Its electoral support is higher in rural areas and among older, white and male voters.
According to a detailed survey of 2010 Ukip general election candidates conducted by the University of Leicester, more than a third, 41 per cent, were company managers, senior administrators or small business owners.
Almost half were disillusioned ex-members of other parties, mostly Conservatives. Only a small number of candidates, around 7 per cent, saw themselves as being left of centre, with two-thirds placing themselves on the right.
More bizarrely, 39 per cent of Ukip candidates regarded the Tories as being on the left, while at least a quarter put Labour and the Lib Dems on the far left.
While unsurprisingly most of them prioritised the EU and immigration as key issues for their own party, substantial majorities also wanted Ukip to campaign hard on the economy, “civil liberties” – against progressive taxation, the EU and human rights legislation – education, health, climate change (for a sceptical position) and against “Islamic extremism.”
The potential breadth of support for Ukip is both its strength and its weakness.
It means that ultra-leftist talk about trying to operate a “no platform” policy against Ukip is impractical, deluded and utterly diversionary. It is also inconsistent unless the same approach is applied to the Tories and Labour.
Embroiling the left in a series of high-profile moves to ban or disrupt Ukip publicly will not be widely understood, allowing a hostile media and other right-wing forces to portray socialists as violent, anti-democratic and deserving of exclusion themselves.
Unlike the BNP, Ukip is not a criminal conspiracy organised by fascist thugs who would happily see their political opponents, ethnic minorities and even rival fascists killed.
At the same time, it is the breadth of potential Ukip support which of necessity contains its weak spots.
For instance, the party has to project an economic policy. At present, this is to cut most public spending, slash VAT and employers’ National Insurance contributions, abolish two million jobs in the public sector and replace them with one million in manufacturing, notably in armaments production.
Yet the failure of this approach is already evident in Chancellor George Osborne’s approach, as spending power continues to decline, unemployment rises, private investment stagnates and Britain hovers on the edge of another recession.
Predictably, Ukip opposes the renationalisation of gas, electricity, water or the railways – although Labour so far refuses to steal a march by adopting such popular policies itself.
Letting prices and profits rip in the private sector has not boosted economic growth or sufficient job creation. Yet Ukip has no policies to compel the capitalists, especially in the City of London, to invest.
Instead, the party wants to make the rich even richer through tax cuts, including the abolition of inheritance tax altogether.
Ever the populist, though, Nigel Farage wants to ditch its “flat tax” rate for all incomes at 31 per cent, proposed at the last general election, in favour of a two-tier rate capped at 40 per cent.
The rich would still benefit, but not enough for the majority on the Ukip national executive – who apparently want an even lower single rate of 25 per cent.
Far from demanding the elimination of corporate tax-dodging, multimillionaire Farage supports Jersey’s rotten tax haven status and wants Britain itself to emulate it.
How many people who voted for Ukip on May 2 realised they were supporting a party whose 2010 general election manifesto proposed the wholesale privatisation of NHS services and voucher systems that would lead to the mass closure of hospitals and schools?
Despite mistakes and weaknesses in the devolution process, the people of Scotland and Wales overwhelmingly support their elected parliaments, not least because they offer some shield against the austerity and privatisation drive of the Tory-led regime in London.
They need to be reminded that Ukip continued to oppose the existence of these democratic national institutions even after their establishment.
Retreating in the teeth of public opinion, the party now calls for them to be downgraded to occasional meetings of each country’s Westminster MPs.
This is consistent with Ukip hostility to multiculturalism, which the party shares with Prime Minister David Cameron.
The only principled alternative is to argue for the profound benefits that flow from the multicultural, multi-ethnic, multinational society that we – the working people of Britain – have created. The cultural variety, the infusions of talent and energy, the international links.
Why should working-class communities allow themselves to be divided by the carping, snivelling bigots who govern the political Establishment and the mass media – and who invariably live far way from any fall-out from their racist poison?
Nor is there any need for the left and the labour movement to evade issues of asylum and immigration.
Offering sanctuary to people fleeing religious, ethnic or political persecution is the hallmark of a civilised society.
Enabling workers to escape from desperate economic conditions is mutually beneficial, although serious questions of social and economic provision have to be addressed.
Ukip bemoans pressures on health, education and other community services in areas of high immigration – while advocating policies to slash those services to save the rich and big business from paying their proper share of tax.
Britain’s racist immigration and nationality laws should be opposed because they are racist. Most communists and socialists recognise that states should have the right to control the movement of goods, services, capital and labour.
An “open door” immigration policy without regulating the other economic factors may enrich super-exploiting employers and slum landlords, but it does not benefit the working class as a whole.
In the EU, Britain has just such an “open door” for mostly white European and Commonwealth countries, while the door is shutting for everyone else.
Significantly, Ukip has nothing to say about EU Court of Justice rulings in the Viking, Laval, Ruffert and Luxembourg cases which allow employers of migrant labour to undermine national state policies and collective agreements that protect the pay, conditions and rights of all workers.
This raises the ways in which much of the labour movement and the left have contributed directly to the rise of Ukip.
Robert Griffiths is general secretary of the Communist Party and a contributor to 21centurymanifesto