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Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 08:45 GMT
Labour remains well clear

David Cowling

The latest Times/Mori poll shows Labour on 54% (unchanged since last week), the Conservatives on 28% (down 2% - and their lowest rating since April last year) and the Lib Dems on 12% (down 1%).

The poll was conducted on 15 May and does not offer encouragement to either of the two opposition parties.

As in the recent ICM survey for the London Evening Standard, this poll suggested declining support for the Conservatives among the AB social group, which broadly comprises professionals and managers: down 5% to 35% over the last week.

Some 54% of this group thought Tony Blair the more capable prime minister (up 4%), while 13% thought the same of William Hague (down from 19% last week).

The Conservatives also suffer from a public perception of disunity.

Tory weakness

In the 1997 campaign, following a long period of bitter splits, including John Major's "put up or shut up" resignation, 11% of respondents thought the Conservatives united. Today's Conservative Party rates 9% on the same measure.

When it comes to judging the party with the best policies for the country as a whole, Labour rates 42% and the Conservatives 17%.

The number of Conservative identifiers who say they strongly support their party has fallen slightly from 73% to 69%, compared with 76% of Labour identifiers who currently strongly support the party.

And whilst 31% of Conservatives say they may change their mind before polling day, the comparable figure for Labour is 25% (and 56% for Lib Dem supporters).

This poll and another conducted by Gallup for the Daily Telegraph offer contrasting views on how high turnout will be on polling day.

Low turnout?

Mori found that 70% said they were certain or likely to vote - up from 65% last week and contrasting with a figure of 75% at the same stage of the 1997 campaign.

However, Gallup tells a different story with only 66% of eligible voters saying they would "definitely" go to the polls on 7 June.

In his accompanying article, Professor Anthony King records that "Gallup has never recorded a lower figure".

At the two previous general elections of 1992 and 1997, the actual turnout has been 2% above the one recorded in the relevant Gallup poll. If that pattern were to be repeated this time then the actual turnout could be 68%.

The Gallup/Telegraph poll gives Labour 48%, the Conservatives 32% and the Lib Dems 13%, but these figures are not directly comparable with earlier Gallup polls because they are based upon those respondents who answered a battery of questions designed to test their likelihood to vote.

However, for the record, this new measure results in virtually no change from their last poll published a week ago: the Conservative and Lib Dem figures are the same and Labour is down 1%.

Gallup found that despite his vigorous campaigning Mr Hague has not yet achieved any breakthrough with the public.

Some 17% believe he "has done the best job of presenting his party and its policies so far" (a view held by 41% of Conservative supporters), compared with 52% of all respondents who say the same of Mr Blair.

Indeed, at this stage in the campaign, Mr Kennedy is ahead of Mr Hague on this measure.


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