. If UKIP’s support is more elderly than the other parties, this could be an advantage in the short term (before they start to die off). This is because older voters are more likely to actually turn out. Therefore UKIP’s performance in an actual election is likely to be higher than their poll ratings.

    Also, if they appeal to those who are disillusioned with the three main English parties, they are likely to gain some support from those who do not usually vote.

    A similar effect has been seen in the past with the Libdems, where they often did better in elections than mid-terrm polls suggested.

  38. It’s a bit of a mystery that there are more ex dems than ex lab amongst the ukip voters, it would seem to defy logic. Perhaps these are the permanent protesters or could it be folk looking for politican with principles any principles!!!!

  39. TOB: Green party policy is pro-EU but argues for reform of EU institutions and policy. There is no suggestion of leaving the EU (only if the euro becomes compulsory).

    http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/eu

  40. “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”

    Looking at those Ashcroft numbers seems like the maximum with this concern is 44% of those current UKIP voters. On that basis 56% would stay UKIP.

    I think this is all an unexpected bonus for Miliband and I don’t see the Tories resolving this very eaily. I expect a Labour majority in 2015 but expected that things would switch after that back to the Tories because none of the economic problems brought about by globilisation are being tackled. Now I’m not so sure because this is increasingly looking like a Labour/SDP re-run.

  41. Interesting that the majority of UKIPERS don’t apparently Have any idea beyond immigration and the EU what their chosen parties policies are.

    Probably quite fortunate as if I recall correctly one is a flat rate tax which would give an individual earning £1 million a £170,000 tax cut, while retaining exactly the same tax deduction for basic rate tax payers as now ,which is unlikely to be much of a vote winner.

    Positive news for Labour as the Vote transfer appears to be directly from Tory and to a lesser extent LD .
    Would be interesting to see what this might mean in an election a split of the right wing vote should come in very handy in marginals

  42. @SHEVII

    This is not the same as Labour / SDP at all.

    If anything it is the complete opposite.

  43. @ Jonathan, Paul C

    My implicit joke was much better than your explicit one so I shall get your coat for you.
    ———————–
    They were both good jokes – well I laughed any way.

  44. Amber:

    That was nice of you.

    Re this poll, one wonders if the right wing tories can argue that they have already touched the lower end of their support base anyway and therefore have nothing to lose by removing DC, tacking right and adding the UKIP % back.

    They could be persuaded that that makes sense – which would be interesting.

  45. I think Ashcroft is trying to direct Cameron & Osborne against:
    1. The obvious, namely an EU in/out referendum because Cameron has already said he’d back staying in & it could split the Party into two factions.
    2. Pandering to the right-wing at the expense of de-toxifying the Tory ‘brand’ & losing the centrist 2010 joiners.

    Ashcroft seems to be saying: ‘It’s the economy, stupid; don’t get distracted by minor issues, concentrate on generating some kind of feel-good factor’. Of course, that’s much easier said than done!

  46. Amber:

    I dunno – I fee quite good at the mo, so at least that’s an important start.

  47. @ Steve

    Interesting that the majority of UKIPERS don’t apparently Have any idea beyond immigration and the EU what their chosen parties policies are.
    ———————
    I’m hearing that one UKIP by-election candidate favours eugenics. That’s clearly not an official UKIP policy, of course! But decent vetting of prospective candidates is a function of an effective ‘Party machine’ which UKIP simply don’t have; even the big 2 Parties struggle with vetting & keeping candidates from bouts of ‘foot-in-mouth’ on Twitter etc.

  48. @Bail

    I’m not sure if you misinterpreted my comments. I meant it is a split in the right wing vote in the same way that there was a split in the left wing vote in the early 80’s. In the case of Labour it took a long time to heal and I see no reason why it would be any quicker this time.

  49. @ Paul C

    I dunno – I fee quite good at the mo, so at least that’s an important start.
    ————
    I’m delighted to hear that! It won’t make you vote Tory though, will it?

  50. “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”
    ________

    Serial monogamist’s springs to mind!!

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