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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Voters want 'real issues'

Nyta Mann

After a month of electioneering and just days before polling day, almost two-thirds of voters believe the political parties have failed to address the issues most important to them, according to a new ICM poll for BBC News Online.

As Labour directs its focus to turning out the vote and fighting off talk of an impending landslide, the survey also suggests that for a large minority (16%) of voters, the campaign has left them less likely to vote at all on Thursday.

Q. Generally speaking, do you feel the election campaign has made you more likely to vote, less likely, or has it really made no difference?

The figure of those positively turned off from voting rises to 22% among 18-24-years-olds. Politicians can take consolation, however, from the 10% that the poll suggests are now more likely to vote than they were at the start of the campaign.

The poll findings come hard on the heels of William Hague's apparent tactical switch over the weekend from campaigning to become prime minister on Friday, to seeking to limit the size of the parliamentary majority on which Tony Blair is returned to Number 10.

On Monday the Labour leader and Mr Hague traded accusations over the Conservatives' latest advertising push, which features a grinning Mr Blair, and urges voters to "burst his bubble".

'Dull and boring'

The poll also appears to confirm the complaint that apart from the occasional intrusions of events not pre-planned by the political parties' media managers - such as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's fisticuffs with an egg-thrower - the campaign has failed to come to life.

* Q. Which of the following words, if any, would you use to describe the run up to the General Election so far?

* Results add up to more than 100% as those surveyed could make more than one choice.

Asked which words best described the election campaign, "dull" (49%) and "boring" (42%) were the most popular choices among respondents, with just 30% feeling it has been "relevant". Meanwhile, a mere 7% say the past four weeks of frenetic activity has changed their minds about which party they will vote for.

Reflecting increased public awareness of the spin doctoring and media manipulation employed by the main political parties, more than half (53%) of voters also believe the 2001 battle for power to have been more stage-managed than other recent elections.

Q. Do you think that the issues that are most important to you have been properly addressed during the election campaign?

When asked if they felt the issues most important to them had been properly addressed by the campaign, 60% said they had not, going on to choose health (41%) and Europe (41%) as top of the rollcall of neglected subjects, with education (40%) and transport (38%) close behind.

Asylum and immigration (35%), crime (35%), the environment (33%) and taxation (31%) were also cited.

PR could boost turnout

While tactical voting has surfaced as an issue in the weeks leading to polling day, with several co-ordinated campaigns aimed at inflicting as much damage on the Conservative Party as possible, proportional representation is a dog that has so far failed to bark in this contest.

Even Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has chosen not to make PR - at one time the only policy most members of the public could associate with the third-largest party in parliament - the leading campaign issue.

But according to BBC News Online's poll, more than one in four people would be more likely to vote if a PR were used for Westminster, rather than the current first-past-the-post system.

ICM interviewed 1,112 adults in England, Scotland and Wales between 29 May and 3 June, 283 by telephone and the rest by email.

BBC News Online poll questions


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