UKIP wins the xenophobes: breaking down the Eastleigh result

6:45 am - March 2nd 2013

by John B    

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You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh at the Eastleigh result. The coalition parties viciously tore strips off each other in the campaign (for a party normally opposed to employee protection laws, the Conservatives are remarkably and creditably concerned about workplace sexual harassment all of a sudden).

The biggest winner, despite only nabbing second place, was a party resembling a mad scientist’s chimera of the Tea Party and the Five Star Movement. The Tories were an dismal failure. And Milibandian Labour continued its trend of doing absolutely nothing exceptional by doing absolutely nothing exceptional.

However, it would be deeply unwise to take the raw numbers from Eastleigh and conclude that David Cameron is buggered, that the Lib Dem vote will hold up at the next election, that anyone really cares very much about Europe, that the Tories need to tack to the right in general, or that Labour can’t win in the South. How do we know all this? Weirdly, thanks to renowned philanthropist and psephologist Lord Ashcroft.

“Here’s my private poll; I conducted it from my private plane”

Unlike most political pontificators, Lord Ashcroft has an absolute shedload of money. This meant that on the day after the election, he was able to conduct a detailed opinion poll of people in Eastleigh, asking them a massive range of questions about how, when and why they voted, and how that compared to the past and the future.

(obvious caveat: Lord Ashcroft is a massive Tory supporter and has a great deal of incentive to try and stop the Tories going off the rails. However, based on the way the poll has been created and weighted, and the questions asked, it doesn’t appear to be the kind of misleading voodoo that occasionally gets reported as real polling. The main difference is that his sample underweights UKIP voters, overweights Tories and Lib Dems a little, and overweights Labour a lot; I’ve adjusted all my numbers below to reflect actual % of votes cast.)

As a starter, there’s an interesting split in the postal versus in-person numbers. For the Tories and Labour, these are almost identical. But the Lib Dems won 38% of the postal vote, compared to 30% of the in-person vote. The Kippers did the opposite, winning 29% of the in-person vote and 23% of the postal vote. It’s interesting to speculate, but probably not possible to conclude, whether this is because people vote UKIP on impulse, or whether the harassment scandal was the final straw for a few Lib Dems. On in-person turnout, the Kippers were only one point behind the Lib Dems.

UKIP won more votes from former Lib Dems than from former Tories

From a party-political point of view, the most interesting part of the poll comes in these two tables (based on Ashcroft’s Question 3), which look at how individual surveyed voters in Eastleigh switched between 2010 and 2012, and how they expect to switch their vote between 2012  and the (presumably) 2015 general election.

The first table tells us that out of people who voted UKIP in the by-election, 40% say they voted Conservative in 2010, and 51% say they voted Lib Dem. Of people who voted Lib Dem in the by-election, the vast majority (78%) say they voted Lib Dem in 2010, with most (15%) of the remaining votes won from people who voted Tory in 2010. This was a fairly even swap, though, as 21% of people who voted Tory in the by-election say they voted Lib Dem in 2010. The most interesting shift is Labour, with more than half (56%) of people who voted Labour in the by-election claiming to have voted Lib Dem in 2010.


So if this result were to be repeated nationwide (which it won’t, obviously, but that’s not the point), then the traditional narrative of “UKIP shafts Tories” isn’t necessarily the whole story. At least in Eastleigh, much of UKIP’s support was made up of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010. Presumably, this is the set of people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 because they hated both Labour and the Tories, rather than people who voted Lib Dem in 2010 because of the party’s commitment to individual freedom, social liberalism, multiculturalism and greater integration with our European friends and partners.

The second table implies that when looking at the views of people who have any idea today about how they’re going to vote in 2015, the Tories will easily win Eastleigh in 2015 with 33% compared to 26% for the Lib Dems and 21% for UKIP. The Tories will keep the vast majority of their voters from the by-election, and pick up a decent chunk of people who went Lib Dem or Kipper this time. The  Lib Dems will lose a few votes to the Tories, and a lot of votes to Labour. Impressively, Labour won’t lose any votes at all, and its vote share will come in fairly close to the other three parties at 19%.


