The Conservatives have taken a one-point lead in this week’s Ashcroft National Poll, conducted over the past weekend. All changes since last week’s tie are small, with the Tories dropping a point to 30% and Labour down two points on 29%. UKIP are down two at 16%, and the Liberal Democrats up three to 10%, the first time they have broken into double figures in the ANP since July: we will see over the coming weeks whether this heralds the start of a sustained recovery. The Greens are up one point at 6% and the SNP have 5%.
Though these changes and the Tory lead are within the margin of error, the longer term story shows that while the Conservatives remain in the centre of their 30% zone, Labour are continuing their slow but unmistakeable decline in the ANP, from highs of 36% in July and 35% in early September. This is the first week in which Labour have dropped below 30% in my poll, and the second time the two leading parties have scored less than 60% between them.
Comparing the data tables from today and Labour’s high point in the summer helps to illustrate the party’s problems. In the ANP published on 14 July, Labour had attracted 31% of 2010 Lib Dem voters naming a party, but lost 12% of their own 2010 voters to UKIP (9%) and the Greens (3%). This week, only 26% of former Lib Dems naming a party said they would vote Labour, while 16% of former Labour voters had switched to UKIP (11%) or the Greens (5%). These findings are based on relatively small numbers, and like all polls this week’s ANP is a snapshot; we will watch to see whether these trends persist. At the same time, the SNP’s share in Scotland has more than doubled over the period, mostly at the expense of Labour. A nationwide poll has too few interviews in Scotland to draw firm conclusions, but the direction is clear and I will be examining the implications in specific Scottish seats as part of my battleground research programme.
There is further bad news for Labour in the small shift towards David Cameron as people’s preferred Prime Minister since I last asked the question on the ANP in mid-June. Overall 61% said they either that they were satisfied with Cameron’s performance (31%, up two points) or dissatisfied but preferred him to Ed Miliband (30%, no change). Men were more likely than women to say they were satisfied with Cameron (by 34% to 28%), while women were more likely to see him as the least bad option.
Less than a quarter (24%, down four points) said they would rather see Miliband as PM, including just one in five swing voters and only 13% of UKIP supporters – though a clear majority of these said they saw Cameron as the better of two unsatisfactory alternatives.
Only just over half (55%) of Labour voters said they would rather see Miliband in Number Ten. Even so, they had still said they would vote Labour in an election tomorrow. When polling day comes, will they compromise on their preferred party or their preferred leader?
Two weeks ago in the ANP I found that people were slightly more likely to think they and the country would have been worse off than better off had Labour remained in government since 2010, but more likely still to think it would have made no difference either way.
This week I asked how people saw their future prospects under either party. A majority (57%) said it would make no difference to their own situation whether the Conservatives or Labour were in government over the next five years – but a higher proportion thought they would be better off under the Tories (23%) than under Labour (16%). Men (27%) were more likely to think they would be better off under the Conservatives than women (19%); women (61%) were more likely than men (54%) to say it would make no difference who was in government. UKIP voters were much more likely to think they would be better off with the Conservatives (34%) than under Labour (6%).
While 62% of Tory voters said they expected to be better off with a Conservative government, only 44% of Labour voters thought their prospects would be better with their own party in charge. A majority of Labour voters (55%) thought it would make no difference to their own prosperity which party was in office.