Reform UK’s grip on Tory defectors has firmed up after Farage joins the fray

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
June 07, 2024, 9:38 AM GMT+0

This article was updated on 6 June 2024 to add the section on favourability figures

Having announced late last month that he would not be standing in the coming election, Nigel Farage about-faced this week and will now stand as Reform UK’s candidate in Clacton, as well as taking over the party’s leadership.

In our first voting intention poll following the announcement, we recorded our highest ever vote share for Reform UK (regardless of which methodology we used). Fully 26% of 2019 Conservative voters indicated that they were now planning to vote for the party’s right-wing rival.

Now, the results of a further YouGov survey shows how Nigel Farage’s return to frontline politics may be putting paid to Conservative hopes that they can tempt back their wayward voters.

Last week, 52% of 2019 Conservative voters who are now planning to vote Reform UK, rated their likelihood to back their new party at 10 out of 10. This week, following Farage’s return, that figure has risen to 64%.

There has likewise been an increase in the number dismissing the idea of voting Conservative out of hand. While 34% of Tory defectors to Reform had described their willingness to return to the Conservatives as a 0 out of 10 last week, that figure has since increased to 43%.

The results among all Reform UK voters follow the same trend, with a 12pt increase in the number giving a 10/10 rating to their odds of voting for Farage's party since last week.

The same survey finds that 10/10 likelihood to vote Labour has also increased among those planning to back Keir Starmer's party by six points - from 58% to 64% - but there has been no change among Conservative voters. The 56% who say they are almost certain to vote for the Tories this week is virtually unchanged from the 58% who said so last week.

Reform UK’s strong grip on Tory defectors can likewise be seen in our favourability ratings. Fully 97% of those who backed the Conservatives in 2019 but now support their rivals have a favourable view of Farage’s party – just 27% still feel any affection for the Tories.

Likewise, 94% have a favourable view of Nigel Farage compared to only 24% for Rishi Sunak.

Farage also proves more popular with the 2019 Conservative voter base in general. The Reform UK leader has a net +7 rating among those who backed the Tories at the last election (51% have a favourable view and 44% an unfavourable one), compared to -3 for Rishi Sunak (of whom 46% have a positive view and 49% a negative opinion).

Nigel Farage has spoken of his desire to take over the Conservatives after the election, citing the 1993 Canada example where the former Progressive Conservatives suffered a major loss and subsequently merged with the more right-wing ‘Canadian Alliance’.

The results show there is a sizeable minority within even the party’s current electorate who may be amenable to this. Among those who voted Conservative in 2019 and intend to do so again in July, 44% have a favourable view of Farage, and 36% of Reform UK.

See the full results here

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Photo: Getty