By Tim Montgomerie
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Someone once described Michael Ashcroft as "Lord Marginals". Ever since he started helping Tory candidates in target seats – when Michael Howard was Tory leader – he has become focused on ensuring resources and messages are targeted on the swing voters in the swing seats. He may no longer be in charge of the party's marginal seats operation but he is still polling and finding out what is happening in the "battleground".
He's just completed a survey of more than 13,000 voters in 41 of the most marginal seats in the country*. Eight of them are Tory-held seats where the Lib Dems are in second place. The rest are Tory seats with Labour in second place. The results – including a nationwide survey of 1,500 voters in all seats – are being released exclusively on ConservativeHome today. Read Lord Ashcroft's commentary here but pasted below is my bullet point summary:
OPINION IS REMARKABLY STABLE
Despite the Murdoch controversy and the summer's riots public opinion across all seats has been remarkably stable since the start of the year. Labour support is in the low 40s and the Tories are constant at about 37% (our general election performance).
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS FALL BEHIND IN LIB/CON MARGINALS
Labour enjoys a 44% to 36% lead in the 33 most marginal seats where they are lead challengers to us. In seats where the Liberal Democrats are the main challengers Conservatives are 8% ahead.
BUT LIB DEMS SET TO DO MUCH BETTER THAN NATIONAL POLLS
The Liberal Democrats are doing much better in seats when voters are asked about their specific constituency than in national polls. The Lib Dem vote share rises from 18% to 31%. Part of the reason for this is high local activity rates. The table below shows that on local campaigning they are beating Conservatives on four of five activity measures and are level pegging with us on the fifth. The Lib Dem activist base is still pounding the pavements.
ECONOMY AND JOBS, NOT DEFICIT IS VOTERS' TOP CONCERN
The economy and jobs is one of the top three issues for 66% of voters. Twice as many mention this as mention the deficit (32%). More important to voters than the deficit is the NHS (44%) and controlling immigration (38%). Numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street should reflect on this. Talking too much about the deficit and not enough about jobs could hand Labour an advantage.
TORIES BEATING LABOUR ON ALL OF THE TOP ISSUES EXCEPT NHS
Encouragingly for the Conservatives we are more trusted than Labour on the economy, jobs, immigration, the deficit, crime and Europe. The one weakness and it's an important one is the NHS.
TORIES STILL NOT LOOKING LIKE WE CARE ABOUT "ORDINARY PEOPLE"
The Conservatives are seen as the most willing to take the tough decisions. We are clearer about where we stand. We are perceived as more competent and capable. Our weak spot is being on the side of ordinary people. Only 27% think we on ordinary folks' side compared to 36% for the Liberal Democrats and 45% for Labour. This helps explain why 42% of voters would never even consider supporting the Conservatives.
THE TORIES ARE DOING BEST AMONG MEN, OLDER VOTERS, MORE PROFESSIONAL GROUPS AND PRIVATE SECTOR WORKERS
- Men think Britain is heading in the right direction by a net positive margin of 9%. Women say the country is going in the wrong direction by a margin of 14%.
- Right direction gets affirmed by 18% more people aged over 65 than wrong direction. In contrast wrong direction has a 25% lead over right direction among 18-24 year olds.
- ABC1s think Britain is going in right direction by a net 6%. C2s think it's going in the wrong direction by a net 18%.
This post is closed to comments so we only have one thread on the topic. Please leave any thoughts below Michael Ashcroft's article on this same polling.
* Labour targets: Amber Valley, Bedford, Brentford & Isleworth, Brighton Kemptown, Broxtowe, Bury North, Cardiff North, Carlisle, Corby, Dewsbury, Enfield North, Gloucester, Halesowen & Rowley Regis Hastings & Rye, Hendon, Hove, Ipswich, Lancaster & Fleetwood, Lincoln, Morecambe & Lunesdale, Northampton North, North Warwickshire, Nuneaton, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, Pudsey, Sherwood, Stockton South, Stroud, Thurrock, Waveney, Warrington South, Weaver Vale, Wolverhampton South West. Lib Dem targets: Camborne & Redruth, Harrogate & Knaresborough, Montgomeryshire, Newton Abbot, Oxford West & Abingdon, St Albans, Truro & Falmouth, Watford. In addition, a nationally representative 1,500-sample poll was conducted.