David Cameron has increased his party's lead over his opponents to 10 points, which suggests that he may be able to secure an outright Conservative victory this Thursday, according to the latest ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday today.
After weeks of opinion polls predicting a hung parliament due to the surge in support for Nick Clegg, the Tories are up two points to 38 per cent, ahead of Labour on 28 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats trailing on 25 per cent. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have slipped one point since last Wednesday.
It is the largest Conservative lead in a ComRes poll since February.
If repeated on 6 May, this would still result in a hung parliament, as Mr Cameron would be 11 short of an overall majority, on 315 seats. Labour would have 236 seats and the Lib Dems just 69. To be sure of an outright win, Mr Cameron needs to achieve a figure of 39 or 40 per cent.
But the trend across all polls since the third and final debate last Thursday suggests the Tory leader has regained the momentum needed to reach the steps of Downing Street. Other surveys this weekend also showed the Conservatives beginning to stretch their lead.
The third place for the Lib Dems is a blow to Nick Clegg, who had been until last week the runaway success of the campaign after his performance in the first two TV debates.
The Lib Dem leader had been hoping to secure key electoral reforms by assuming the role of power-broker in a hung parliament, but today's poll suggests that the "Cleggmania" bubble may have not exactly burst, but in the words of one pundit be showing signs "of a slow puncture". In fact, today's poll figures are similar to those taken before the leaders' debates.
It also indicates that Mr Clegg's description of the contest as a two-horse race between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats may be out of date.
Immediately following his stunning first debate performance, Mr Clegg enjoyed a personal rating as high as 61 per cent, while the Lib Dems as a party reached 34 per cent and were ahead of Conservatives and Labour on more than one occasion.
A ComRes/IoS poll on 11 April, at the start of the campaign, had the Lib Dems on just 16 per cent, behind the Tories on 39 per cent and Labour on 32. It was the fastest and highest poll surge for a third party in an election campaign ever, and the biggest change for any party in a campaign.
The Conservative fightback began with Mr Cameron's victory in the third debate last week, in which he talked of getting down to work as prime minister on Friday.
The poll suggests that the Tory strategy of warning that a hung parliament would be bad for the economy appears to have worked, with support for a political stalemate dropping among voters.
Some 31 per cent now say they would prefer to see the Conservatives form a government with an overall majority, compared to 25 per cent on 18 April.
By contrast, support for the Tories going into coalition with the Lib Dems has nearly halved, from 28 per cent last month to 15 per cent today.
Just 22 per cent want to see Labour form a government with support from the Lib Dems, compared to 28 per cent last month. The proportion of people who want Labour to form a government with an overall majority has remained the same, at 19 per cent.
In a further sign that Cleggmania could be short-lived, today's poll shows the number of voters who think he should play a part in the next government has fallen from 64 per cent in the wake of the first TV debate to 47 per cent today – although this figure is five points higher than the percentage who think he should not have a government role.
Surprisingly, 75 per cent of people say the three televised leaders' debates had not changed their minds over voting intention, with just 19 per cent saying they had.
Gordon Brown may be able to draw some comfort from the finding that 85 per cent say they had not changed their mind about who to vote for because of the Prime Minister calling Gillian Duffy, a Rochdale grandmother, a "bigoted woman".
One in 10 said this would change their vote – although this figure rises to one in five among the low-skilled DE social group.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, said he had "personally paid a very high price" for his comments, which were picked up on a TV microphone last Wednesday.
With electoral reform pushed to the top of the agenda as the three parties' poll positions have narrowed, some 55 per cent of people think the voting system should be changed, compared to 47 per cent in February.
Following The IoS One of the Above campaign to increase turnout, the poll finds that 69 per cent say they are "absolutely certain" to vote. This suggests turnout will surpass the 70 per cent mark on Thursday and could match the 71.5 per cent who voted in the 1997 election. Turnout slumped to around 60 per cent for the last two elections.
A YouGov poll for The Sun yesterday put the Conservatives on 34 per cent, Labour on 28 per cent, up one point, and the Lib Dems unchanged on 28 per cent.
Last night, an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph showed a similar lead developing for Mr Cameron. The Tories were up three points to 36 per cent, Labour up one to 29 per cent and the Liberal Democrats down one to 27 per cent.
Poll of the pollsters: What the experts predict and how they’ve shifted
Ben Page, chief executive, Ipsos MORI: "It's a mug's game calling this election, with half the voters saying they may still change their minds."
11 April: Hung parliament with the Tories 25 seats short of a majority.
18 April: Conservative lead, from 20 short of a majority to a majority of 20 seats.
Now: Conservative lead, from 20 short of a majority to a majority of 20 seats.
Robert Salvoni, President, Harris Interactive: "Cameron is viewed as the strongest leader, but he only has a few days left to convince the electorate that he is in touch with the nation and that his policies are strong enough to deliver on the challenges ahead."
11 April: Conservatives win with 2-10 seat majority.
18 April: Conservatives win with 10 seat majority.
Now: Conservatives win with 10 seat majority.
Martin Boon, head of social & government research, ICM Research:"It's fairly apparent to all that the debates were a real game changer and the Lib Dem surge means it's fairly impossible to predict the share of the vote, never mind seats."
11 April: Conservatives win with 20 seat majority.
18 April: Conservatives win with 15 seat majority.
Now: Hung parliament with the Conservatives four or five seats short of a majority.
Andrew Cooper, founder and strategic director, Populus: "There is nothing that Gordon Brown can do to recover his position. They are rejecting him, his arguments and his government. Labour are likely to be not merely defeated, but purged."
11 April: Conservatives win with 10+ seat majority.
18 April: Conservatives win with 10+ seat majority.
Now: Conservatives win with an overall majority of 10+ seats.
Andrew Hawkins, executive chairman, ComRes: "Had Gordon Brown or David Cameron seen Michael Cockerell's excellent documentary 'How to win a TV debate' they would never have agreed to it."
11 April: Conservatives win with 32 seat majority.
18 April: Hung parliament with the Conservatives 11 seats short of a majority.
Now: Hung parliament with the Conservatives 11 seats short of a majority.
Andy Morris, research director, Vision Critical: "The first debate was the defining moment of the campaign. The Lib Dem surge that followed caused a redefinition of campaign tactics by all three parties."
11 April: Conservatives win with 40-50 seat majority.
18 April: Conservatives win with 30-40 seat majority.
Now: Hung parliament with the Conservatives between one and 10 seats short of a majority.
Johnny Heald, managing director, Opinion Research Business: "Labour's defence of their title never really got going ... and there must be slight questions over their strategy. The momentum appears to be with Cameron. "
11 April: Conservatives win with 40+ seat majority.
18 April: Conservatives win with 40+ seat majority.
Now: Conservatives win with a 20+ seat majority.Reuse content