How UKIP voters compare

Peter KellnerPresident
March 05, 2013, 8:52 AM GMT+0

UKIP voters: older and poorer than Tories – but LESS right-wing

Nobody should be surprised that YouGov’s latest poll for the Sun has UKIP at its highest level yet, 12%, following the Eastleigh result. The Lib Dems, also on 12%, have also benefited from the publicity surrounding their victory while Labour, at 40%, have dipped nationally following their fourth place in the by-election.

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UKIP’s rise has been accompanied by plenty of speculation, but few hard facts, about the kind of people who are supporting them. Part of the problem is that the number of UKIP supporters in any single poll is too small to provide reliable data. So we have combined all the voting intention surveys that YouGov conducted during February. This provided a total sample of almost 30,000, including more than 2,700 who told us they would vote UKIP.

This is what we found:

  • 60% of UKIP’s current supporters voted Conservative in 2010 – a clear majority, but far from everyone. Just 12% voted UKIP last time. Small minorities voted Labour or, more likely, Liberal Democrat. (There’s nothing new in supporters from the pro-EU Lib Dems switching to the anti-EU UKIP – they are the kind of Lib Dem voters whose choice was driven by a dislike for the two big parties rather than enthusiasm for Brussels.)

  • Forced to choose, UKIP supporters would, by three-to-one, prefer a Tory-lead Cameron government to a Miliband-led Labour government. But one in four UKIP supporters decline to take sides. Nevertheless, one obvious line of attack by the Conservatives at the next election will be to warn UKIP supporters of the dangers of letting Ed Miliband become Prime Minister by default, if UKIP deprives the Tories of the votes they need to hang on in Con-Lab marginals.

  • UKIP is widely seen as to the Right of the Tories – but that is not how UKIP voters view themselves. Whereas 60% of Tory voters place themselves to the Right of centre, the figure for UKIP supporters is rather less, 46%. And whereas 25% of Tories say they are in the centre, or even left-of-centre, the figure for UKIP voters is 36%.

  • However, UKIP voters are more likely than Tories to read one of right-of-centre tabloids, the Mail, Sun or Express.

  • Demographically, UKIP voters attract men slightly more than women – and the party draws its support disproportionately from older people with fewer qualifications. Whereas 46% of all voters are over 50, and 38% under 40, the figures for UKIP are 71% and 15% respectively. And just 13% of UKIP supporters have university degrees – half the national average (though this partly reflects the age profile: older people generally were less likely to attend university when they were young).

  • UKIP voters are less likely than voters generally, and far less likely than Conservative voters, to be above-average earners. 23% of UKIP supporters live in households whose total income exceeds £40,000, compared with 38% of Tories and 28% of Labour voters.

For those who prefer their data in tabular form, here are the key percentages:

How UKIP voters compare


Current vote

% who...



Voted Conservative in 2010




If forced to choose, would prefer...*

Regard themselves as centre or left-of-centre




Are male




* Asked on two surveys; number of UKIP supporters: 369; rest of data draws on responses of 2,788 UKIP supporters

In Eastleigh, of course, UKIP’s support shot up to 28%. The signs are that this support was demographically broader than the figures above. At next year’s European parliament elections, UKIP will probably come first, again with a broad demographic spread. However, I would expect UKIP’s support at a general election to fall back below 10%, and to revert to its core-vote profile along the lines of the above data.

Unless… in our first post-Eastleigh poll, we also invited respondents to consider how they might vote if they felt that Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP all had a chance of winning. We asked about their attitude to each party separately. Here are the figures when we asked about UKIP, showing the responses of all electors, and those of people who currently say they would vote Tory:

All %Con %

Would definitely vote UKIP



Would seriously consider voting UKIP



Would give some consideration to voting UKIP



Total would consider voting UKIP



Would probably not consider voting for this party



Would definitely NOT vote for this party



Don't know



Those figures should worry the Tories. They cannot be happy with the fact that a quarter of their own supporters would ‘definitely’ vote UKIP or ‘seriously consider’ voting UKIP, and that almost half of them would at least give some consideration to voting UKIP.

In reality, I should be astonished if anything like that proportion did in fact make the switch. But a very much smaller number of defectors would be enough to wreck Tory hopes. Indeed, even if UKIP just held on its current ex-Tory voters and did not win over any more, David Cameron would be heading for a heavy defeat. What we have here is evidence that 12% may well not be UKIP’s peak polling rating. Not only is a strong performance in next year’s euro-election a near-certainty, it will have chances to shine in the local elections now just eight weeks away and, probably, in further by-elections later in this Parliament.

Even so, UKIP’s chances of winning any seats in the 2015 general election remain slim; but their impact on the fortunes of the other parties could be considerable and, potentially, dramatic.

See the full survey details and results for YouGov's latest poll for the Sun

See the full survey details and results of all voting intentions surveys YouGov conducted in February 2013

See the full survey details and results for YouGov's first post-Eastleigh poll

This article is also featured on the Comment is Free section of the Guardian

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