World Bulletin/News Desk
Potential support for Britain's anti-European Union party UKIP far exceeds that suggested by opinion polls, with almost a third of voters holding views in line with its supporters, according to a study to be published this week.
The UK Independence Party under its leader Nigel Farage is hoping to beat both Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party at European elections in May, and threatens to split the centre-right vote in a national election next year.
At present UKIP holds nine seats in the 766-seat European parliament and has three members in Britain's upper house, the House of Lords. It has yet, however to make the breakthrough into winning a seat in the 650-seat House of Commons.
An analysis of more than 100,000 voters and 6,000 UKIP supporters, carried out by academics at Manchester and Nottingham Universities, found backing for UKIP was not solely fuelled by concerns over Britain's EU membership.
Euroscepticism, hostility to immigration and dissatisfaction with established politics were the main reasons for supporting UKIP, with 20 percent of voters holding all three beliefs and 30 percent agreeing with two of the three motives, the study found.
National election opinion poll support for UKIP, which is running a campaign to end "open-door immigration" and to withdraw from the EU, has risen from around 3 percent in 2010 to about 13 percent in the latest surveys.
"UKIP are currently winning over one voter in 10 but their potential far exceeds their current support in the polls," said Robert Ford, one of the co-authors of the study, due to be published in the book "Revolt on the Right: Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain" on March 14.
Co-author Matthew Goodwin said UKIP voters were especially angry about how both the Conservatives and the previous Labour government have managed immigration, which polls regularly show is one of voters' top three concerns.
The academics found that UKIP's rise in opinion polls since the 2010 election had come not from widening its reach across society but deepening their core, working class vote.
It has also drawn voters away from Cameron's Conservatives by tapping voter scepticism over the benefits of EU membership, but the study found where UKIP have persuaded Conservative voters to strategically defect at European Parliament elections, they usually return to the Conservatives in national elections.
Under pressure from eurosceptics in his own Conservative party as well as from UKIP, Cameron has promised to try to reshape Britain's EU ties if re-elected and to give Britons an in/out membership referendum.
"The key question facing UKIP in May is whether they can sustain the loyalty of these defectors who add an important layer to their core .... working class base," said Ford.Last Mod: 12 Mart 2014, 15:56