Rob Ford and Matt Goodwin have got a new book, Revolt on the Rightout later this week looking at UKIP’s growth and based on extensive polling. This post isn’t about the book as such – I haven’t read it yet – but about the debate that has sprung up in advance of it about who UKIP take support from, who they are a threat too. Rob and Matt’s argument is essentially that UKIP are a threat to Labour (and it’s a claim that UKIP themselves are keen to jump upon for obvious electoral reasons), others have pointed to them being mainly a threat to the Conservatives. To a large extent, I think the apparant argument is often people just answering slightly different questions.

At one level who UKIP are a threat to is an easily answered question just by looking who who their current supporters voted for at the last general election. The answer is straightforward – they disproportionately hurt the Conservatives. In February’s YouGov polling data about 45% of the UKIP vote was made up of former Conservatives, the other 55% was evenly split between former Labour voters, former Lib Dems, existing UKIP and former non-voters. These figures are broadly consistent with other polling – for example, in Lord Ashcroft’s last large poll 43% of UKIP supporters voted Tory last time, the other 57% were split between Lib Dems, existing UKIP, non-voters and Labour. Generally speaking, while the majority of UKIP support is not former Tories, former Tories make up easily their largest single chunk of support, and they take more votes from 2010 Tories than from any other single source.

A second, more nuanced, way of asking the question is to look at who UKIP are taking support from now. It’s not necessarily the party they voted for last time – after all, these are voters who are presumably unhappy with whichever party they were previously supporting. Between March 2012 and February 2013 Labour were pretty consistently polling in the low 40s, more recently their support has averaged around 38. The decline in Labour support has not been accompanied by much of a rise in Conservative support, rather it is UKIP who have gained. We saw the same pattern in local elections in 2013, compared to 2012 the topline changes were that Labour went down, UKIP went up. The explanation for this is not necessarily as simple as people switching directly from Labour to UKIP, there is a lot of churn under polling figures and there could be people moving in and out of “don’t knows”, people moving from Con to UKIP and Lab to Con and so on. However, it does raise the possibility that while UKIP are not winning over many people who voted Labour in 2010, they are winning over people who earlier in this Parliament were saying they might vote Labour.

The third way of looking at UKIP support is to look at the demographics of the people who support them, and here we come to the crux of what Matt and Rob have written about. UKIP’s supporters tend to be older, ill-educated, strongly working class; indeed, their support is more dominated by working class voters than even Labour. In terms of attitude they are not, as I’ve written many times, driven mainly by Europe despite the roots of UKIP – their support is based more on anti-immigration feeling, anti-establishment feeling and a general hostility towards the way Britain has changed in recent years. Taken on it’s own merits this is not a description of a movement or party that should solely worry the Conservatives, indeed, on social class alone it should be a party that is a threat to the Labour party’s base of working class support, especially in the North where the Conservative party’s long term difficulties in attracting working class support mean that there is often a vacancy for an effective opposition to the Labour party.

And yet, if we go back to the first of the three measures, in practice UKIP support so far has drawn far more support from former Conservatives than from former Labour voters. The most interesting question to me is why is that? UKIP do seem to be able to pick up working class support, there is certainly a reservoir of anti-immigration and anti-politician feeling for them to draw upon amongst Labour supporters; there is clearly potential for them to get support from Labour too… and yet they have made only modest inroads there. I’m sure people can come up with all sorts of plausible explanations (UKIP’s party image? Labour’s position as the opposition? Stronger party identification with the Labour party? Failure of UKIP to campaign in Labour areas? Lower turnout amongst those working class groups most amenable to UKIP’s message?) but it’s a question that remains open. The answer is something that could be very instructive for UKIP in building their support and Labour in defending theirs (particularly in the event of a Labour government).


177 Responses to “Who are UKIP a threat to?”

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  1. @IndependantChrus1 (sic)

    80/1 for any other seems a bit odd. If that means for a coalition it seems like quite a good bet; if it refers to any other party, are Caroline Lucas and George Galloway starting to get a bit excited

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  2. Howard

    “Bookie odds are only right about the balance of money bet. They have no view on the outcome, only that they will be still in profit whoever wins. So the odds have no value at all in predicting the outcome, I am afraid.”

    Dearie me.

    If that is your view Howard, then you know nothing at all about gambling.

    Bookies odds are always, always, always estimates of implied probabilities.

    You can tell from betting markets that a Labour victory is now more likely than a Tory victory.

    As it happens bookies do change their odds by looking at popularity of bets… but you are putting the cart before the horse. Improbable events attract less money. As punters perceive that an event is becoming more probable, they invest more on it. If events were regularly more probable than bookmakers odds imply then bookmakers wouldn’t be in business. As an event gets closer, it is easier to see the outcome (hence changing markets for in-play sports).

