What do Reform UK voters believe?

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
July 02, 2024, 2:07 PM GMT+0

YouGov shines a light on the backers of the insurgent party

Reform UK are the new kids on the block. Having only existed for five and a half years, and this being the first general election they are seriously contesting (having in their previous iteration as the Brexit Party agreed with the Conservatives not to stand candidates against them in 2019), Nigel Farage’s party is currently breathing down the necks of the Conservatives in our latest voting intention polling.

Even within the context of the party’s short existence, many of those intending to vote for it have made the decision to do so relatively recently – through 2023 Reform UK was only polling at half the rate it is now.

But what do Reform UK voters believe? While most people could probably point to Brexit and immigration as issues the party is particularly exercised by, what do they think across a host of other domestic issues? Now a new YouGov survey provides an outline of what the views of Reform UK voters are, and how those differ to both the wider public in general and Tory voters in particular.

What do Reform UK voters believe?

Reform UK voters are more obviously culturally right wing than they are economically right wing, occupying a fairly traditionalist conservative ideological position but one which is also characterised by elements of economic left populism.

Of the policy statements we put to them, the one they are most likely to believe is that “young people today do not have enough respect for traditional British values”, at 89%.

They are similarly likely to think that “migrants coming to the United Kingdom across the English Channel should all be immediately removed from the United Kingdom and prevented from ever returning” (86%) and also have a very strong tendency to say “multiculturalism has made the UK worse” (78%).

When it comes to crime, 85% believe that court sentences are not harsh enough, and 77% think the death penalty should be allowed.

On LGBTQ+ issues, while two thirds support same sex marriage (65%), a similar number also say that transgender people should not be allowed to legally change their gender (69%).

On our economic questions the results are more mixed.

Half (51%) say the government are taxing too much and spending too much, while 42% say government should not redistribute income from the better off to the less well off. But these come towards the bottom of the table in terms of views Reform UK voters have – in fact, this latter redistribution belief comes very bottom, with an opposing 33% saying that the government should redistribute income.

While they may not be pro-redistribution, Reform UK voters nevertheless feel that ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation's wealth (73%). They likewise think that the rich should be taxed more than average earners (69%), but at the same time think that welfare benefits are currently too generous (60%).

Economic issues are not the only area where populist attitudes are prevalent among Reform UK voters: 78% feel that rich people in the UK are able to get around the law or get off more easily than poorer people, and a similar number think big businesses take advantage of ordinary people (74%).

On international issues we put to Reform UK voters, opinion is also more greatly split. On Ukraine, 44% think that Britain should support the beleaguered nation until Russian withdrawal, even if this means the war lasts longer, while 39% want to encourage a negotiated peace even if this leaves Russia in control over some parts of Ukraine.

When it comes to Gaza, 46% say they side more with Israel versus 9% with Palestinians, but 36% with neither side.

How do Reform UK voters compare to Conservative voters, as well as the wider public?

While some of these beliefs are clearly strongly represented among Reform UK voters, that does not necessarily make them distinct from the wider public. For instance, when it comes to those questions covering power dynamics in the UK, the proportion of Britons overall who think that rich people can get away with more legally (80%), big businesses take advantage of ordinary people (76%), and ordinary people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth (75%) is almost identical to the proportion of Reform UK voters who feel the same way.

In this regard, the public and Reform UK view is notably different from that of Conservative voters. While most Tory voters agree with the sentiment, they do so at notably lower rates (51-61%).

On other issues, attitudes among Reform UK voters are distinct from both the public and Tory-voters. This is particularly the case on issues to do with migration and British culture: the 78% of Reform UK voters who think that multiculturalism has made the UK worse is more than thirty points higher than among Conservative voters (47%) and almost two and a half times the rate among the wider public (32%).

Likewise, the desire for Reform UK voters to see small boat migrants immediately removed from the United Kingdom and prevented from ever returning (86%) is more than 20pts higher than among Tory voters (64%) and more than twice as high as the public as a whole (41%).

At 89%, Reform UK voters are far more likely than the wider public to think that young people do not have enough respect for traditional British values (56%), and to a lesser extent than their Conservative counterparts (81%).

Unsurprisingly, given the party’s origins, Reform UK voters are also significantly more likely to want further separation from the EU (61%, versus 43% of Tory voters and 22% of all Britons).

They are also notably more likely to think that the government is doing and spending too much to try and tackle carbon emissions, to think that it should not be legal to change your gender, and that the death penalty should be permissible.

Where Reform UK and Conservative voters are most to each other, while being different from the wider public, is in their increased belief that criminal sentencing is not harsh enough and that welfare benefits are too generous, as well as being somewhat less likely to think that same sex marriage should be legal (although two thirds still do).

Reform UK voters' attitudes to Ukraine and Russia

Nigel Farage came in for criticism last week for remarks that Russia was provoked into invading Ukraine by NATO’s eastwards expansion.

Our study shows that Reform UK voters are far more likely to lay at least some of the blame for the Ukraine conflict at NATO’s door. While 56% of Britons say that Russia is “entirely” responsible for the conflict – including 75% of Tory voters and 66% of Labour voters – this falls to 33% for Reform UK voters.

One in seven Reform UK voters say that NATO is more to blame than Russia (15%), while a further 19% say NATO and Russia are equally to blame. Another quarter say Russia is more to blame, but that some responsibility still rests with NATO (24%).

None of this is to say that Reform UK voters are anti-NATO: only 26% have a negative view of the alliance. The majority (63%) have a favourable view of NATO, although this does trail the wider public (69%) and their Tory counterparts (78%).

Around one in eight Reform UK voters appear to be actively pro-Russian: 12% say they want Russia to win in Ukraine, and 11% say they have a favourable view of Vladimir Putin. While 86% of Reform UK voters have an unfavourable view of the Russian president, they are noticeably less likely to have a “very unfavourable” view of Putin than other voting groups, at 69% compared to 88-93% among Tory, Labour, Lib Dem and Green voters.

Likewise, while two thirds of Reform UK voters say they want Ukraine to win in its battle against Russia, they are noticeably more likely to want to reduce levels of support to the country – 40% say so, compared to 10-13% for other voters. One in three also have a negative view of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy (35%).

Favourability ratings

In terms of Reform UK’s attitudes towards other international figures, the biggest distinction is that they are fans of Donald Trump. The majority (56%) of Reform UK voters have a favourable view of the former US president, while 41% have an unfavourable view. This compares to only 16% of Conservative voters, and the same number among the public as a whole.

They are similarly less likely to be fans of Joe Biden – only 7% have a favourable view of the current US president, compared to one in three among the wider public and also the Tory base (32-33%). French president Emmanuel Macron is also substantially less popular among Reform UK voters (9%) than Tories and the wider public (27-28%).

Here in Britain, it is no surprise to see that Reform UK voters are almost universally fans of Nigel Farage (94%). Perhaps more surprising is that relatively high numbers don’t seem to know who recent leader Richard Tice is – 37% answered “don’t know”, while 50% have a favourable view and 13% an unfavourable one.

Nigel Farage is indeed more popular among Reform UK voters than the King (68%) – a level notably closer to that of the wider public (63%) than it is to Tory voters (88%).

Reform UK voters are less likely to be fans of Boris Johnson than their Tory counterparts (45% vs 64%), but they are slightly more likely to like Liz Truss (24% vs 17%) – who indeed they like more than Rishi Sunak (18%).

See the full results for the battery of policy and attitudinal questions here and the questions on favourability and the Ukraine war here

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Photo: Getty