I’ll eat a millinery shop if this is how it actually turns out (in particular, it’s likely that many of the by-election Lib Dems who say they’ll vote Labour in 2015 will end up holding their noses and voting Lib Dem again), but the underlying mechanics are very interesting. The Tory and Labour showing in Eastleigh consists of their core, base vote (with Labour having won back a few people who voted Lib Dem as a left-of-Labour party in 2010). The Lib Dem showing absolutely does not: a third of people who voted for them this time round don’t really see themselves as Lib Dem supporters. And although UKIP is seen as a joke protest party, a higher proportion of UKIP voters currently intend to vote for them in the  general election than do Lib Dem voters.

Dave is popular, Nick is loathed, Ed is mediocre, and Kippers hate everyone

UKIP voters want the party to win the next election despite the fact that they don’t think it’s very good. According to Question 5 in the Ashcroft poll, only 46% of people who voted UKIP did so because Diane James was the best local candidate, and only 35% did so because Nigel Farage was the best national party leader – and yet 58% want the party to win the 2015 election.

By election party political

Farage can take some solace in the fact that Nick Clegg performed even worse with his own supposed supporters: only 25% of people who voted Lib Dem did so because they thought that Clegg was the best national party leader. Mike Thornton’s victory rests on his own personal popularity, with 85% of people who voted for him doing so because he was the best local candidate.

As also shown above, the Tory vote in Eastleigh is solid. 77% of people who voted for Maria Hutchings did so because they thought she was the best candidate, which is bizarre, but then again Tory voters did elect Nadine Dorries and Louise Mensch. David Cameron’s personal popularity is also holding up: 78% of Tory voters think that he’s the best national leader. If I were part of his team, I’d be waving that statistic in the faces of the entire Tory Right. Loathe him though we might, the man is probably their single biggest electoral asset.

Arguably the Tories’ second-biggest electoral asset is Ed Miliband. Only 56% of Labour voters (remember, these are an absolute hard core, who overwhelmingly intend to vote Labour in the next general election) voted Labour because they thought he was the best national leader. Interestingly, given his charisma and celebrity, John O’Farrell didn’t perform much better. This is definitely evidence against parachuting in national establishment members and in favour of sticking to known local figures.

The most overwhelming reason for anyone to do anything, apart from liking Mike Thornton a lot, was to vote UKIP because you hate all the other parties. 83% of UKIP voters were unhappy with their usual party, and 75% were unhappy with all the major parties (it’s possible that the missing 8% think that UKIP is a major party).

UKIP owns xenophobia; Labour and the Tories own real issues; Lib Dems empty the bins

Although UKIP voters are taken from all parties, and hate them all more or less equally, they have one major thing common with each other when it comes to attitudes, as asked in Question 6 of the Ashcroft poll (*). 59% of people who voted UKIP in the by-election did so because their primary concern is  immigration – alongside another 33% (“Classic Kippers”, perhaps?) who really don’t like the EU.

By election issues

Remember here that Eastleigh is 93% white British, 95% white, 97% native English-speaking, and less than 1% of the population come from post-2001 EU accession countries. Claimant count unemployment is 2%, compared to 3.9% nationwide. While “I don’t dislike the Poles but they’re taking our jobs” may hold in some agricultural areas and some deprived urban areas, it doesn’t even pass the laugh test in Eastleigh. Same for “I don’t mind the Bangladeshis, but I’m annoyed the pubs have all shut”. If you live in Eastleigh and your main concern is immigration, it’s not that you’re lashing out because the system has failed you, and it’s not that you’re being culturally invaded – it’s that you don’t like being around foreigners. So we can conclude that 23% of Eastleighans are basically xenophobic, and 84% of these people voted UKIP (12% voted Tory).

The anti-immigrant message has been the first response to the election result from many pundits: “My party must win back the xenophobic vote by hating foreigners more!”. But the interesting thing here is that the vast majority of people in Eastleigh are not predominantly concerned about immigration, and almost all of the ones who are voted UKIP. Tory voters care about the economy and local government; and Labour voters care about the economy and the NHS. The question for politicians now should be, do you chase the quarter of voters who are xenophobic, or do you abandon them to UKIP and focus on the issues that your core voters care about (**)?

The fact that the Lib Dem victory was based almost entirely on local council issues is also interesting here: on traditional left-right issues, people split Labour or Tory in exactly the way one might expect. People don’t vote Lib Dem because they love the EU, respect its position on human rights or support its centrist economic position: they vote Lib Dem if the local council is Lib Dem and it hasn’t stuffed up too badly. So getting the bins emptied as competently as possible in as many places as possible is probably the best chance the party has to hold seats in 2015.

