John Curtice: All still to play for as a Tory majority is far from assured

Share
Related Topics

Only one thing seems reasonably certain about what will be unveiled when the ballot boxes are opened on Thursday night: the Conservatives will win most votes. Beyond that, all is uncertainty and potential flux.

The latest clutch of polls, all conducted since the last of the three leaders' debates, suggests the Conservatives have edged a little further ahead. Their average poll rating is now 35 per cent, up one point on their position across all polls conducted between the second and the last leaders' debates. Liberal Democrat support has fallen back by a point for the second week in a row. Although most of the fallout from Nick Clegg's success in the first leaders' debate is still in evidence – at 28 per cent, his party's support is still as much as seven points up on before that debate – it has all the appearance of a slowly ebbing tide.

Labour's support, meanwhile, seems firmly stuck on just 27 per cent of the vote, leaving the party at risk of emerging with an even lower share than Michael Foot secured in 1983. Still, given the events of last week this might come as something of a relief to Labour. It appears that, despite the intense media frenzy the Prime Minister's encounter with Gillian Duffy in Rochdale generated, it has had no discernible impact on his party's fortunes (though the same may not be true of Mr Brown's personal popularity). Meanwhile, thanks to the decline in Liberal Democrat support, Labour now appears to have as much as an even chance of avoiding third place in votes.

Much rests on this apparently highly uncertain contest for second place in votes. If the Liberal Democrats can stay ahead, the argument for electoral reform, as well as the party's long-term prospects, will receive a substantial boost. But if Liberal Democrat support ebbs further away, then Thursday night could prove a damp squib for Mr Clegg – much as the Alliance's close third place in 1983 proved to be.

The slight improvement in the Conservatives' position has been in evidence for some days – polls conducted wholly between Monday and Thursday's debate were already putting the party on 35 per cent, on average. Nevertheless, it has helped create a sense of momentum for the party. And if Mr Cameron is to win an overall majority, he badly needs to advance further during the final four days of the campaign.

Despite the Tories' now substantial lead, the latest polls still point, on the conventional calculations, to a hung parliament in which the Conservatives are some 44 short of a majority – and probably unable to form a government without some understanding with Mr Clegg.

However, if the Tories could add another two points to their national tally, and at the same time secure an additional one-point swing in marginal Labour-held seats – as the latest polls of such seats suggest could well happen – they might just be home and dry.

They might be aided by the fact that voters are apparently coming to think of Mr Cameron as a likely Prime Minister. YouGov reports that 40 per cent felt he was the most "prime-ministerial" in the final leaders' debate, up 12 points and ahead of Mr Brown for the first time. But, equally, if in the last few days there were just a one-point swing back from the Conservatives to Labour, Mr Cameron could still find himself nervously waiting until late on Friday to see whether he has most seats. The result now rests on a knife-edge.

John Curtice is professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde. He is analysing election opinion polls for 'The Independent'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Muslim men pray at the East London Mosque  

Sadly, it needs to be said again: being a Muslim is not a crime

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible