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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 07:33 GMT 08:33 UK
Voters 'disillusioned'

Peter Snow

Many voters appear to be disillusioned with what the main parties have to offer them, according to the latest BBC News Online 1000 opinion poll.

It is a crushing rejection... by huge numbers of voters

Peter Snow
This sense of dissatisfaction - almost despair - of much of the electorate could offer some clues to the causes if there is a drop in turnout on polling day.

No less than 58% of all those questioned feel that "none of the main political parties really represents my views".

Significantly, this rises to two thirds (66%) among those aged between 18 and 24, and to 64% of those between 24 and 35.

It is a crushing rejection of what the parties are offering by huge numbers of voters. And it goes deeper.

Q. How much do you agree with the following statement 'None of the main political parties in this election really represents my views'?

Voters 'against', not 'for'

The survey gave people a choice between two reasons for voting for a political party: either "because they endorse the views of that particular party", or "not necessarily because they approve of its policies, but because they are particularly against the views of an opposing party".

Less than half (46%) said they would vote to endorse the views of the party they voted for, but as many as 38% chose the second option, suggesting that their votes would be essentially negative - a vote against a party rather than a vote for a party.

When these "negative" voters were asked which party they would vote against, 47% said Conservative, but as many as 43% said they would vote against Labour, and only 7% against the Liberal Democrats.

Voting tactically

One obvious way of voting against a party you dislike is to vote tactically - to vote not for your favourite party but for a party which stands the best chance of denying the party you dislike victory in your constituency.

There was a substantial tactical vote at the last election, and the poll suggests people are strikingly aware of their tactical voting opportunities.

Nearly a third of all those questioned (31%) admit to voting tactically in the past.

This may be another indication that we will have to look a lot harder at how people changed their votes than simply glancing at the pendulum on our swingometer. Tactical voting can win parties far more seats than the overall national share would suggest.

Q. Have you ever voted tactically in a General Election?

ICM polled 1,109 adults in England, Scotland and Wales between 24-27 May - 400 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 remainder of the election campaign.


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