The UK Independence Party: Understanding a Niche Party’s Strategy, Candidates and Supporters

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) came second in the 2009 European elections, but niche parties associated with a single issue face a dilemma about how to progress. On one hand, if they move too far beyond their core issue, they risk losing their distinctive position and support base. On the other, if they are to grow their representation, they need to develop a broader platform and this can provoke internal tensions. We assess the political attitudes and views on party strategy of UKIP candidates using surveys at the 2009 European and 2010 general election, and compare them with the views of UKIP supporters using opinion poll data. We demonstrate that UKIP’s candidates and supporters are closely aligned, with both groups being strongly Eurosceptic, favouring tighter immigration policies and distrusting the main parties. We also show that UKIP’s leadership and candidates wish to extend the party’s narrative, but differences remain over what issues it should focus on, as well as over competition with the Conservatives and UKIP’s role in the European Parliament.