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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 22:39 GMT 23:39 UK
Analysis: Poll's crucial questions

BBC broadcaster Peter Snow analyses the latest results from the BBC News Online 1000 poll.

Labour has a striking lead over the Conservatives on race - an issue which all parties clearly sense could be a highly charged one in the approaching election.

But significantly, more people believe the Tories have better policies on asylum seekers than either the Labour Government or the Liberal Democrats.

Forty-nine per cent of people questioned by ICM for BBC News Online over the past week believe Labour best supports the interests of ethnic minorities.

This compares with the Conservatives who score 10% and the Liberal Democrats 15%.

Sign from centre for asylum seekers
Labour leads Tories on race issue
And Labour leads the Conservatives by 35% to 23% on the question "Which party best represents your views on ethnic minorities?".

Moreover, nearly two thirds of those questioned (63%) said the Tories were coping badly with the issue of race.

It remains to be seen whether the assertions of Tory leaders in the past couple of days that the issue of race has no place in the Tory party will repair the damage that has been done.

Crumbs of comfort

But the Tories have struck a chord by constantly pressing the issue of asylum seekers.

They lead Labour by 38% to 29% on this issue - which the Tories insist is not to do with race but a matter for legitimate political debate.

However, only 5% of the people questioned said the issue of asylum seekers was the one which weighed heaviest with them in deciding which way to vote.

There are a few crumbs of comfort for the Tories on other policy issues which appear to be more important to people than asylum policy.

On Europe and on crime the Tories now have a lead over Labour.

This lead is just 1% on crime (31% credit the Tories with the best policy compared to 30% for Labour) but 7% on the EU (37% to 30%).

On health, education and the economy Labour are still way ahead but their lead has dropped a little since a month ago.

The Liberal Democrats score poorly. Their greatest impact is on education where 13% say their policies are the best.

Crucial question

Mr Blair leaves Mr Hague far behind in the leadership stakes.

Fifty per cent reckon Mr Blair to be a strong leader compared to 15% for Mr Hague, and Mr Blair beats Mr Hague comfortably for honesty, sincerity and charisma.

Charles Kennedy rates well on honesty and sincerity, and is only two points behind Mr Blair when people are asked with whom they would most like to have a drink.

But on the central question - "Who would make the best Prime Minister?", it is Blair 44%, Hague 19% and Kennedy 12%.

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