* I’ve aggregated some of Ashcroft’s totals, in a way that should be fairly obvious and I don’t think misleads.

** it’s worth saying again, in a constituency with high unemployment and/or high recent unassimilated migration rates, concern about immigration would not necessarily equate to xenophobia. Eastleigh can only be taken as a guide to I’m-alright-Jack wealthy suburban England, not to deprived rural or inner-city areas.

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About the author
John Band is a journalist, editor and market analyst, depending on who's asking and how much they're paying. He's also been a content director at a publishing company and a strategy consultant. He is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy and also blogs at Banditry.
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Reader comments

Good analysis John. I thought before I read this that the Lib Dems winning factor was standing a credible local (Local Government) candidate rather than parachuting in an A Lister from party HQ, and the results seem to reflect this. I live in Coventry where at least one (I suspect two) of the current Labour MPs will stand down before 2015. I hope Labour will learn from this and save us the inevitable circus that would come from, for example, Euan Blair standing in our city. I suspect not though.

There may not be a large Polish population in Eastleigh, but there is in Southampton, the nearest large(ish) city. It’s over 5% of the population.

That won’t bother most folk, but yes, there is always a part of the population that is uneasy about people talking foreign. Dunno why, it just seems to happen.

3. david walsh

Gathering postal votes is a long term process and the Lib Dems had been doing for years. UKIP, I suspect, had no real organised base in Eastleigh beyond a set of members who paid subs but probably did not attend meetings or undertake party work, so had to get their postal votes from a standing start – and that makes their percentage If correct)of PV’s even more striking.

If you live in Eastleigh and your main concern is immigration, it’s not that you’re lashing out because the system has failed you, and it’s not that you’re being culturally invaded – it’s that you don’t like being around foreigners.

You can draw many, sometimes opposing, conclusions from this analysis, but if the anti-immigration stance has resonance in areas where there is none, does that not mean that UKIP may have an even stronger support than we have supposed?

This is excellent, John, thank you! Exactly what I was asking after in the other thread.

Tim Fenton: based on the years I spent living there, Southampton’s interaction with xenophobia and racism is atypical by virtue of its long and, actually, quite proud history as a major port town. There’s been a noticeable and economically significant non-native/non-white population in the town for really a very long time. I know that’s also true of various other port towns (London, Liverpool); I just happen to know Soton reasonably well.

The poor of Southampton, and no question there’s a lot of them and they’ve been having a fairly shit time for about 30 years now, really don’t (or didn’t then) seem to care about the Indians, Poles, or Algerians. There are two groups, however, that they loathe and detest to the point of regular and persistent street violence.

The more casual animosity is against US sailors on shore leave, particularly their Navy: but they hated the middle-class students from the University. There were regular fights, stabbings, gangs of young men stalking students between campus and halls and attacking them in the street, occasional arson attacks on student rented houses, ‘revenge’ rapes, and so on. [1]

Mostly we’re talking about people living in Bevois Valley, Shirley, Portswood and Bitterne here. Eastleigh is on the other side of the Uni from any of that, and when I was there (and walking through it regularly to get to my *other* job, which was north of there) it was absolutely middle-class central. Felt like walking through Gerrards Cross or the Chalfonts; slightly less money, slightly fewer Mercs and Bentleys, but very much the same people.

Pagar: I may have this wrong, and I’m sure someone will tell me if I do. I seem to recall some pretty solid analysis during the previous two elections cycles which said that the conditions for far-right electability (BNP, UKIP, etc.) were not areas which actually have a lot of immigration or which are a long way from such centres, but from white neighbourhoods which are close to, but separated from, more integrated communities. That would certainly apply to Eastleigh, but would not apply to most of the rural Tory heartland, which should act as an insulating factor.

[1] I was as a barman and bouncer across a range of pubs and clubs in Bevois Valley, Ocean Village and other bits of the town centre, so I saw and broke up a good many of those fights personally. I was also twice selected as a target by the roving bands of scallys stalking the Highfield – Wessex Lane Halls route; which turned out to be a tactical error on their part.

6. Abdul Abulbul Emir

Mrs A says:

People in Eastleigh are xenophobic because they can see what’s happening to other places Abdul.

Some of these poor wretches are whiteflighters from the Smoke.

We should offer them all our comfort and support.

*eyes @6 carefully*

Is that a particularly dada-ist troll there, or is that a real person trying to make a comment I just don’t understand?

