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In the study, published by The Royal Statistical Society's journal, Significance, the Oxford University researchers tracked the views of 22,300 people across the UK, surveying them first in February 2014 and then in the autumn of the same year, on the leadership qualities of David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage.
They were asked to rate each on a 10-point scale, according to who they 'strongly liked' or 'strongly disliked', and also gave information about other issues likely to affect their voting behaviour. The researchers found that among those surveyed over seven or eight months, Farage attracted around 17% of new support to UKIP, with a personal rating ‘far higher’ among the vote-switchers than for any other party leader.
Even those who had left UKIP were only slightly less positive towards Farage. However, the study highlights that less than 75% of those surveyed who said they backed UKIP initially were still supporting them later, compared with 85% for the Conservatives and 84% for Labour. The study shows how UKIP depends far more than other parties on its leader’s own popularity for winning votes.