Public perceptions of Ukip have deteriorated in the past year with many more voters now seeing the party as nasty, unprofessional and racist.
As Nigel Farage's party gathers for their spring conference in Margate, a new poll suggests that perceptions of his party have been badly damaged by claims that members hold racist and bigoted views.
A Comres poll for ITV found that forty-four per cent of voters told pollsters that Ukip are a "racist party" with just 36% disagreeing. This is up twelve points from last April and follows a series of revelations about racist views held by party members. Just last week the BBC revealed footage of a Ukip councillor Nigel Farage's constituency, speaking about her dislike of people with "negroid features".
Similar revelations over the past year appear to have damaged perceptions of the party with 37% of all voters now describing Ukip as "nasty," more than any other party.
The poll also calls into question Nigel Farage's credibility as leader. While twenty-five per cent described him as a "strong leader", this was down seven points from last year. Perceptions of the wider party are much worse. Forty-three per cent of voters described Ukip as "unprofessional" and 47% described them as "not credible" - up 11% from last year.
The deterioration in public perceptions follows a series of polls in recent weeks showing a significant reduction in their support nationally. It also follows several polls suggesting that Ukip will fail to win any of the key target seats they had hoped to win from the Conservatives in May.
The polls released by Lord Ashcroft last week revealed that Ukip are even on course to lose in a seat where they recorded their best result in last year's European elections. Other polls have also found Nigel Farage on course to lose in Thanet South. However a new poll, commissioned by a leading Ukip donor and released last night, suggests that he is on course for a comfortable victory there.