    The bookmakers make money in exactly the same way as a casino, by paying out slightly less money than the true probability justifies.

    You wouldn’t put a big bet on the Lib Dems being the largest party would you? Why not? Because it is very unlikely to happen.

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  3. Oh dear, that’s what comes of trying to be clever. Chrus!,,

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  4. IndependantChris

    I am a big fan of the bookies, if you haven’t seen some of my earlier comments.

    Most commentators over here still pay very little attention to them. In this, the Americans are way ahead of us. Nate Silver with his very statistical approach is streets ahead of anyone else. Old fashioned punditry of the kind that says, “well yes in 1970, the tories got a late surge on the trade figures and the same will happen in 2015″ is, or should be, as dead as a doornail.

    You still get the horsecr*p about the recovery and 2015 pointing to a tory victory. All the data of the last two years, by-election results, local elections, polls is pointing to labour winning the most seats. on betfair, punters are now favouring a labour majority over a hung parliament.

    But back in the la la land of westminster punditry, and blogsites, tory recovery is taken very seriously as something that will happen. then people dredge the hoary old stories from 1992 etc. which is now a generation ago. ignore the anecdotes and dubious historic references, look at the bookies.

    The bookies are pretty clear: Miliband is odds on favourite to be the next PM in 2015. I suspect he’ll get a slim, but workable, majority.

    About his suitability to be Prime Minister, the pundit class had the same reservations about Thatcher, Reagan, Clinton, Obama who all got in …

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  5. Sad to hear of the untimely death of Bob Crow. He will be missed. As Boris said in his generous tribute, Crow was a more moderate individual than many judged; and was very much a deal-maker.

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  6. Colin
    “Surely one can disagree fundamentally with someones politics , even dislike them; but recognise their career achievements after death & express condolences to their bereaved relatives.
    I see no conflict or hypocrisy in that at all.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I hated Crow’s politics but always respected his viewpoint. He was genuine, unlike the champagne socialists, who are only ‘socialist’ because it’s a sort of popular designer label. Prescott, Milliband & Harman spring to mind.

    It is also unfortunate that many on the left actually celebrated Margaret Thatcher’s death. I haven’t heard any on the right behaving in such a disgusting manner, despite the misery BC enforced on many ordinary people on a fairly regular basis.

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  7. @ Spearmint and Mr. Nameless

    The Guardian and Lib Dems: two thoughts;

    a. Deep, deep down in its DNA The Grunadia still has some around who remember that it used to be less dominated by London, and was born in Manchester, where to be a Liberal was to be free-market (i.e. against the aristocracy/landed gentry) and socially liberal/left, with the backing of the then Free Churches (non-Anglican Protestants). In some areas of the country that memory still survives. So it has a natural inclination towards the Lib Dems – especially when Labour had already had 13 years or so;
    b. it wasn’t possible early on during the last GE campaign to imagine an outcome which would have required the LIbDems to renege on key policies.

    That said, their current position is what, exactly?

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  8. @Robert Newark

    Whilst agreeing to some extent with you, I have to say that the great difference between Margaret Thatcher and Bob Crowe is that he never pretended to speak for anyone other than his own people.
    Mrs. T, on the other hand, made the colossal error of thinking that she spoke for those who profoundly hated her economic and social policies – her infamous phrase “We in Scotland…” comes to mind as a very obvious example.

    But shall we ever see their likes again?

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  9. MRNAMLESS

    Re why The Guardian are so supportive of the Lib Dems, they are basically a liberal metropolitan newspaper. They are socially liberal and fanatically pro-EU ( which is why they are anti-Tory ) but look down their nose on the working class and while they play lip service to better conditions for working people can’t stand the likes of Bob Crow and those pesky unions who actually try to deliver a better deal for the workers.

    In the early 80s they flirted with the ghastly SDP and now support the Lib Dems – but can’t quite come to terms with that party getting into bed with the Tories.

    Oh how difficult it must be to be a Guardianista in 2014!

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  10. @Peter Crawford

    As to Milliband’s suitability as PM (or even leader of the Labour Party) I and many others remain to be convinced. It is an abiding mystery to me why Labour remain ahead in the polls; unless the alternatives are too dreadful to contemplate, of course!

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  11. My question to the people doubtful of Miliband’s abilities as leader of the opposition/PM – Which Labour MP would currently be doing better?

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  12. @John B

    Governments lose elections. T’was ever thus. Miliband does not have to convince large swathes of people that he is PM material.

