With the General Election no more than six weeks away, the lead that the Conservatives somewhat surprisingly established in last month’s poll is confirmed, but at a lower level. While the Conservatives hold firm on 36%, Labour re-coup some lost ground (+3) with UKIP again on 9% but the Greens falling away back to more routine levels (-3, now on 4%). It is, however, the Liberal Democrats with most to be concerned about. Nick Clegg over the weekend suggested that his private polling was showing something different to published polls, which might give him some succour to offset the misery of the worst ever LD showing in the history of the Guardian/ICM series. His party stand on 8%, having never before received a single figure score in this polling series.
This is seriously worrisome for the Liberal Democrats in its own right, but remembering that ICM’s adjustment methodology is currently helpful to the Liberal Democrats makes the party’s standing potentially even worse. The full figures this month are:
Con 36% (nc)
Lab 35% (+3)
LD 8% (-2%)
UKIP 9% (nc)
Green 4% (-3)
Other 8% (+1)
George Osborne will herald the coalition policies and performance in his final budget of the parliamentary cycle this week, and he does in in a generally positive economic context. Six in ten (61%) members of the public are optimistic about their family’s finances, with only 38% not confident. At +23, this mirrors the January score and remains in solidly positive territory that has only been beaten in the early years of this century, when economic boom time was present around 2002.
What would the public like to see the Chancellor do this week? Well, top of the shopping list would be an increase in the personal allowance (25%) effectively a tax cut for all earning over £11,000 per year – this represents a 9-point increase in the proportion of people wanting to take this approach compared to pre-budget 2014 (16%). Second on the list is a cut in VAT (20%; 2014: 19%), with other desirable policy options including slowing the deficit cuts (19%; 2014: 19%) and to a lesser degree paying down the government’s debt (10%; 2014 7%).
The public would also respond positively to a cut in household bills, the type of measure that Labour Ed Miliband has been proposing. When asked to choose between energy-type issues that are important to people when thinking about who to vote for, the public solidly opted for a drop in household fuel bills (62%), with a drop in fuel duty now less important (13%) given that petrol prices are back close to the £1/litre mark. What the public seem to be much less affected by, however, is climate change, with only 24% thinking about it as a vote game changer – evidence (if any were needed) that the power of wallet trumps concerns about future global problems.
Much has been made of leader’s approval ratings, with Ed Miliband now being accused of failing to appreciate the concerns of his core supporters on the basis that his house enjoys two kitchens. While that might be true, Miliband has little need to worry about it – his rating of -24 is not good, but better than David Cameron’s -40 (not quite his record low on this measure, which stands at -43 in Nov 2013). The Labour leader might be more worried that Cameron edges him on having the courage to say what’s right rather than what’s popular (-21 vs -26), and being trounced on the perception of being good in a crisis (-7 vs -42).
As has long been expected, the polls are edging the Tories way, with more Tory leads of late than Labour leads. While this poll essentially has the parties neck and neck, the Conservatives will be pleased that their score for the second month running matches their 2010 showing, but this election is nowhere near won, and it looks set to be the tightest to call in a generation.
ICM research interviewed a random sample of 1001 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 13-15th March 2015. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.