John Curtice: Voters who see no difference between parties may stay at home

Share
Related Topics

Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy have perhaps one straw they can clutch as they read our poll's finding that Labour has its largest lead for nearly two years.

Mr Howard and Mr Kennedy have perhaps one straw they can clutch as they read our poll's finding that Labour has its largest lead for nearly two years. Our interviews were conducted as Mr Blair was touring the country revealing his six pledges and as he and his fellow ministers dominated the airwaves from their party's spring conference. Against that backdrop, Labour ought to be doing well.

But even if this does help to account for the large lead, it suggests that Labour has found some effective tunes for its campaign. In contrast, Mr Howard has to face the fact that his attempts to harry the Government on tax and immigration have so far brought him little reward. Meanwhile, ours is the second poll in the past week to suggest support for the Liberal Democrats - still starved of the guaranteed oxygen of publicity the formal campaign will bring - has fallen to below a fifth of the vote for the first time in nearly three years.

Mr Blair is well aware there could be a considerable difference between what the polls say at the beginning of an election campaign and what transpires in the ballot boxes. He needs his party's pre-campaign to generate a sufficiently large lead by the beginning of April so that he can call a 5 May election with confidence. The 12-point lead in our poll is precisely the kind of "comfort zone" he wants.

Indeed, other evidence in our poll suggests he is wise to want a comfort zone. Concerned that Labour voters will stay at home, he has been trying to mobilise them by arguing there are big differences between the Conservatives and Labour. As yet, few believe him. Just 21 per cent think there is a great difference between the two - just four points higher than the record low at the time of the last election. This lack of a perceived difference between Britain's two main parties helped drive turnout down to just 59 per cent in 2001. It could well do so again. Overall, just 55 per cent say they are certain to vote, down two points on the position four years ago. And the majority who do not see a great difference are less likely to say they will vote than the minority who do.

Moreover, Labour voters continue to be particularly unenthusiastic about going to the polls. Just 59 per cent say they are certain to vote compared with 64 per cent of Liberal Democrats and 69 per cent of Conservatives.

Meanwhile, our poll supports recent speculation that Liberal Democrat voters may be less willing to vote tactically for Labour to try to keep out the Conservatives. At the time of the last election, for every two Liberal Democrat voters who said the Conservatives were their second preference, five backed Labour. Now only three do so. Mr Blair may still have work to do to hold on to all of his party's crucial marginal seats.

John Curtice is professor of politics at Strathclyde University

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review