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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Peter Snow
reports on the latest opinion polls
 real 56k

Saturday, 12 May, 2001, 21:03 GMT
Labour poll lead steady

David Cowling

Three voting intention polls on Sunday offer a range of Labour leads between 16 and 20%.

ICM/Observer gives a 16% lead (the biggest Labour lead in an ICM poll for over a year), NOP/Sunday Times gives a 17% lead and MORI/Sunday Telegraph registers a lead of 20%.


By comparison, the first four campaign polls in the 1997 election gave Labour leads ranging between 21-25.5%.

However, we should be cautious: Newsnight (11 May) carried an NOP poll suggesting that turnout would fall to 67% on 7 June (compared with about 71% in 1997).

The polls are sending conflicting messages on whether lower turnout will have a neutral political effect, or whether it will damage Labour disproportionately.

The picture may become clearer as we close in on polling day but Labour certainly fear that it could suffer from both deliberate abstention or voter apathy.


These polls suggest that Mr Hague is in the firing line as far as the public are concerned.

In NOP/Sunday Times, 60% of respondents think the Conservatives can never win with him as their leader (barely half - 53% - of Conservative supporters think they can win with him).

And in the ICM/Observer, 54% prefer Tony Blair as prime minister compared with 18% who prefer William Hague.

NOP found 46% of respondents who expected public services to improve under Labour compared with 18% who thought they would worsen.

An ICM question on tactical voting suggests the Conservatives could be under pressure in a number of seats.


ICM repeated a question they asked in the 1997 campaign which probed how people would vote if the only candidates with a realistic chance of winning locally were either Labour and Conservative or Liberal Democrat and Conservative.

The answers were virtually identical to those given four years ago: in the case of Labour versus the Conservatives 58% chose Labour compared with 39% who chose the Conservatives; and in the second alternative, 54% chose the Lib Dems and 41% opted for the Conservatives.

But whether voters respond to the barrage of publicity about tactical voting remains to be seen.

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