Conservatives unlikely to win over Reform UK supporters at next election

Adam McDonnellResearch Director of Political and Social Research
November 02, 2023, 3:01 PM GMT+0

Most planning to vote for Reform UK wouldn’t switch to Conservatives even if their first choice party doesn’t stand in their constituency

As YouGov has previously shown, Rishi Sunak is likely going to have to win votes from the left and the right of his party if he is to have electoral success at the next election. We often see the vote share of smaller parties diminish as we approach general elections, and with Reform UK polling at around 8% in current voting intention figures, Rishi Sunak could really benefit from a chunk of that vote. New YouGov polling suggests, however, that Reform UK supporters might be tricky to win over.

One reason supporters switch their vote in the run up to the election is that their party stands little chance of winning, but the vast majority of those saying they’ll vote Reform UK are already realistic about the party’s slim chances of winning seats. Two thirds (67%) say its unlikely the party will win in their own constituency, compared to less than one in five (18%) thinking they have a chance. In fact just 5% say the party are “very likely” to win in their seat.

Reform UK’s leader Richard Tice has said the party will stand in every seat at the next election, however this may be very aspirational (neither the Lib Dems nor the Greens did so in 2019). When presented with a hypothetical scenario where the party doesn’t stand in their constituency at the next election, just three in ten of those who currently intend to vote Reform UK (31%) say they would vote Conservative. A similar number say they wouldn’t bother voting in this scenario (27%) while one in five (20%) say they’d vote for a different smaller party.

Even when looking only at Reform UK voters who backed the Conservatives in 2019, just 37% say they would vote Conservative again even if Reform UK didn’t stand.

With Nigel Farage agreeing that the-then Brexit Party wouldn’t stand in Conservative held seats at the last election, the party received just 2% of the overall vote share, despite polling at 10% a few months earlier. The majority (66%) of current Reform UK supporters therefore voted Conservative in 2019, but that was for a very different party than they are presented with now.

Firstly, the 2019 general election was all about Brexit, with the issue being by far the biggest concern for voters. With the Conservatives running their campaign on ‘getting Brexit done’, they were naturally appealing to those Leave voters who supported the Brexit Party. Brexit is now ranked the seventh most pressing issue with the public, and so will likely be a much smaller talking point at the next election.

Secondly, those intending to vote Reform UK at the next election have a very different perception about the current Conservative Party and leader than those who said they would vote Brexit Party in 2019 and eventually voted Conservative. Ahead of Farage’s decision not to stand candidates in all seats in 2019, six in ten (59%) Brexit Party supporters had a favourable view of the Conservative Party, and a remarkable 84% had a favourable view of then party leader Boris Johnson. In contrast, just one in five of Reform UK voters currently have a favourable view of both the Conservatives (21%) and Rishi Sunak (21%).

Of course, a lot can change when an election is called and campaigning fully begins, but on current evidence it looks unlikely that the Conservatives can convince similar numbers of Reform UK voters to back them as they did with Brexit Party voters in 2019.


Reform UK voters tactical voting

Reform UK voters favourability ratings (2023)

Reform UK voters favourability ratings (2019)

Photo: Getty

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