What are the drivers that determine where the voter will place their cross on 7th May? As a UKIP supporter do not try to answer that question from your own point of view. You’re biased, so am I for that fact, but I will attempt to do an “out of body” experience and lift myself above my feelings to answer it.
I’d suggest these are the main drivers:
- Peer Group pressure
- Objective analysis.
- The over-riding factor
We’ll examine them and consider how UKIP can break down any barriers that each presents to us.
I define this as how one’s forbears and relations have generally voted, often along social lines. Given that in the last 100 years we have mostly lived in a world of 2-party politics, the Liberal Democrats playing a bit part for much of it, the social division is clear between the Labour-supporting working class, mostly employed in physical industries, and the Conservative-voting middle class, mostly employed in professional, managerial and clerical jobs. This has deeply ingrained itself into many families.
However, historic election results reveal floating voters, prepared to walk away from the stereotype of their forbears, as perhaps best characterised by the social climbing Harold in Steptoe and Son. Also, the floating voters may better be accounted with the other factors below. Did the existence of state Grammar Schools from 1948 till around 1980 help floating them in a Tory direction, and has the reduced social mobility since closing most of them reversed that?
This factor has also tended to divide the nation into north and south with more industry in the north, and more administration in the south. That divide has polarised in recent years on the political map. The breakdown of this divide by UKIP is focused on the north. The working classes (many of whom are non-working now) need to be shown how Labour is no longer the party of the workers (more of non-workers). This hereditary factor is the hardest one to break, and I suggest that the most effective method is through the hard slog of door-to-door canvassing.
Peer Group Pressure
This is how one perceives one’s peers are mostly voting, and being swayed by that. It manifests itself mostly in higher education and certain types of state employment, where the very purpose of the department almost precludes employment of someone with UKIP (or even “Conservative”) leanings.
The scariest element of this is that pertaining in many of our Universities, where vociferous left-wing minorities in control of Student Unions exclude UKIP speakers or ban the forming of UKIP Societies on campus, for fear of “discomfort”. The arrogance of shutting down free speech in this way is contemptible, but I won’t drone on about it.
How do we break it down? To be honest, I really don’t know. However, I see a glimmer of hope. In my town, the Grammar school 6th Forms are having mock elections, they have allowed “parties” to form within the schools (the rules for the engagement set by the Headmasters) including UKIP, and the leader of one of those “parties” tells me he reckons UKIP are leading the poll in the school.
There’s also another factor at work here. If your peer group puts pressure on you to do one thing, and you have your doubts over it, but feel you cannot express it verbally, what do you do? You go and express it another way, don’t you? In that polling booth, you can put your cross exactly where you want, no one need ever know, indeed you can return to the peer group and lie through your teeth!
While it would be nice to think that many would analyse the policies on offer and make an objective voting decision, I do not believe many people do this. Ask yourself if your decision to join or back UKIP was thoroughly objective? My own experience was that I was “feeling” it was the right thing to do, and then I went and read the policies (yes, the rubbished 2010 Manifesto but it wasn’t all that awful) which only confirmed my feeling, but how biased was I when I started to read it?
We all have our political prejudices. I cannot see how anyone could vote Green after reading their full set of policies, for example, but how many Green voters would do that? Precious few, is the answer.
However, our leaflets and other material must be both fact-based, to appeal to the objective element in the voter as well as appealing to their feelings on the big-hitting policies. It is only through those facts that we can hope to over-ride some of the deeply held hereditary and peer group drivers.
The Over-riding Factor
Some people will have one aspect of policy that overwhelms all others. The most vociferous such group, I would say, are the Animal Rightists. For example, I have had an angry email from a member who wanted to resign because Nigel said he wanted fox-hunting to return, albeit within the framework of County by County referendums.
However, the most frequent over-riding factor is the economy as characterised by the statement about “Basildon man” in 1983 who, in the polling booth, felt his heart and wanted to vote Labour, then his wallet, and voted Tory. And for many years, it has been the economy that has been top of the “Issues Survey” conducted by IPSOS-MORI, so it is a key factor. Fortunately, our economic case is getting stronger and stronger, we are doing an economic balance on our policies, we do have the scope for relatively painless cuts the other parties won’t have (EU Subs, Foreign Aid, HS2, shutting Quangos and Ministries) and it’s beginning to look like a good case.
But, in recent years, the top factor is immigration. On the doorsteps, voter after voter tells us about the problem – other than propose an effective solution, we have to do very little here – LibLabCon are doing very nicely for us with their total inability to solve the problem while in the EU.
I believe that on the “Objective Analysis” and “Over-riding Factor” drivers UKIP comes out on top. Hauling in the votes to overcome the Hereditary and Peer Group factors is something that will take time, but that promises the future will be rosier for UKIP than it is today.