Yes, some people in Eastleigh are emigres from ‘the Smoke’ but I’d say most are not; most are the local middle-class success stories from Southampton and environs concentrating themselves into a nice little suburb, that’s handy for the Bargate but also nice and green, and close to the New Forest.

8. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 Chris

It’s a troll, but possibly the most charming one I’ve encountered.

@ OP

Very good stuff in general, thank you. But I think you’re putting too much weight on the “who is the best leader?” question. Remember people are saying who they think is best, not whether or not they like individual leaders. So a leader could actually be very popular but just tend to come out in second place. Or unpopular but seen as the least-worst option.

There may not be many immigrants, but there are surely foreigners about because it’s a port. But then, that’s been no different in the last 800 years. You’d think even a ‘kipper could see that they’d either better move or get used to it.

Anyway, John, good post. Are you sure about the LD/UKIP switchers? Because that’s genuinely astonishing if true; LDs and ‘kippers were the two most different groups in Chris Lightfoot’s political survey, and pretty much every effort to understand opinion empirically seems to end up by identifying a liberal-to-authoritarian spectrum.

…it’s not that you’re lashing out because the system has failed you, and it’s not that you’re being culturally invaded – it’s that you don’t like being around foreigners.

Of course, people might be concerned about immigration because of how they feel it is affecting the nation at large rather than their individual lives. Just as people vote Labour despite their own wealth or Green despite having solar panels and living an appreciable distance away from the sea.

Which is not to say that others don’t dislike foreigners, of course. There are a good few of those.

“Of course, people might be concerned about immigration because of how they feel it is affecting the nation at large rather than their individual lives.”

Yeah, but they’re wrong, aren’t they? We shouldn’t be afraid to tell people when they’re wrong.

Everyone: ta for nice comments.

Chaise: I take your point on leaders, but ultimately there are only four of them. The fact that most Kipper voters hate the other leaders, but still don’t think Farage is any better than them, is relevant I think.

Alex: yes. I think this fits with the fact that only 39% of LD voters in Eastleigh want a LD government. Remember, the LDs identifiers in Chris’s survey are national LDs; they’re the 15-20% of the population who believe in actual left-liberalism and whose votes are mostly wasted under FPTP.

That’s very different from a place like Eastleigh, or indeed any non-university constituency where the LDs have actual MPs. Actual LD MPs are elected through a coalition of left-liberals, people who hate [the other party], and people who think that Mike might be a bit beardy-sandally but does a good job for the constituency. It’s easy to imagine the latter two groups splitting UKIP even though the first group never will.

13. Richard W

Good analysis. Also important to note that what political activists and the ideologically obsessed will take from polling evidence and by-election results, is inversely related to the conclusions drawn by the people in touch with reality. For example, the unpopular Tory right will implore the less unpopular Mr Cameron to shift, er, right. Apparently somehow that is going to make the Conservatives more popular. What we are dealing with is the delusion shared by all the ideologically driven. Their chosen ideology only lacks traction and support because it is not pure enough. See the overlap between the activist and religion.

Tories who believe the way to win voters from leftwing parties is to become more righwing. Leftwingers who believe the way to win voters from rightwing parties is to become more leftwing. So one can conclude that the C2 workers voting for Mrs Thatcher were only doing so because Labour were not leftwing enough. If all that sounds absurd logic one should watch out for the vague appeal to an apparent great mass of voters who do not vote. The ideologue is always ready to claim them as desperate to vote for the ideologues preferred position. Not motivated enough to vote but ideologically switched on.

I think what the evidence shows is the Conservative party is in serious trouble. Core vote strategies are election losing strategies in FPTP voting systems. Shoring up your vote in areas where you would have won anyway only increases majorities in those constituencies. However, you will not win marginal seats where elections are won or lost. The Liberals will probably outperform their national polling at the next GE in those areas where they are already strong. For example, even if the LD fell to 1% in the national polls places such as Orkney and the Shetland Isles is never going to vote anything other than Liberal. Constituencies such as that will prevent a rout. What will be fascinating is how the tactical voters react in Con/LD marginals. They are often labelled Labour voters who vote LD to keep the Conservative out. On balance, a hung parliament with Labour the largest party looks the most likely outcome to me.

Fascinating stuff, johnb. Well done.

