John Major's bid to present himself as the man in the street and identify with the skilled working class voters likely to decide the election outcome has failed, says an opinion poll for Granada TV's World in Action. The MORI poll shows that almost twice as many people (39 per cent) see Mr Major as upper class compared with his counterpart, Tony Blair (20 per cent).
Meanwhile women have given Kenneth Clarke's Budget the thumbs-down, according to a private Labour Party sample of floating voters.
Typical comments from working class women voters were "they're just robbing Peter to pay Paul" and "That penny [off tax] you get, gets paid out in petrol."
The general view among women was "it's a nothing Budget - it's done nothing for me." Labour's analysis records: "This leaves them feeling cheated and (especially women) feeling patronised. The Budget ... firms their belief that 'things can't get much worse'."
Women also mistrusted Mr Clarke's bullish view of the economy. "Better exports than Japan? That doesn't stack up," and "if there are new jobs coming in, it's not because of them" were typical comments by women respondents.
Reactions to the Chancellor's television broadcast and the Labour response by Shadow Chancellor Gordon Brown also revealed a gender gap. Women found Mr Clarke "smarmy, out of touch and patronising" while some men were won over by his "swaggering, confident, professional" style.
MORI's poll of 1,027 people last month followed the raising of the class issue at this year's Tory conference when the PM highlighted Mr Blair's public school education with a soundbite: "New Labour - old school tie". Yet by four to three, those questioned said Mr Major was more "old school tie" than Mr Blair - although the prime minister attended a state grammar school and the leader of the opposition went to public school.
MORI's figures also show that the Prime Minister has failed to win support for his objective of creating a "classless society". Seventy-seven per cent disagree with the proposition, with only 18 per cent agreeing.
Asked which activities they perceived as working class, voters listed: watching Coronation Street (79 per cent), playing bingo (78 per cent), eating fish and chips (72 per cent), having an allotment (65 per cent) and holidaying in Spain (64 per cent). Middle class activities were seen as: horse racing (64 per cent), being a vegetarian (62 per cent), watching a nature programmes (61 per cent) and recycling newspapers and bottles (59 per cent).Reuse content