New study points to UKIP’s support base being more middle class than was perceived

April 22nd, 2015

farage and carswell

British Electoral Study data sheds different light on the party

An analysis of data from the UK’s longest-running study of electoral behaviour has revealed how the bulk of UKIP’s support surprisingly comes from professional and managerial middle classes.

British Election Study Co-Director Professor Geoffrey Evans and BES Research Fellow Dr Jonathan Mellon, from Nuffield College Oxford, say contrary to the popular view advocated by some academic researchers, working class voters are only a little more likely to support Ukip.

And Ukip voters, they add, resemble European ‘radical right’ parties: an alliance between the working class, the self-employed and employers – and not the disenfranchised, ‘left behind’ voters, described commonly by the media and influential academic commentators.

Professor Evans said: “The idea that many Ukip voters are working class and that they therefore pose a threat to Labour’s support in the election has gained considerable currency ….But we find this is wrong; the working class basis of Ukip has been strongly overstated.The Party’s strongest supporters are often the self-employed and business owners.”

“Even within the working class, Ukippers tend to be low level supervisors, and not the disadvantaged semi and unskilled workers often thought to provide the core of the Party’s support.”

Dr Mellon said: “Ukip’s support is very similar in social composition to many other so called ‘radical right’ parties elsewhere in Europe – an alliance between the working class and the self-employed and employers – rather than a party of the ‘left behind’.

“And significantly in electoral terms, the differences in sizes between social classes means that numerically, the bulk of Ukip’s support comes from the larger professional and managerial middle classes.”

Quite what all this means on May 7th is hard to say. If this analysis is right then LAB would appear to be less vulnerable to UKIP than had been thought.

Mike Smithson

For 11 years viewing politics from OUTSIDE the Westminster bubble