April 22, 2010 / 11:20 AM / 9 years ago

Lib Dems surge in decisive British election seats: poll

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Liberal Democrats have doubled their projected vote share in Labour-held marginal constituencies but the swing comes mainly from voters who were previously not sure they would vote, a poll showed on Thursday.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll indicates that although support for the Labour government and main opposition Conservatives has fallen in these constituencies — ones the Conservatives must win to be sure of outright victory in the May 6 election — their relative positions are unchanged since the previous survey on April 8.

The center-right Conservatives have achieved a five percent swing from center-left Labour since the last general election in 2005 in these constituencies. That suggests the UK is still headed for a hung parliament, where no one party has a clearcut majority, with the Conservatives the largest party.

“This is giving us a new angle from most of the recent national polls, which imply that the recent Liberal Democrat surge has been more damaging to the Conservatives than to Labour,” said Ipsos MORI Deputy Head of Political Research Helen Coombs.

“This poll finds that this is not the case and that if the Conservatives are losing votes disproportionately to the Liberal Democrats it is not happening in the constituencies where it would do most danger to their chance of winning seats from Labour.”

The centrist Liberal Democrats have seen a massive surge in support following a strong performance from leader Nick Clegg in the country’s first televised leaders’ debate on April 15.

The poll, conducted between April 16 and 19, showed support for Labour fell to 36 percent compared to 41 percent two weeks ago, while Conservative support dropped to 32 percent from 38 percent. Liberal Democrat support jumped to 23 percent from 11 percent.

The numbers of people saying they are now certain to vote has also surged: to 68 percent from 59 percent. Significantly, however, 47 percent of voters say they may still change their mind.

POTENTIAL FOR CHANGE

Tactical voting, casting one’s vote to prevent a particular party from winning the seat, also has the potential to play a greater part in these constituencies.

Some 70 percent of those polled believe they do not live in a marginal constituency, little changed from the last poll, suggesting they are unaware of their power to influence the vote.

“It is possible that there could still be significant voting changes if voters find out more about their local situation before polling day,” said Coombs.

Ipsos MORI polled 1,001 voters in 57 marginal constituencies where the Conservatives need a swing of between five and nine percent from Labour to win.

The leaders’ debate with its focus on domestic issues appears to have boosted Liberal Democrat ratings on all four policy areas asked about in this poll. The proportion who think they have the best policies on immigration, healthcare, education and crime has doubled.

However, Labour is still seen as having the best policies on healthcare and education and the Conservatives retain their lead on immigration and crime, reflecting the traditional areas of strength for both parties.

Two-thirds of voters now say they expect the outcome of the election to be a hung Parliament but they are almost evenly split on whether this would be desirable or not.

* Technical Details

- Ipsos MORI interviewed a representative sample of 1,001 adults aged 18+ across 57 marginal constituencies in Great Britain.

- These are Labour-held constituencies which the Conservatives need a swing of between 5 percent and 9 percent to win. The election result in these constituencies in 2005 was Con 31 percent, Lab 45 percent, Lib Dem 17 percent.

- Interviews were conducted by telephone April 16-19 2010

- Data are weighted to match the profile of the population

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