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  13. Latest ICM for Guardian has Labour on 38, Tories 35, LibDems 12, UKip 9.

    Most to blame for recession:
    Last Labour Gov 32%
    Coalition 16%
    The 16% gap is the largest since 2010.
    Generally this poll is encouraging for the Tories and to a lesser extent the LibDems who are back to being higher than UKip

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  14. @The Other Howard

    It would appear so. But +3 on ICM, is worth at least +7 on YG.

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  15. @ John B,

    Because ABT is the one remaining mass membership party, and Labour are now its only credible representatives in most English constituencies.

    I’m sure there is some level of badness that could cost them their lead, but a slightly anaemic shadow cabinet and a funny looking leader ain’t it.

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  16. @Robert Newark

    Unfortunatley many on the right are behaving in that manner. A direct quote from two colleagues today (neither of whom live in London or were directly affected by the actions of the RMT) “Good riddance”.

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  17. Yes, my flatmate’s response was laughter!

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  18. @Paul A

    Spot on analysis. That’s why I’ve found myself increasingly drawn to the New Statesman rather than the Graun to the point where I’ve even taken out a subscription with them now. NS are far more consistent in their criticisms of the government and have sound columnists such as Laurie Penny and Will Self among their staff. Now if only John Harris can be tempted to join them!

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  19. @Mr Nameless

    Alternatives to Milliband? Absolutely no idea. They have some able up and coming folk, but still too young or inexperienced to replace Milliband at the moment.

    Last thought, before going to the new thread:
    AW: this thread ought to have been entitled “To whom are UKIP a threat?”
    “Pedant!”

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  20. I haven’t posted an eulogy of Bob Crow but at least I do him the honour of spelling his name correctly.

    He was very clever with the privatised companies and it is an irony that he exploited their competitive position and the shortage of skilled staff to raise the salaries of his members.

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  21. John B
    “Will we ever see their like again”

    Oh John, I do hope so. To think that we are consigned to the clones of Milliband, Cameron & Clegg forever more, would be worse than purgatory and turn all normal people off politics for ever.
    We have Farage, the Tories could Have Boris, labour could have Livingstone, then we could have interesting politics. Sorry I have missed out the LD’s but I can’t think of anyone who is in the least interesting in that party.

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  22. Grammatical nerd comment: -
    It should be “To whom are UKIP a threat?”

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  23. Why don’t UKIP pick up Labour voters? Maybe because of their hard right economic policies?
    Why would any Labour supporter vote for tax cuts for the rich, and tax rises for the poor, which is what UKIP’s flat tax would mean.
    Also UKIP’s anti EU message is clearly an anti-worker message. They say clearly that they want to abolish the EU’s worker’s protections, and that’s why they want out of the EU.
    Who in their right mind would vote for more job insecurity and lower wages and higer taxes? That’s what UKIP are offering working class people.

    Which is why most of their support comes from the retired, because these anti-worker’s rights policies won’t affect the retired.

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  24. @Peter Crawford

    Hi Peter. I read your response re Bookies Odds etc. with some interest.
    I didn’t realise that they had such an impact in the USA.

    My reason for re-stating the summary of betting odds shown on a major betting site was to bring back an element of objectivity into the discussion. I note that there are some contributors that are predicting the most amazing turn around in the Conservative Party’s Fortunes. Some have predicted a Tory Poll of 40% with a Labour take of only 30%.
    One fine fellow has suggested that odds only help bookies to balance the book in their favour but have no real predictive value to events. He may well be correct.

    I must confess that I do not have any information that would contradict any other contributor. But my own gut feeling is that Labour will probably end up with a majority of parliamentary seats possibly a small overall majority. LibDems will lose a substantial number of MPs many of those seats going to Conservatives. UKIP will do much better than the pundits are telling us. But hey… What do I know?

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  25. @NOTBOLD

    Re Bookmaker Odds.

    The point that you raised about the 80% for any other was not fully explained on the website but, like you, I took it to mean for some sort of coalition (possibly a last minute deal between UKIP and Tory). But I don’t honestly know.
    Why not research it yourself.

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  26. Bookies odds are *not* predictive, they are priced. There’s an important difference, they are based on how people are betting as well as guestimates of what the result will be. And how people bet on politics is very very rarely governed by either extra knowledge or analysis of existing data.

    However, yes, the existing data shows that the Conservatives don’t have any significant momentum despite “good economic news”. As things are, “prediction” of a Conservative majority at an election is not supported by the polls.

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  27. @NOTBOLD

    Re Bookmaker Odds.

    Correction to my typo in my last posting…
    Please read as: 80/1 not 80% as shown.

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