Late attempt to woo the undecided sex

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One in three women - up to seven million voters - are undecided about who to vote for in the general election, according to a report to be published tomorrow, writes Stephen Castle.

According to the report, based on a MORI poll for the Fawcett Society, the proportion of floating women voters has increased in the past year. Thirty-one per cent of women, as opposed to 25 per cent of men, have yet to decide how to vote on 1 May.

The findings will urge both parties to woo female voters. But Labour especially has given priority to women's issues because it believes its appeal for older women is weak. The report, It's not like picking a football team: Women floating voters at the 1997 general election, is based on research in key marginal constituencies. It concludes that women floating voters are more thoughtful than others about economic and social issues. It notes a high degree of alienation from the political system; undecided women, it says, are often put off by politicians' behaviour,.

The report finds that women with children under five are more likely than childless women, or those with older children, to be floating voters. Thirty-four per cent of the women with children under five are undecided. Full-time workers are also less likely to have made up their minds yet.

Shelagh Diplock, director of the Fawcett Society, said that the women who had not yet made their election choice were those"deeply concerned about the impact their vote could have on their lives and communities".