Voters tell Brown and Cameron: Stop lying to us!

The latest polls put Labour and Conservatives close enough for the Tories to be 15 seats short of a majority. More worryingly, people believe neither Labour nor Tory leaders are being honest

Voters have delivered a damning verdict on the economic promises of both Labour and Conservatives, with two out of three people believing Gordon Brown and David Cameron are being dishonest about how they would reduce the deficit.

Voters have delivered a damning verdict on the economic promises of both Labour and Conservatives, with two out of three people believing Gordon Brown and David Cameron are being dishonest about how they would reduce the deficit.

As all three main parties prepare to unveil their general election manifestos this week, a ComRes poll for The Independent on Sunday exposes how far the leaders have to go to convince voters they have a credible plan to stabilise the public finances.

With three-and-a-half weeks left until polling day, the survey puts Labour on 32 points, seven points behind the Conservatives – suggesting that Mr Cameron would be 15 seats short of a majority. Worryingly for Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats are on only 16 per cent – a four-point drop since the previous ComRes poll in March.

Mr Brown, boosted by polls that continue to show he could deny the Tories victory on 6 May, will unveil a manifesto tomorrow promising "optimism" for younger people, despite the limited funds available for major spending commitments. Labour will increase paternity leave to four weeks, and pledge a new "Super ISA" savings account for 18- to 30-year-olds, supported by government money, extra sport and arts teaching in primary and secondary schools, and increased activities for young adults.

After 13 years in power, the Government is under pressure to present a fresh agenda to counter the Tories' message of change.

The survey, taken yesterday and on Friday, shows that 63 per cent of people agree with the statement that "neither Labour nor the Conservatives are being honest about how they would reduce public borrowing" – with only 27 per cent disagreeing.

The finding followed a week in which Labour and the Tories traded blows over National Insurance and the scale of Whitehall efficiency savings that could be made.

Some 44 per cent believe that Mr Cameron and his team are not yet ready for government, with the same proportion in disagreement – underlining fears among senior Tories that they have not yet "sealed the deal" with voters.But there is bad news for Mr Brown, with 54 per cent of people believing that a Labour government would be more likely than a Conservative administration to increase taxes, against 30 per cent who disagree.

However, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, comes out top (23 per cent) on the question of who would make the best chancellor, followed by the Lib Dem and Tory Shadow Chancellors, Vince Cable and George Osborne (on 21 per cent and 19 per cent respectively).

Of the possible outcomes of the election, 29 per cent said they would prefer to see the Tories form a government with an overall majority, while 26 per cent favoured a Labour-Lib Dem coalition in a hung parliament. Some 25 per cent said they wanted Labour to win with an outright majority, while 20 per cent favoured a Tory- Lib Dem alliance.

Nearly two-thirds – 64 per cent – said they believed MPs' ethical standards will be higher in the new parliament in the wake of the expenses scandal, compared with 28 per cent who disagreed. Meanwhile, a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times put the Tories eight points ahead of Labour, on 40 per cent – after starting the week 10 ahead. An ICM survey of 96 key marginals for the News of the World put the Tories down four points since January, on 36 per cent – and still not on track to secure an overall majority. But a national ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph showed the Tory lead had doubled to eight points over the past five days.

In a boost for The Independent on Sunday's One of the Above campaign to increase turnout, the percentage of those who say they are "absolutely certain" to vote has increased from 44 per cent in February to 60 per cent today.

Mr Brown, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg are preparing to take part in the first of three televised leaders' debates, to be broadcast on ITV this Thursday. Mr Clegg will open this week's debate, while the Labour and Tory leaders will each open the BBC and Sky programmes over the following two weeks.

Poll of the pollsters: What the experts predict

The Tories to win, but by how much?

Andrew Hawkins, ComRes, pollster for the IoS

"This is one election where a uniform national swing is less important than regional performance. There is a danger that the polls still overstate Labour, and history shows that the result will probably favour the Tories."

Prediction Con majority 32

Ben Page, Ipsos-MORI

"It is too close to call in terms of numbers of seats. The Tories are not doing well enough in the marginals to be certain of a majority. But the TV debates could make a decisive difference."

Prediction Con 25 seats short of overall majority

Andrew Cooper, Populus

"With certain caveats, I expect the Conservatives will get just under 40 per cent, Labour just over 30 per cent and the Lib Dems just over 20 per cent. I expect David Cameron to be PM with a majority of more than 10 but less than 50."

Prediction Con majority of 10+

Peter Kellner, YouGov

"The Conservatives will have a small overall majority, and I think that the Lib Dems will do reasonably well. The public don't want Gordon Brown but have shown no enthusiasm for David Cameron, who is heading for a narrow majority."

Prediction Con majority 20-30

Robert Salvoni, Harris Interactive

"We believe that the 10-point Tory lead is soft; probably a reflection of disenchantment with Gordon Brown and Labour. Our polls show many more people who have voted Labour in the past are inclined to switch or not vote."

Prediction Con majority 2-10

Andy Morris, Angus Reid

"The Conservatives will win, and I think they'll end up with a small but workable majority, My view is the Tories will win the popular vote comfortably by about 8 to 10 per cent, with a disproportionate swing in the marginals."

Prediction Con majority 40-50

Martin Boon, ICM Research

"I think the Conservatives will win by about eight to nine points. Of course, there's no reliable guide to converting votes to seats. The real wild cards are the leaders' debates – nobody knows how far they might influence people."

Prediction Con majority 20

Johnny Heald, Opinion Research Business

"I do a lot of focus group work with target voters, and the desire to remove Gordon Brown is clearly stronger than the wish to elect the Tories. Cameron can also offer a bit of hope which people badly need."

Prediction Con majority 40+

Interviews: Jonathan Owen

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