By politics.co.uk staff
Two national polls have put Ukip in third place on 14%, in a major boost for Nigel Farage's party.
The eurosceptic right-wingers were placed ahead of the Liberal Democrats in two out of the three major polls released today, in a development only likely to increase pressure on David Cameron to agree to an in/out referendum on Europe in the next parliament.
A poll by ComRes for the Sunday Mirror had Ukip's support leaping forward six points since November, up to 14%. It placed the Lib Dems on nine per cent, with Labour down four points on 39% and the Tories down three on 28%.
Research by Omnium for the Observer newspaper saw Ukip up one point to 14%, with the Lib Dems slipping one to eight per cent. Labour re-established a ten-point lead over the Conservatives, on 39% and 29% respectively.
A third poll, by YouGov for the Sunday Times, had Ukip on eight per cent – one point behind the Lib Dems on nine per cent. It put Labour on 45% and the Conservatives on 33%.
Some polling experts say Ukip's rise reflects the party's new status as the de facto protest vote against the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition.
Its eurosceptic arguments are likely to have a significant impact on the right wing of David Cameron's Conservative party, however.
Tory backbencher Claire Perry has warned a split eurosceptic vote between her party and Ukip's could result in a Lib-Lab coalition entering government in 2015.
"If you vote Ukip and you cost the Conservatives a majority, you could end up with a pact that has Vince Cable and Ed Miliband as your chancellor and prime minister, and frankly I don't think that's a team that's going to be very eurosceptic," she told politics.co.uk in our podcast on the rise of Ukip.
"That's the choice people should be thinking about when they go to the ballot boxes."
Ukip's progress in opinion polls reflects its recent second place in November's Rotherham by-election. Farage has claimed the party is now the "third force" in British politics and is on track to win outright in 2014's European elections.
Speaking on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme, Farage singled out the Tories' support for gay marriage as a policy which will cost David Cameron's party dear come the 2015 general election.
"It is the Conservative party support that will suffer most from this proposal," he said.
"It wasn't in Cameron's manifesto. There was no public call to do this and yet he is pursuing headlong a policy that is going to enormously damage and split his own party, particularly in the shires.
"I think gay marriage is one of those issues where attitudes in big metropolitan centres compared to the shires are very, very sharply different."
Farage has predicted Ukip has an "absolutely realistic" chance of winning the 2014 European elections. Ukip finished four in 1999, third in 2004 and second in 2009.