UKIP to 'retain more support' in run-up to 2015 election

By Chris Mason
Political correspondent, BBC News

Nigel Farage and Ed Miliband
Image caption,
UKIP is to take votes from all parties, including Labour, the study suggests

Support for the UK Independence Party will fall after this month's European elections but by a much smaller margin than it has in the past, research by the British Election Study suggests.

Its study concludes that almost 60% of people planning to vote for UKIP in this month's elections also intend to do so at the 2015 general election.

The equivalent figure in 2009 was 25%.

The study predicts that UKIP will attract 11% of the total vote in the general election, up from 3.1% in 2010.

UKIP has said it hopes to top the 22 May polls for the European Parliament for the first time.

In the past, Nigel Farage's party has polled well at European elections, but very poorly at subsequent general elections.

With the next general election a year away, the British Election Study - which has been exploring Britain's electoral behaviour for over fifty years - has been looking at how much support UKIP is likely to retain between now and then.

Voting intentions

It has analysed data based on an online sample of more than 20,000 people surveyed during February and March.

The study indicates that those intending to vote for UKIP this month are also more certain about how they will vote in the general election than they were a year before the last general election.

Only 10% of people who said they intended to vote UKIP in the European Parliament elections and again in the general election said they were anything but certain about their plans.

So where has this support for UKIP come from, and at whose expense?

Of those people intending to vote UKIP in 2015, 44% voted Conservative in 2010, 17% voted Liberal Democrat, 11% voted Labour and 11% didn't vote for anyone.

The study suggests 9% voted UKIP last time.

As with any surveys or opinion polls, these are educated guesses about human behaviour, a notoriously tricky thing to predict or be certain about.

Commons seats

But the British Election Study prides itself on being "the longest running social science survey in the UK".

Although the survey work was conducted a few months ago, and opinion polls have shifted since then, the sample size is big - ten times bigger than many opinion polls we see.

Stepping back from the detail, it is further evidence that UKIP will command a seat within the national political debate for some time to come.

Professor Jane Green of Manchester University, who has looked closely at the results, observes that while an 11% share at the general election doesn't necessarily mean UKIP will win any seats at Westminster, it would secure the party an ongoing voice in national politics.

It is yet another reason why the next general election is shaping up to be the most exciting - and most unpredictable - in a generation.