LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s UK Independence Party (UKIP) was forecast on Sunday to win the most British votes in European parliamentary elections later this month, despite a poll showing the party is seen as racist by 27 percent of voters.
The survey results are not the first to show UKIP winning what is expected to be a closely fought election battle with Labour on May 22, reflecting the party’s growing support despite controversy over some of its campaign tactics.
A poll of voting intentions at the European elections in the Sunday Times put UKIP on 29 percent, 1 percentage point ahead of Labour, while a second survey in the Sun on Sunday gave UKIP a 3 point lead over Labour.
Both polls showed Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives in third place, with 22 and 23 percent of the vote respectively.
UKIP’s campaign for an immediate exit from the EU and tougher rules on immigration has drawn support primarily away from Cameron’s Conservatives in the southeast of England, but is also targeting voters in traditionally Labour-held areas in the north.
Party leader Nigel Farage says he hopes success in the European elections will help the party win seats at a national election in 2015.
The polls also showed that UKIP’s support had not been damaged by accusations of racism, after a controversial poster campaign last month and scandals involving junior party members. [ID:nL6N0NE40H]
More than a quarter of respondents in the Sun on Sunday’s poll said the party had racist views and racist members and supporters.
Thirty-five percent said the party itself was not racist, but that it attracted members with “racist, extreme or odd” views, while 26 percent said they were not racist at all.
Farage said on Sunday the party was non-racist and non-sectarian, but he conceded mistakes had been made in the past when accepting new members.
Reporting by William James; editing by Andrew Roche