Labour lead by two points in this week’s Ashcroft National Poll, conducted over the past weekend. Though Ed Miliband’s party are static on 32%, the Conservatives are up three points to 30%, bring the Labour margin down from five points to the narrower advantage we have seen in recent weeks. It is also the first time in five weeks that the combined vote share of the two parties has exceeded 60%.
The Liberal Democrats are unchanged at 7%, UKIP down two points at 16%, the Greens down one at 6% and the SNP remain at 5%.
Last week I asked voters whether they expected the result of the election to be a Conservative government, a Labour government, or a coalition between either party and the Liberal Democrats. People were neatly divided between the four possible outcomes: one quarter expected a Tory victory, one quarter a Labour win, and another quarter a coalition involving the Lib Dems – which divided evenly over whether it would be Conservative- or Labour-led. (I think I am with the 21% who said they didn’t know what to expect).
But it is quite possible, of course, that neither of the largest parties will have enough seats to form a government, even when combined with the remaining Lib Dems. If that is the case, one option is for Cameron or Miliband to form a minority government, and another is for them to speak to one or more of the smaller parties. If the latter, which parties would people most (and least) like to see in a coalition government?
The party that the voters would most like to see in a coalition is the Greens, with 52% saying they would be happy and 42% unhappy to see them in government. This makes them a more popular choice than the Lib Dems, over whom voters were exactly divided (48% happy, 48% unhappy). Labour voters (62%) were more enthusiastic than Tories (42%) about the prospect of the Greens in government, but they were equally happy (52% and 51%) for the Lib Dems to be part of a coalition.
A majority of voters (55%) was unhappy at the idea of UKIP joining a coalition government. Conservative voters (39%) were more likely to be happy with the idea than Labour and Lib Dem voters (25%) – but a majority of Tories (58%) said they would be unhappy to see UKIP in government, including 39% saying they would be very unhappy. Indeed more Conservative voters said they would be happy to see the Greens (42%) or the Lib Dems (52%) in a coalition than Nigel Farage’s party. Overall 36% said they would be very unhappy to see UKIP in government – the highest score on that measure for any party other than Sinn Fein (48%).
Six in ten voters said they would be unhappy to see the Scottish National Party in a coalition government, including 77% of Tories and 53% of Labour voters. Indeed nearly one third (32%) of all voters said they would be “very unhappy” to see the SNP as part of a coalition – more than said the same of the DUP, the SDLP or Plaid Cymru. Though only 37% of voters said they would be happy to see the Welsh nationalists in government, their general inoffensiveness gave them the third highest “net happiness” score, behind the Greens and the Lib Dems.