Monday 27 April 2015

UKIP’s big disappearing trick

@GreatBritishPol got in touch and asked if we would publish one of their articles. Always glad to help other political sites we said yes, here is the latest article from Adam Hyde

A few months ago, you would have been forgiven in thinking that UKIP would be important in this election. They had gone from strength to strength after winning the 2014 European Election, and some were saying they could form the UKs third biggest parliamentary party. For all the media coverage, one may have assumed that Nigel Farage would be PM by May.

This will not happen. The most optimistic independent analysis puts UKIP on four seats, the most pessimistic puts them on one. To add insult to serious political injury, it is looking increasingly less likely that Nigel Farage will actually win in South Thanet. If they are to be party to any post-election agreement after the 7th of May, they will only secure the mandate to play such a small part they may as well take the Conservative whip.

There are three major reasons behind this sudden fall from grace. The first is simply that many Conservatives have often tactically switched to UKIP for second order elections. Ford, Goodwin and Cutts’ research in the wake of UKIP’s 2009 European Election breakthrough found that 62% of those that voted for UKIP would be switching back to the Conservatives for the 2010 Westminster elections. This is part of a wider narrative of tactical support for UKIP amongst Eurosceptic Conservatives who use their vote in second order elections as a protest against Europe rather than as a positive vote for UKIP as a party.

Secondly, UKIP voters are ‘coming home’ to the Conservatives. Those that did plan to vote for UKIP in this year’s election are being swayed by the Conservative’s scare tactics regarding a potential SNP-Labour agreement. From October to early April, UKIP dropped 5 points in the polls with many switching to the Conservatives. From David Cameron’s somewhat snobby ‘Come Home’ speech in early April, UKIP support has fallen by a further 0.7 points as many former Conservatives have done just that.

Thirdly, UKIP are a deeply populist party. UKIP need media attention to function; their message requires blanket coverage and a certain public perception of revolution or opportunity. Justin Murphy looked at UKIP media coverage in the New Statesmanand identified two peaks, from November 2012 to April 2013 and from October 2013.

The first spike in media interest surrounding UKIP came from November 2012 to April 2013, proceeded a small spike in UKIP’s poll ratings. However, it came at a time when UKIPs poll ratings were falling not rising.

The second came at a time of low and decreasing public support for UKIP, from October 2013. This preceded UKIP’s highest poll ratings and its 2014 European Election victory.

Where it may be impossible to conclusively say that UKIP’s support is driven by disproportionate media coverage, it is certainly likely that 24 hour UKIP coverage has had some effect in convincing those disillusioned with modern Conservatives or Labour that UKIP are a viable option. In the run up to the general election, UKIP’s coverage has been diluted by the vast amount of speculation regarding the plans of Labour and the Conservatives, and UKIP no longer enjoy a monopoly on the media.

UKIP’s fall has been so great that their hugely popular party leader, who was able to cherry pick the most favourably UKIP constituency, may not win his seat. It is however important to note that other reasons, some relating to the sizable number of ex-Labour or first time voters turning their backs on the party, are having an important effect in marginal constituencies. 

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