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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
Poll Watch: May 2007
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair
Polls focused on Tony Blair leaving and Gordon Brown being left.

Hardly a day goes by without a poll or two of political opinion being published. But what to make of them? In the first of a monthly series the BBC's political research editor David Cowling casts his expert eye over them:

The month was taken up, in large part, with polls reviewing Tony Blair's decade-long premiership.

And the reviews were mixed. When it came to specifics such as crime, the NHS and taxation, significant majorities readily gave the thumbs down to the Blair years.

However, the overall verdict seemed more positive. MORI (sampled 11-13 May 2007) found 46% who thought on balance the ten years of Mr Blair's government had been good for Britain, compared with 43%, who thought it had been bad.

And there was a much more positive response when MORI asked whether the past ten years had been good for respondents personally - 46% said they had been good as against 35% who answered "bad".

Brown encouraged

MORI/Financial Times (sampled 11-13 May 2007) also found some encouraging news for Gordon Brown as he waits to take up the premiership.

This poll was the latest in a regular series in which MORI tests public expectations about whether various policies would get better or worse over the next few years.

The NHS registered a net figure of -14% on this measure but that had virtually halved compared with the -30% rating in March 2007.

Education rated +7%, public transport +2% and local policing +3%. The remaining issue of the environment had registered some very strong negative figures in recent years: this month the figure was -5%, down from -10% in March 2007.

MORI also asked if respondents agreed or disagreed that in the long term the government's policies will improve the state of Britain's economy.

Here a long run of negatives became a positive this month: a net +3% compared with -13% in March.

Left or right?

And whilst the same question applied to Britain's public services resulted in a net figure of -13%, this was less than half of the March figure of -28%.

Not surprisingly, the recurrent theme of recent months - Brown versus Cameron - also featured in May's polls.

ICM/Guardian (sampled 18-20 May 2007) had some fun asking respondents to define themselves on a Left-Centre-Right spectrum and then to place Gordon Brown and David Cameron in the same range. The results are set out in the following table:

Self Cameron Brown
Left wing 22% 14% 40%
Centre 43% 23% 24%
Right wing 18% 38% 16%
Don't know 17% 25% 21%

Gordon Brown ended up 18 points more left wing than respondents overall and David Cameron 20 points more right wing.

Both men were about 20 points adrift of the centre where the largest group in the sample defined themselves to be.

MORI added to the debate about how both Mr Brown and Mr Cameron are perceived by finding a 6% Brown lead over his opponent as the better man to run public services; and a 27% lead over Mr Cameron when asked who would be better at running the economy.

Nuclear gender divide

Populus/BBC Daily Politics (sampled 16-17 May, 2007) took a look at aspects of the forthcoming smoking ban (1 July).

Some 81% supported banning smoking in enclosed public places and work places: 91% for banning smoking near children; and 62% for banning smoking in cars. However, 54% opposed banning smoking in outdoor public places.

ICM/Guardian also provided the latest evidence of the remarkable gender divide over the issue of nuclear power.

They asked whether respondents agreed with the stated government policy of building more nuclear power stations. Spot the differences.

All Men Women
Agree 44% 62% 27%
Disagree 49% 34% 63%
Don't know 6% 4% 10%

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