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The BBC's David Wilby
"Grim reading for the Conservative leader"
 real 28k

Professor Anthony King of Essex University
looks at what the polls mean for Hague
 real 56k

Monday, 21 May, 2001, 21:12 GMT 22:12 UK
Poll gloom for Hague

Nick Assinder

The Tory party is struggling to make any impression in key areas after two weeks of the election campaign, according to a new poll for BBC News Online.

William Hague is trailing a massive 31 points behind Tony Blair in the popularity stakes and is now running neck and neck with Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy.

And, despite intensive campaigning, figures suggest the Tories are failing to get their message across to voters.

Q. Regardless of which party you intend to vote for, who do you think is getting across its election message best so far?

To see a full list of the poll questions click here.

Most believe the opposition has run the most negative of all the three campaigns.

News Online 1000
Surveys by ICM
By internet and telephone
Results weighted to profile all UK adults
Surveys conducted through election campaign
On just about every positive electioneering characteristic, such as credibility, Labour and the Liberal Democrats poll better than William Hague, with the Lib Dems sometimes leading the pack.

Mr Hague also lags in third place in all personally positive attributes such as strength, honesty and understanding of voters needs.

Lib Dem impact

And while Tony Blair continues to race ahead of his opponents overall, Mr Kennedy has shot into first place as the leader who has most impressed voters during the campaign.

The survey will delight Mr Kennedy but dismay the Tories who have faced a series of disastrous poll results since the campaign began.

It suggests that Labour and Tony Blair are still way ahead and that Mr Hague has failed to make any real impact with voters.

Q. Regardless of how you intend to vote, which leader has impressed you the most in the campaign so far?

Mr Kennedy, on the other hand, has scored significant gains with his frantic campaigning schedule - which in the first week saw him covering over 2,000 miles.

According to the poll, which was taken between 15 and 20 May, Tony Blair is still seen as the leader who would make the best prime minister, scoring 47 points - three up on the previous month, but the same as in March.

Mr Hague has dropped three points, to 16, just two ahead of a disastrous April showing.

Mr Kennedy's campaigning, meanwhile, appears to have paid dividends and he has increased his April showing by three points to 16 - neck and neck with Mr Hague.

But his most significant score is as the leader who has most impressed voters during the campaign so far, leaving even Tony Blair trailing in his wake.

He has raced into the lead with 31 points compared to Tony Blair's 22 and William Hague's third-place 17.

When it comes to getting their message across, Mr Kennedy has again performed reasonably well with 19 points, putting him one point ahead of the Tories.

Voters describe campaigns

The Tories also score badly on how well their campaign has been received by the voters, being most often described as shallow, arrogant and boring.

Labour does a little better, being seen as more credible and far stronger than the Tories but, once again, it is the Lib Dems who score the most positive attributes such as credible and interesting.

There is some depressing reading for all the parties however, with the overwhelming majority of voters - a huge 78% - claiming they tended to disbelieve politicians when they made election pledges.

And, once again with the exception of the Liberal Democrats, the majority of voters feel they have been let down by the two major parties.

The worst news for the Tories is that the poll appears to be in line with other recent surveys showing they have failed to lift themselves out of the political doldrums.

Q. Which party leader do you think would make the best prime minister?

Mr Hague's attempts to boost his showing by getting among the voters, in preference to holding morning press conferences in London, appear to have had no effect.

And, most frustratingly for him, despite many claims that he has fought a good election so far, he has still failed to shift his overall position.

With the campaign now approaching its mid-point, he would have wanted to see some signs of a significant revival is he was to stop media speculation about a Tory meltdown on polling day.

Instead Tony Blair is holding onto his commanding lead while the Lib Dems are making some ground.

That may be down to the fact that Mr Kennedy has deliberately kept himself out of the daily tit-for-tat that has characterised the campaign and instead concentrated on getting around the country selling his claim to be the most honest leader.

ICM polled 1,005 adults in England, Scotland and Wales between Tuesday, 15 May and Sunday, 20 May - 310 were polled by phone the rest by e-mail.

The BBC News Online 1000 will continue to give their opinions on political issues during the remaining weeks of the election campaign.

Click on a question for a pie chart of results:


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