Strategic Eurosceptics and polite xenophobes: Support for the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in the 2009 European Parliament elections


Robert Ford, Institute for Social Change (ISC), University of Manchester, 2.11 Humanities Bridgeford Street, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK. Tel.: +44 (0)161 27 53571; E-mail:


While Euroscepticism is the most important driver of United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) support, other attitudinal drivers – namely dissatisfaction towards mainstream parties and xenophobia – are also important. Examining vote-switching between first- and second-order elections evidence is found of a distinction between two types of supporter: more affluent and middle-class ‘strategic defectors’ from the mainstream Conservative Party who support UKIP to register their Euroscepticism, and more economically marginal and politically disaffected ‘core loyalists’ who are attracted to UKIP by its anti-immigration rhetoric and populist anti-establishment strategy. UKIP also succeeds in attracting core support from groups such as women who have traditionally rejected extreme right parties such as the British National Party (BNP). This suggests that UKIP is well positioned to recruit a broader and more enduring base of support than the BNP.