British people tend to see UKIP as the most right-wing party, but that's not how UKIP voters view themselves
In July YouGov revealed where voters place Britain’s political parties and their leaders on the left-right ideological scale. This week, the survey was repeated for the Times Red Box newsletter and showed how Ed Miliband continues to be seen as closer to the political centre than David Cameron. Now YouGov can reveal another dimension of the left-right scale: where voters place themselves.
The chart below shows how, since 2006, the average “Lab/Con/Lib Dem/UKIP voter” has rated their own ideology. For many years, the picture is relatively stable, with a slight tendency towards the polarisation of Labour and Conservative voters. The black line, representing the nation as a whole, shows how these voters tend to cancel each other out – the national average has never strayed far from the centre.
Another recent development is that UKIP voters in aggregate view themselves to the left of Tories. In fact, 13% of UKIP voters call themselves left-of-centre in the most recent survey, compared to only 6% of Conservative voters who do the same. Only 43% of UKIP voters say they are right-of-centre, versus 61% of Conservatives.
Note that movement from left to right doesn’t necessarily mean voters are changing their minds about where they fall on the scale. It's more that the composition of the groups who say they are planning to vote for the different parties changes, including more left- or right-wing voters.
As the survey also shows, where UKIP voters place themselves on the scale is very different from where the general public place their party.
The public see UKIP as the most right-wing party of all, giving it a score of +62, compared to the +50 given to the Tory party (bigger scores are more right-wing). But today’s UKIP voters have a very different view of themselves: the average UKIP voter scores a +23, which is even closer to the centre than the average Conservative, who scores a +34.
The same tendency exists when UKIP voters are asked to place the parties on the left-right scale. From left to right, UKIP voters have it Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP and then the Tories.
Some of UKIP's centrists could well be protest voters fed up with the main parties and turning to UKIP for non-ideological reasons, but this wouldn't be the first time UKIP voters defied the right-wing label. Past YouGov polling has found them to the left of Conservatives on a number of issues, including rail nationalisation, bank regulation and even Ed Miliband's proposed energy price freeze.