The February Guardian/ICM poll will certainly set the political cats among the pigeons, with a stunning +6 move for David Cameron’s Conservatives pushing them into a 4-point lead over Labour, after a 3-point deficit last month. The week began with the Tories under some pressure over what appears to be a scandal involving HSBC advising rich clients (and Tory apparatchiks) to avoid tax, a problem which in turn gradually began to drag Labour in as we conducted fieldwork.
This does push the Tories’ bar somewhat higher than seen of late – they have not been on the giddy heights of 36% since July 2013, and have not seen a lead like this since their 5-pointer in January 2012. It’s come at the right time for them – the only question is whether it’s their first Swallow of Summer, or simply a brief thaw in the Winter’s frost.
But it is not Labour where the Tories have made in-roads – although Miliband’s party sheds one-point (32%), it is UKIP (9%) and the Greens (7%) both of whom drop 2-points this month. We may be seeing first signs of a pricked polling bubble, with keen eyes now on both minor parties as campaigning heats up. Perhaps we should not be surprised to see more of this as the campaign evolves (see: Research-Live for more on polling bubbles: http://www.research-live.com/blogs/election-blog-bursting-the-polling-bubble/4012895.article ).
The issue that will most impact on the way people vote remains the NHS, with 31% saying so this month, as they did last. However, ‘jobs, prices & wages’ has moved in second place (17%) above immigration (15%) which drops 4-points.
But it is the question of tax, or more to the point the avoiding/evasion of it that has exercised political minds’ this week, and on this Labour do appear to have the edge. One in three (35%) so think they are best placed to force wealthy individuals and companies to pay their tax, some distance ahead of the Tories (20%). But blame on this is not really laid at either party’s door: tax advising bankers get the public rap, with 32% saying they are to blame when rich people fail to pay their tax. The wealthy individuals themselves do not escape censure (22%), but the current coalition (17%) and the last government (13%) are a step behind in this blame game.
Wealthy tax dodgers should be treated more harshly than benefit cheats (52% vs 42%) although there is a fairly intuitive party divide on this. Labour voters very much agree with this (65%) but Conservative voters are more inclined to disagree (48%) than agree (42%). One in three people (34%) admit they would use legal loopholes to dodge tax if they could, although 61% consider themselves up-standing tax-paying citizens. What the public can agree on though, is that whoever is in power, tax dodging would carry on, with 67% agreeing that politicians and big business are too closely wrapped up together for any government to make a difference on this.
Talking of big business, its views on politics may only influence the vote of one in five (21%) with most people (70%) saying business’ views would not influence their vote.
ICM Unlimited interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 13-15th February 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.