Thursday, 22 January 2015

UKIP Have Peaked Too Early for the General Election

This opinion poll by YouGov for The Sun newspaper from yesterday is pretty typical of the many polls I see, in so much as anything is typical about the opinion polls at the moment.

There are some things though we can glean from these polls. Labour and Tory are neck and neck at around 30% each, the Lib Dems have crashed badly and will probably get less than 10%, UKIP is pretty steady at 15% and the Greens are rising, maybe as this poll suggests to around 10%.

UKIP have been at around 15% in the polls for a year or so now, but they seem to have reached a glass ceiling, and if anything are falling away slightly. This analysis chimes with this piece by Peter Kellner at YouGov.

Kellner concludes that UKIP will never get beyond this level of support in the future, because their voters aren’t interested in the future, but in some bygone past, 1950s style. The trouble with this is that the other 85% of the population don’t want to go back to the 1950s. UKIP voters are predominantly, white, male and old and this is further borne out by UKIP’s relatively poor performance in London elections recently.

After the 2014 GLA elections, a UKIP spokesperson, Suzanne Evans, when asked why her party had done so poorly, said that London’s population was too ‘educated, cultured and young’ to vote for UKIP. She also pointed out London is a very ‘multi-cultural’ place. Full marks for honesty.

Another reason that UKIP support has stalled is that supporting UKIP has more personal stigma than supporting the other parties.  A significant minority of voters would find it hard to stay friends with a UKIP convert, see this poll.

On top of this, another explanation for UKIP becoming less attractive, is that some voters just like to protest vote against the duopoly for Tory/Labour. The Lib Dems were often the beneficiaries of this phenomenon, but have blown this now by propping up a Tory government. What always amazes me, is people who voted as a protest for the most pro EU party (Lib Dems) can transfer support so easily to a party whose whole raison d’etre is as an anti EU party? These protest voters now have a viable alternative, the Green party, which is almost the polar opposite of UKIP, but perfectly viable as a protest party.

Now, we also have the intervention of Al Murray, standing as his alter-ego ‘the pub landlord’ against UKIP leader Nigel Farage in the Thanet South constituency, for his party FUKP. This is a clever ploy from Murray, because much of what Farage says could be taken straight from one Murray’s pub landlord acts, except it’s not as funny. But this parody will not be lost on the voters, I think, and they are now more likely to see Farage for what he is, a pub bore with xenophobic views. Mockery is a powerful force in politics.

There was time when UKIP were accelerating up the polls, winning two by-elections, when it seemed that the daily scandals or outrageous comments made by some of UKIP’s candidates, had no effect on their rising popularity. Nothing seemed to stick. Maybe now the drip, drip of bad publicity has finally sunk in with the voters, and UKIP have now passed their high watermark with the electorate. I have a feeling that come election day, they will have drifted down below 15%.

The more people see of the Greens, the more they can see that we offer something genuinely different to the status quo neo liberal orthodoxy. We now have the momentum, the ‘Big Mo’ as our American friends like to put it. This could be a momentous election for the Greens.  

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