Working class votes and Conservative losses: solving the UKIP puzzle

Geoffrey Evans, Jon Mellon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Opinions are divided on whether the Conservatives or Labour need to worry most about UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2015 General Election. How do we reconcile evidence of substantial levels of UKIP support among traditional working class voters, and in Labour constituencies, with evidence that UKIP voters report voting Conservative in 2010? In this article, we resolve this implicit contradiction using long-term panel data to examine the sequencing of vote switching from Labour to UKIP. We argue that Labour's move to the ‘liberal consensus’ on the EU and immigration led to many of their core voters defecting before UKIP were an effective political presence. We show that not only is the working-class basis of UKIP overstated but the party is mainly attracting disaffected former Labour voters from the Conservatives and elsewhere, which is why the Conservatives, not Labour, will feel most of the electoral pain in 2015.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-479
Number of pages16
JournalParliamentary Affairs
Issue number2
Early online date17 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


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