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 per cent and Labour down two points on 29 per cent. UKIP are down two at 16 per cent and the Liberal Democrats up three to 10 cent, 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 per cent and the SNP have 5 per cent.

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 per cent zone, Labour are continuing their slow but unmistakeable decline in the ANP, from highs of 36 per cent in July and 35 per cent in early September. This is the first week in which Labour have dropped below 30 per cent in my poll, and the second time the two leading parties have scored less than 60 per cent 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 per cent of 2010 Lib Dem voters naming a party, but lost 12 per cent of their own 2010 voters to UKIP (9 per cent) and the Greens (three per cent). This week, only 26 per cent of former Lib Dems naming a party said they would vote Labour, while 16 per cent of former Labour voters had switched to UKIP (11 per cent) or the Greens (five per cent). 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 per cent said they either that they were satisfied with Cameron’s performance (31 per cent, up two points) or dissatisfied but preferred him to Ed Miliband (30 per cent, no change). Men were more likely than women to say they were satisfied with Cameron (by 34 per cent to 28 per cent), while women were more likely to see him as the least bad option.

Less than a quarter (24 per cent, down four points) said they would rather see Miliband as Prime Minister, including just one in five swing voters and only 13 per cent 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 per cent) 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 per cent) 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 per cent) than under Labour (16 per cent). Men (27 per cent) were more likely to think they would be better off under the Conservatives than women (19 per cent); women (61 per cent) were more likely than men (54 per cent) 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 per cent) than under Labour (6 per cent).

While 62 per cent of Tory voters said they expected to be better off with a Conservative government, only 44 per cent of Labour voters thought their prospects would be better with their own party in charge. A majority of Labour voters (55 per cent) thought it would make no difference to their own prosperity which party was in office.

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