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Tuesday 18th December 2012 | 00:01
Just a quarter of those considering voting UKIP name relations with Europe as one of the top three issues facing Britain, a new poll from Lord Ashcroft has found. He concludes that an EU referendum – though it may prove necessary in resolving Britain’s relations with Europe – would attract few UKIP considerers back to the Conservatives.
The research finds that half of all voters considering supporting UKIP voted Conservative at the last election. 12% of those who voted Tory in 2010 now say they would support UKIP.
Lord Ashcroft’s report, They’re Thinking What We’re Thinking, is based on over 20,000 interviews with voters throughout the UK and fourteen focus groups of UKIP voters and those considering voting for the party.
For UKIP considerers, immigration was more important than Britain’s relations with the EU. However, more important than any policy area was the view that UKIP was on their side, shares their values, and says important things that need to be said but other parties are scared to say.
In his commentary on the research, published on Conservative Home on Tuesday 18 December, Lord Ashcroft says:
“These voters think Britain is changing for the worse. They are pessimistic, even fearful, and they want someone and something to blame. They do not think mainstream politicians are willing or able to keep their promises or change things for the better. UKIP, with its single unifying theory of what is wrong and how to put it right, has obvious attractions for them.”
He notes that many are drawn to UKIP because of a wider unease, rather than specific policies:
“For voters attracted to UKIP, complaints about immigration or the EU are often part of a greater dissatisfaction with the way they see things going in Britain: they told us that schools can’t hold nativity plays any more; that you can’t fly a flag of St George any more; that you can’t call Christmas Christmas any more; that you won’t get social housing unless you’re an immigrant; and that you can’t speak up about these things because you’ll be called a racist – but the mainstream political parties, they believe, are too in thrall to the prevailing culture of political correctness to do anything about it. For those drawn to it, UKIP’s primary attraction is that it will say things that need to be said but others are scared to say.”
Lord Ashcroft warns the Conservatives that UKIP were likely to do very well in the 2014 European elections, but that they should not panic if this happened:
“In our research people compared European elections to the Eurovision Song Contest; some cheerfully said that voting UKIP in these elections was just a way to ‘give Europe a slap’. A strong UKIP performance in eighteen months need not mean electoral doom for the Tories the following year.”
He says that the Conservatives should not employ “dog whistle” tactics but will win back potential UKIP supporters by delivering on immigration, welfare and the economy:
“Ultimately, the battle between UKIP and the Conservatives is less about ideas, policies, or even values. It is a battle between the party of easy answers and the party of tough decisions. Those who want nothing but the former will not be persuaded. Those who want the latter need to be reassured that those decisions are right, and that they are bearing fruit.”
Findings from the research include:
• The single biggest predictor of whether a voter will consider UKIP is whether they agree the party is “on the side of people like me”. For 2010 Conservative voters, thinking UKIP’s heart is in the right place and that it says things other parties are scared to say were also more important than thinking it was the best party to defend Britain’s interests in Europe.
• Agreement with UKIP’s policy of withdrawing from the EU was a less powerful reason to support the party than the idea that UKIP would “take Britain back to a time when things were done more sensibly” and that “the bigger parties seem more interested in trendy nonsense than listening to ordinary people.”
• UKIP considerers are more likely than average, and much more likely than Conservative voters, to say things are worse than they were ten years ago and will be worse still in ten years’ time.
• UKIP considerers would prefer a Conservative government to the current coalition by 60% to 40%, as do UKIP voters by 66% to 34%.
• 12% of those who voted Conservative at the 2010 general election say they would vote UKIP tomorrow. Those who voted Conservative in 2010 make up 50% of those who are currently considering UKIP.
• The risk of helping elect an MP or government from the party they liked least was the biggest potential off-putting factor for UKIP considerers.
• UKIP considerers are disproportionately male and older, but closely match the population in socio-economic profile. 2010 UKIP voters are also more likely to be male and older, but more likely than average to be in social groups C2 and DE (and less in ABC1).