Friday, 3 May 2013

Blown away: How much impact did wind farms have on the UKIP vote?

UKIP's rapid rise has led to certain gaps in their policy platform. The party's core issues of immigration and Europe have been fully articulated but the rest of the platform is still in a state of flux. Another line of policy has been to take up various "NIMBY" (not in my back yard) issues. For instance, their Yorkshire and Lincolnshire webpage gives high prominence to the wind farms. In fact it's the only policy area mentioned on the site other than Europe.

So what should we make of this NIMBY focus? Is it a key part of their appeal or just window dressing around their core anti-immigration/EU message? 

Taking a first look at this, I've compared the UKIP performance in wards where there is a wind farm to those without one. I was helped in this by a wikipedia article listing the coordinates of all onshore wind farms in the UK (I am very intrigued about who put this together) and the ever useful mapit API. 

For now I'm simply analysing the difference across the BBC's keywards (those councils that they analyse in detail) that have declared results  (as of 3.31pm 3/5/2013), so these results are very preliminary. Among these wards, 19 have wind farms and 14 of these have UKIP candidates standing.

In these 14 wards UKIP averaged 32.7% of the vote, this compares with a share elsewhere of 24.6% (n = 1170). If this is robust (a big if), it would make the presence of wind farms one of the biggest effect on UKIP share.

Of course, it may simply be that UKIP does well in rural areas, which also tend to be the ones containing wind farms. 

A quick regression analysis suggests that this isn't the case. Although the difference is not quite as large as the raw figures, they still perform 6 percentage points better in wards with wind farms that those without. 

UKIP 2013 share
Population density

Wind Farm


* p<0.05; ** p<0.01

So the analysis so far suggests that NIMBY issues may have some potential for UKIP. 

But wind farms are only relevant to a small number of wards. A second NIMBY issue that might have more wider relevance is High Speed 2. The proposed route of the train line cuts through many councils being counted today. UKIP have been slower to jump on this issue, but we can look at whether it's helped their vote. The potentially affected postcodes are listed by and were coded up using mapit.

Unlike their wind farm success, the regression suggests that there is little difference in UKIP performance in wards affected by HS2.

UKIP 2013 share
Population density



* p<0.05; ** p<0.01

So far then, UKIP's share does not appear to have been driven primarily by NIMBY issues. Their possible success in mobilizing support around wind farms has not been replicated for HS2, which is potentially much more widely relevant. 

The lack of an effect of HS2 might be seen as a missed opportunity for UKIP. However, it also underscores a positive result for them: their strong showing is not merely the result of canny use of local issues but a genuine national shift in their favour. 

  • These are obviously preliminary results and there may be other factors to control for. I hope to analyse some of these in future posts.
  • The worst affected HS2 postcodes are in Buckinghamshire which the BBC is not covering due to large boundary changes. 
  • It is questionable whether these effects should be seen at ward level or perhaps at district level. I'll look at this question in more detail later.
  • Obviously correlation =/= causation.
  • Ideally, I would show the regression for the changes in the shares since 2009 and 2005 but UKIP has fielded candidates in so many new locations, that there simply aren't enough results for comparison.
  • This blogpost does not reflect the opinion of the BBC or my department. 

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