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In the run-up to the 2015 General Election, members of the ESRC-funded British Election Study (BES) and their colleagues answer questions about the possible election outcomes and what might influence them. Which parties will do well and why?

From which parties will Ukip win votes in 2015? “We find that Ukip will inflict much more damage on the Conservative Party in the 2015 General Election than on Labour. Many of Labour’s core supporters, who could be expected to support anti-EU and anti-immigration positions of Ukip, had already deserted their party between 2001 and 2010 as a reaction to Blair’s New Labour project. They have since moved to UKIP, in many cases stopping off at the Conservatives on the way. So while much of the damage has already been done to Labour, the switch from the Conservatives to Ukip is still happening: in Labour constituencies Ukip can be expected to take far more votes from opposition parties than from Labour itself.” Professor Geoff Evans and Dr Jon Mellon,

University of Oxford

How big is the representation gap? “A sizeable segment of the British public sees none of the political parties as electorally attractive, and is thus not well represented. One of the most important drivers of this lack of representation is perceived lack of differentiation between the parties, particularly between the Conservatives and Labour. The consequences of this representation deficit are strongly depressed rates of attention, involvement and participation.” Professor Cees van der Eijk, University of


Where will the parties do well and badly in 2015? “Dramatic changes are in store for the geography of electoral competition in May 2015 with important implications for seats. The doubling of SNP support in Scotland presages big Labour losses north of the border and potentially a pivotal role for the SNP in a hung parliament. The geography of Liberal Democrat support in the BES suggests even greater losses for the party than the already

Growing SNP support in Scotland might signal big Labour losses north of the border and a pivotal role for the SNP in a hung parliament

dire overall vote share in the polls. And despite the important effects of the substantial rise of Ukip on the shares of the vote for the two main parties, Ukip are not set to win many seats nor have a disproportionate effect on the competition for seats between the two main parties in their key marginals.” Dr Stephen Fisher, University of Oxford Does it matter how your friends vote? “The smaller parties are at a disadvantage insofar as fewer people have Ukip or Lib Dem discussion partners and are therefore less likely to hear positive messages of support about those parties. This matters because having no friends to corroborate a party preference leads to higher chances of defection. Conversely, having friends and family who support a party substantially

“ Ukip isn’t reaching the

parts of the electorate that other parties cannot reach

increases the chances of switching to that party. The trouble for less well established parties is that despite the larger parties being increasingly unpopular, there is a very long way to go before any more than a handful of voters can say “if they’re good enough for my friends, they’re good enough for me.”

Professor Ed Fieldhouse, University of Manchester Is Ukip reaching the parts of the electorate other parties cannot reach? “It’s not necessarily true that Ukip is winning votes from the disillusioned who think politicians are all the same and who have stopped participating in British elections. Our BES data show quite clearly that Ukip isn’t reaching the parts of the electorate that other parties cannot reach. It does show that Ukip is picking up support from those who distrust politicians, but crucially this support is significantly higher among those who tend to vote in general elections. Political distrust and disaffection is an important part of Ukip’s success. However, to assume that Ukip is outperforming all other parties in reaching those disengaged from politics is either premature or simply incorrect.” Professor Jane Green, University of Manchester The importance of the Europe question “European integration seems to be a hot issue for the electorate. This is at least what the central actors in politics believe. Otherwise, how would the current PM require serious renegotiation


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