Why Do Tories Defect to UKIP? Conservative Party Members and the Temptations of the Populist Radical Right

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Abstract

This research note draws on a new survey to reveal a widespread willingness among current Conservative Party members in Britain to countenance voting for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) at future general elections. Those most likely to do so are cultural conservatives, but they are not overly right-wing on the distributional dimension of politics. They are particularly concerned about immigration and the European Union, do not feel valued or respected by their own leadership and even regard David Cameron – their own party leader and the country's prime mnister – as ideologically more remote from them than UKIP. This serves to illustrate some of the strategic dilemmas facing centre-right parties confronted by populist right challengers.

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