The Labour lead is down to five points in this week’s Ashcroft National Poll, conducted between Friday and Sunday. Labour are down two points to 33%, with the Conservatives down one to 28%, the Liberal Democrats up one to 9% and UKIP up two on 17%. Other parties account for 14%, including the Greens up one point on 7%.
Just over half of all voters said they would definitely vote for their chosen party next May, with 47% saying they may yet change their mind. Labour supporters (63%) and Conservatives (59%) were the most likely to be certain how they will vote. Those who said they would vote UKIP were evenly divided as to whether they were certain to stay with the party (51% said they would definitely vote that way, 49% that they may end up voting differently), and 63% of Lib Dems said they may switch.
I asked people whether they thought each of the four main parties had certain attributes. The Conservatives were most likely to be thought to possess three: being “willing to take tough decisions for the long term” (with 50% saying this was true of the party), being “competent and capable” (42%) and having “clear ideas to deal with Britain’s problems” (41%). The Tories’ lowest scores included “standing for fairness” (32%) and being “on the side of people like me” (31%).
Labour led in six areas: having its “heart in the right place” (52%), standing for fairness (50%), being “reasonable and sensible” (46%, just two points ahead of the Tories), “shares my values” (41%), being “on the side of people like me” (41%) and being “honest and principled” (only 38%, but ahead of the other parties on this measure).
While the Tories lagged behind on some of these character attributes, Labour’s lowest scores included having clear ideas to deal with Britain’s problems (34%) and being competent and capable (37%). With just months until an election, which of these two combinations of qualities would Ed Miliband choose for his party? To put it another way, when it comes to choosing a government, will voters value empathy over ability?
Despite everything, the Liberal Democrats scored highly on having their heart in the right place (43%) and standing for fairness (42%) – something that voters have continued to associate with the party even if they are not convinced Nick Clegg has been able to put his principles into effect in government. Only around one fifth of voters thought the Lib Dems were united, competent or had clear ideas.
Perhaps not surprisingly, UKIP’s most recognised attribute was that it “says things that need to be said that other parties are scared to say” (57%). Despite this, only 27% thought the party was “reasonable and sensible” (the lowest score for any party on this measure) and just 29% thought UKIP shared their values. People seem more likely to acknowledge UKIP for saying the unsayable on certain issues than to think the party is speaking for them more generally – indeed the proportion saying UKIP were “on the side of people like me” (33%) was little higher than for the Conservatives (31%). Even so, it will be the Tories who should be more exercised by the fact that only just over three voters in ten think the party is fighting their corner.