15. Charlieman

@13. Richard W: “The Liberals will probably outperform their national polling at the next GE in those areas where they are already strong. For example, even if the LD fell to 1% in the national polls places such as Orkney and the Shetland Isles is never going to vote anything other than Liberal. Constituencies such as that will prevent a rout.”

Orkney and the Shetland Isles is a fascinating region in the political sense. The two communities are economically different (Shetland still has loads of oil/gas money) but neither wishes to be run by Edinburgh. Jo Grimond used to crack a joke that he ran a two leaflet election campaign: one leaflet for Orkney and the other for Shetland.

Thinking out loud, I wonder how many other electorates feel “different” in the same sort of way. Rochdale seems that to me; not Yorkshire, not Manchester but part of a Lancashire that no longer exists. Similarly, Southport.

@OP, JohnB: Interesting analysis. Note the 11% LibDem consideration for Benefits/Poverty which reflects what may be the most immediate influence of LibDems in the coalition.

Avoiding the elephant in the room – the EU.

SBML: Do keep up. 15% of Eastleighites said they thought the EU was the most important political issue. 76% of them said they voted UKIP. They’re the ones I described as “Classic UKIP” in the text: they actually are anti-EU, rather than just hating everything.

Elephant in the room?

What UKIP voters haven’t yet come to realise is that if Britain leaves the EU, it will still be there making decisions about standards and – very importantly – on whether all trading in the Euro must be conducted in a financial centre located in the Eurozone. It would be a mistake to think that Eurozone politicians or bureaucrats aren’t going to push for their interests as hard as British politicians and bureaucrats press for ours.

In the news are proposals for extending a free-trade area to include the EU, America and Canada as well. That is to be welcomed as a trans-Atlantic free trade area would limit the harm that the EU could inflict on British interests if Britain were to leave the EU. I doubt that UKIP members have got to thinking about that.

19. Philip Fawkes

I am sorry to disagree with Mr John B,but I trod the steets of Eastleigh, Bishopstoke, Hedge End and Botley for ten solid days and let me assure him that immigration was just about the only issue on the voters’ mind. Many people on their doorsteps who told me, almost apologetically, that they would be voting LibDem or Tory (or Labour) followed up by saying that they agreed with UKIPs policies on Europe in general and border controls in particular, but didn’t want to let ‘the other lot in’. Which,I guess,is fair enough!

20. toryisinbred

Totally not baby-eating anti-immigrant daily mail reading loons.

P.S Harry Cole has joined (or unsurprisingly already) was the UKIP nut brigade quoting Gandhi and all

We’ve analysed the Eastleigh by-election result as well, and looked at how that result would leave the Lib-Dems if it was replicated at a general election. We’ve looked at each of the seats they hold – it makes sobering reading for Clegg.
Read on:

I like the post, although “sobering reading for Clegg” isn’t quite right – as you note, it involves the LDs doing a lot better than national polls would project. In addition, I’m very sceptical they’d lose the rural Scots seats, and there’s no way Cambridge is fruitbatty enough to go Kipper. But St Ives will be an interesting one, and it’s hard to disagree on the Labour marginals.

23. Dislecksick

UKIP are a product of Labour policy. Importing your votes because you lost the battle years ago and had to rely on Tory incompetance to get another sniff of power. With the new plan, you can breed out Tory supporters, and if anyone disagrees, call them a racist, get the press to hang them out to dry.

You know exactly what you are doing and once the public wake up, you will be nowhere. It’s a shame it will probably turn nasty at some point, I hope to god the public realise who the agitators were and reserve the lamp-posts for them and not poor people trying to improve their lives.

24. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Dislecksick

“Breed out”? Immigrants are immigrants, natch, but their children and grandchildren aren’t.

25. Planeshift

“(obvious caveat: Lord Ashcroft is a massive Tory supporter and has a great deal of incentive to try and stop the Tories going off the rails. However, based on the way the poll has been created and weighted, and the questions asked, it doesn’t appear to be the kind of misleading voodoo that occasionally gets reported as real polling”

It’s precisely this incentive that makes the poll a decent one – he understands the importance of reality based data rather than telling the tories what they want to hear.

UKIP supporters are not xenophobes. They are people that care about the country in which they live. They cost you and I money and most just send it back home. Go to any European country to live: you won’t get free healthcare, or a free house, or benefits of any kind. Why should we be different. For goodness sake, a school in Peterborough has no English-speaking children. This has got to stop!

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