For the fourth week running the Conservatives and Labour are within one point of each other in the Ashcroft National Poll. The headline result is a reversal of that of the last two weeks: over the past weekend I found Labour a point ahead on 30%, the Tories second on 29%, and the Liberal Democrats down one on 9%. UKIP, the Greens and the SNP remain unchanged at 16%, 7% and 4% respectively.
This is the third consecutive week in which Labour and the Conservatives have commanded a vote share of less than 60% between them. This lack of enthusiasm for the incumbents or their main alternatives is reflected in people’s preferences for the outcome of the general election.
Just under a third (32%) said they would like to see a Labour government, with a further 10% opting for a Labour-Lib Dem coalition. This combined total is down seven points since I last asked this question in September. However, the Conservatives have not benefited from this decline; 36% said they wanted to see the Tories in government, either alone (26%) or in coalition with the Lib Dems (10%), an increase of just one point over the last two months. The biggest increase was among those who say they don’t know what kind of government they want to see after next May, up six points to 22%.
One third of UKIP voters would rather see Labour in office, either alone or in coalition, while four in ten would prefer a Conservative overall majority. Only three quarters of Conservative voters and four in five Labour voters said they wanted to see their own party govern alone after the election: 16% of Tories and 13% of Labour voters said they would rather be in coalition with the Lib Dems.
Even so, this week’s sample were slightly more benevolent in the ratings they gave to individual established parties and leaders than they were in early September – with the exception of Ed Miliband. Voters were asked how positive or negative they felt about each on a scale from –100 to +100. David Cameron was the only leader to score a net positive rating (+0.85) among swing voters, and the only leader to score higher overall than his party. Nigel Farage and UKIP both slipped slightly among voters as a whole but continue to receive the highest ratings of any party among their own voters (of the other three, the Conservatives score best among their own supporters). Miliband was the only leader to get a lower score among swing voters – who don’t know how they will vote or say they may change their minds – than among the electorate as a whole.