Monday, 2 February 2015

Ashcroft National Poll: Con 31%, Lab 31%,UKIP 15%, Green 9%, Lib Dem 8%

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Labour and the Conservatives are once again tied in this week’s Ashcroft National Poll. Both parties are down a point at 31%, with UKIP on 15% for the third consecutive week and the Greens unchanged on 9%. The Lib Dems are up two points at 8%.
The SNP are up a point at 4%, but Britain-wide polls are not the best measure of the party’s impact. My constituency research, covering individual Scottish seats, will provide a better guide when it is published on Wednesday. (Sign up for news alerts to get the results straight to your inbox).
This week I found swing voters – who either say they don’t know how they will vote or that they may change their mind from their current party – closely divided over whether “the country is heading in the right direction and we need to stay on the same path” (47%) or “the policies of the last few years have failed and it is time for a change” (49%). Labour voters (70%) and UKIP supporters (63%) were the most likely to say it was time for a change, and overall the electorate opted for change by 51% to 45%.
As to the principal change on offer, Labour had made no progress on the perceptions that have held back the party’s progress. Nearly six in ten (58%) thought the party had “not yet learned the right lessons from what went wrong during their time in government, and cannot yet be trusted to run the country again” – down just one point since I asked the question last September. Just over a quarter (26%) said they thought Labour had learned the right lessons and could now be trusted, while 17% said the last Labour government “did a pretty good job and I don’t think they have to learn lessons in order for me to be happy for them to run the country again.”
When it came to specific reservations, 63% of voters (up five points since September), including 41% of those who currently intended to vote Labour, said one of the reservations they had about the party was that “they might spend and borrow more than the country can afford”. Nearly as many of the electorate as a whole (60%), and even more current Labour voters (44%), said one of their reservations was that “I don’t think Ed Miliband would be a very good Prime Minister”. A similar overall proportion (61%), including 36% of Labour voters and 70% of swing voters, said one of their concerns was that the party has “not made clear what they would do to improve things.”
These feelings were echoed in my latest round of focus groups, held last week with undecided voters in the marginal seats of Sutton & Cheam and Elmet & Rothwell. One development, however, is that people are at least starting to notice that the election will soon be upon them. Even so, the process story of the TV debates continues to be heard above any matters of substance. For most people it was clear that David Cameron was trying to avoid taking part. While his reasons were understandable as far as his own interests were concerned (“it’s because he struggles with the UKIP leader. But don’t we all”), he was starting to look to some like a “debate dodger” who ought to be more willing to submit himself to questioning “out of their comfort zone”. Notably, though, those who were already the most hostile to the PM argued this point the most strongly. Downing Street evidently judges, probably rightly, that this impression will ultimately be less damaging than taking part in the debates on the wrong terms.

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