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Reuters Marginal Constituencies poll - Wave 5

Published:3 May 2010
Fieldwork:30 April - 2 May
Sub-Theme:Political Monitor
Source:Ipsos MORI / Reuters
Keywords:2010 British general election, Marginals, Politics/Political, Voting intention
(Click on keywords to find related Research)

Con 36% (+1), Lab 36% (-2), Lib Dem 20% (-1)

The last of our polls in key marginal constituencies, Ipsos MORI’s new poll for Reuters suggests that the Conservatives are inching towards a majority with a 7% swing from 2005 in these key battleground constituencies. However, given that national polls are suggesting the Conservatives are more likely to lose seats to the Liberal Democrats than gain from them, this majority is not necessarily guaranteed.

Interviews were conducted on 30th April – 2nd May 2010.

Voting intentions

Voting intentions (among registered voters who are absolutely certain to vote) in these key constituencies are Conservative 36%, Labour 36%, Liberal Democrat 20%, Others 8%. This is a 7% swing to the Conservatives since 2005 and would just get the Tories enough seats for a majority - in theory - but given that they are more likely to lose seats to Lib Dems than gain from them, they probably need more than 7% now. So the picture remains one in which the Tories are inching towards a majority, although this is not necessarily guaranteed. In terms of actual millions of projected votes, Labour is weaker than in last week's poll and weaker than the Conservatives - the swing is not just, as in previous weeks, the effect of those who have become more certain of voting being disproportionately supporters of one party. Nevertheless, the swing should be viewed with some caution since it is well within the statistical margin of error.

Certainty of voting in these constituencies has increased steadily over the last month, and a total of 78% of adults now say that they are absolutely certain to vote, compared to 71% in Wave 4. However, for the first time this poll now excludes those who say they are not registered to vote; when we recalculate the figures to include these people for comparability, the rise is from 71% to 74%. Conservative voters are slightly more certain to vote (86%) than Labour supporters (79%) and on a par with Lib Dem supporters (84%).

One in seven (14%) say they have changed their mind about who to vote for in the last week – if this is true, there has been far more to-ing and fro-ing under the surface than the net changes suggest. The Conservatives and Labour have gained equally – 11% of their current support is from people who say they have switched in the last week. The total number supporting the Liberal Democrats, including those who are not certain that they will vote, has dropped slightly (from 18% to 16%) among those who are less certain to vote – perhaps as a result of supporters realising there is little chance of them winning in these Lab-Con constituencies.

More than a third (36%) still say they may change their minds about who to vote for, although this has fallen sharply since last week, and the figure remains high (31%) even among those who are certain to vote. The Labour vote is “softer” than Conservative vote (35% vs. 26% saying they may change their minds). Lib Dem support is predictably softest of all at 48%. Tory and Labour supporters who may change their minds are more likely to switch to the Lib Dems or other smaller parties, rather than switching between the Conservative and Labour parties. In addition, more wavering Lib Dems would support Labour than the Conservatives. The third of voters in these constituencies who may change their minds are more likely to say that Clegg has won the debates (but there are many more Lib Dems in this group, of course), and more likely to prefer Brown to Cameron on the economy (while those who have already decided how to vote are evenly split).

The debates

Three quarters of registered voters say they watched at least some of the final leaders’ debate (73%). Of these, as in previous waves, half say it has had no impact on how they intend to vote (48%). For a quarter of viewers it has encouraged them to vote for the party they already support (26%), while 11% say it has encouraged them to switch. Those who may change their mind are more likely to say the debates have increased their interest in the election than those who have definitely decided who to vote for.

Overall, voters think that Nick Clegg has performed best in the three debates (46%), compared to 21% who say Cameron and 10% who say Brown.

Eight in ten think that the debates have helped to get more people interested in the election campaign (79%), although only two in five say that it has made them personally more interested in the campaign (42%). There is widespread agreement that the debates have led to too much emphasis on the personality of the leaders, and not enough on policies (73%).

Brown is seen as the best person to lead the country out of the economic crisis (33%, compared to 29% for Cameron and 14% for Clegg).

The campaign

Television is the medium by which most people in these constituencies are getting their news about the campaign (56%).

There is no significant difference in the effectiveness of party campaigning – it is reaching voters of all parties equally. Overall, 95% have been leafleted and 18% canvassed (compared to 89% and 21% nationally in the 2005 election campaign). But Labour voters are far likelier to say they have met one of their local candidates (23% compared to 13% of Conservative voters and 7% of Lib Dem voters) – this may mean that both parties have chosen to especially target areas with Labour voters in their most intensive campaigning.

Outcome

Two-thirds of the public now expect a hung parliament (67%), a slight decrease on wave 4 (71%). More people than last week expect the Conservatives to be the largest party – either as a majority government or in a hung parliament – than last week (64% compared to 51%), while far fewer think Labour will be the biggest party (25% compared to 42% last week).

Over half think a hung parliament would be bad for Britain (54%). However, if this were to be the outcome of the election, more people would like to see all three main parties working together (31%) than any two parties working in coalitions.

If Labour and the Lib Dems were negotiating to form a government, more people would like Nick Clegg to be Prime Minister (37%) than Gordon Brown (26%).

Two-thirds of the public agree that Britain should adopt a new voting system that would give parties seats in Parliament in proportion to their vote share (65%). This is in line with 2001 when 62% agreed.

**Please bear in mind the exclusion of non-registered voters this wave when making comparisons**.

Technical details

This data is based on 1,004 adults aged 18+ who are registered to vote, across 57 key marginal constituencies in Great Britain. These are Labour-held constituencies which the Conservatives need a swing of between 5% and 9% to win. Fieldwork took place between 30th April and 2nd May. Interviews were conducted by telephone. Data are weighted to the profile of the population in the constituencies polled.

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