(Reuters) – The UKIP party will likely top European elections on Thursday or come a close second, according to opinion polls that suggest a barrage of criticism accusing it of racial slurs and bigotry has failed to put off voters.
All three of Britain’s three main political parties have strongly criticised the UK Independence Party (UKIP), which wants Britain to leave the European Union and to impose much tougher immigration controls, prompting the party to take out an advert in a national newspaper to assert that it is not racist.
Large swaths of the press, including tabloid The Sun newspaper, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., have joined the fray. This week, The Sun asked readers whether they thought UKIP leader Nigel Farage was a “bigoted menace”.
But two polls published on Wednesday, on the eve of the European vote, the last major political test before a national election next year, suggested the sustained criticism was not deterring UKIP supporters.
One poll, by YouGov for The Sun, had UKIP tied with the opposition Labour party on 27 percent, placing Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party on 23 percent. When only those who were certain to vote were counted, YouGov said UKIP had a 5 percentage point lead.
A second poll for The Daily Mirror by Survation also had UKIP tied with Labour, this time on 29 percent. But again, when it took into account likelihood to vote and awareness of the vote, it credited UKIP with a 5 percentage point lead.
“UKIP voters told Survation they are both more likely to vote and more aware of the date of Thursday’s European election” than supporters of the other parties, the pollster said.
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