By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft has conducted another one of his mega polls. He writes about it for The Sunday Telegraph but here's my summary of its most important findings.
Rising prices are the voters' top concern. 73% of 8,000 respondents chose inflation as one of three economic worries. "Petrol, energy and fuel prices were mentioned spontaneously," notes Lord Ashcroft, "in every focus group." 75% of women named prices and 78% of C2s and DEs. [Conclusion: Sort inflation and you are a long way to sorting the women's vote.] Job issues were the next most practical concern if you add up the 28% who named "job insecurity" and the 25% who said "trouble finding a job". 31% said low interest rates for saving but unsurprisingly this was nearly all older people. 65% of pensioners identified low returns on the money they've squirreled away as one of their three top concerns. George Osborne will be looking at similar research and he'll be doing all he can to empathise with the nation's bill payers (and to be fair to him he did so in his Budget, earlier this year). Expect action on fuel duty, a shift away from green rhetoric and perhaps more help with council tax.
George Osborne is more trusted than Ed Balls but that doesn't been he's much liked. Although the Chancellor has a 56% to 44% lead over his Shadow when it comes to economic trustworthiness the top three descriptions voters choose for Mr Osborne are smug, arrogant and out of touch. Only 2% see Osborne as very "likeable".
There seems to be some relief that it's a Coalition government rather than a Tory majority government but a majority of voters don't think government can make much of a difference. 19% say the economic situation would be better with a Conservative government and 24% say it would be worse. We'd be sending kids up chimneys if Nick Clegg wasn't there to humanise us. The most interesting thing though is that 57% say it wouldn't make much difference. That's the most significant number. The clear majority don't believe government can do much to improve things. They are open, however, to the thought that government could make things worse. Twice as many people think the economy would be worse if we had a Labour government than think it would be better (39% over 21%).
Asked to name two causes of Britain's economic troubles only 14% choose the Coalition's economic policies. Many more – 40% – choose the last Labour government. But the top culprit (58%) is British banks. Annoyingly the €urozone doesn't appear to have been an option.
In terms of six economic objectives the Conservatives lead on four, Labour on one and there's a draw on the sixth. Here are the numbers:
- Conservatives more trusted on cutting Britain's borrowings (68% over 32%); steeering the economy through tough times (57% over 43%); stopping Britain getting into the same difficulties as Greece and Italy (62% over 38%); and, perhaps surprisingly, making banks and bankers behave responsibly (51% over 49%).
- Labour leads by 60% to 40% on creating jobs.
- It's 50% / 50% on helping business to grow.
> MORE AT LORDASHCROFT.COM.