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May 6, 2014 10:49 pm
More than half of those voting Ukip in this month’s European elections also intend to support the anti-EU party in next year’s general election, according to a new survey.
The poll of 20,000 people by YouGov for the British Election Study suggests that the Ukip vote will prove much more resilient this time than in the last election cycle. It suggests Ukip could win up to 10 per cent at the general election.
During the last election season, only a quarter of Ukip voters in the 2009 European elections said they would support the party again in the general election the following year.
Jane Green, co-director of the British Election Study, said: “People might look at the European parliamentary election and think that support for Ukip is going to disintegrate after that, come the general election.
“But it isn’t right in this instance to assume that support for Ukip in the European election is not going to be a good sign. It is going to be a strong marker for how they do next year.”
The findings undermine an assumption by many Conservatives that Ukip will slump after the European elections, as happened in 2004 and 2009. Many senior Tories believe a large number of Conservative voters are planning to register a Ukip protest vote in this year’s European poll before returning to the governing party next year.
That view is shared by Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, who said on Tuesday that Ukip had taken over his party’s mantle as the “party of protest”.
Speaking at the launch of his party’s European election campaign in a nightclub in central London, Mr Clegg said: “Ukip is now the protest party in British politics, scaring everybody witless, indulging in dangerous fantasies, claiming somehow miraculously every problem on the face of our planet would be lifted from our shoulders if only we just left the European Union.”
The BES found Ukip is currently on course to win 17 per cent of the vote in this month’s European election, behind Labour on 20 per cent. But with 20 per cent of voters still undecided, Ukip’s vote is likely to rise.
Expectations are now running high among the anti-EU party’s leadership and supporters. Godfrey Bloom, the former Ukip MEP, told the Financial Times: “We have to win or the party is over, Ukip is finished if it doesn’t come top.”
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