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If Cameron can convince on the NHS and crime he is on the road to a majority, says mega poll of 10,000 voters

By Tim Montgomerie

Lord Ashcroft has just completed one of his mega polls. The latest - entitled Project Blueprint - sets out to examine what the Conservative Party needs to do in order to win a majority at the next election.

In polling more than 10,000 voters Lord Ashcroft attempts to examine the different views of Conservative members, long time Conservative supporters, people who voted Conservative for the first time last year and also people who considered voting Conservative but stopped short of doing so.

In his introduction to the data Lord Ashcroft highlights six areas of policy. In only one area is the Coalition being seen to comprehensively succeed:

  • Welfare reform: "We found that people grasped and strongly supported specific elements of the government’s plans, such as ensuring that people are better off in work than on benefits, and they recognised that these plans are being implemented. In our segmentation analysis, agreement that the Conservatives have the best approach to welfare emerged as one of the factors most closely correlated with Conservative voting intention."

In three areas progress was seen to be mixed:

  • Immigration: "Many people strongly supported Conservative plans, which they remembered from the election campaign, to restrict immigration from outside the EU (though they often lament the immigration from within the EU is the bigger problem), and to establish a Border Police force. It was very much less clear to them, though, exactly what had been done in the last year, prompting many to wonder whether any government will take the issue seriously."
  • Taking the two issues of jobs and debt together: "Voters recognised that cutting the deficit was the government’s overriding purpose, and they agreed it should be an important priority. But for them, the more important factor was getting the economy growing and creating jobs. The two are complementary, of course, but voters thought the government appeared to see everything – economic growth, welfare reform, changes to sentencing policy, immigration control – as a means to the end of deficit reduction. But what is the end to which deficit reduction is the means? What are the bigger goals that a lower deficit will allow us to achieve?"

In two other important areas a big gap emerged between what voters wanted and what the Coalition was delivering:

  • The NHS: "Many in our research believed the NHS was subject to cuts, though the government maintains its budget is being protected and increased. Most people were sceptical of the proposed reforms, and those who had noticed that some health professionals opposed them tended to take the same view. Nobody seemed to know is why the reforms were needed and how, even in theory, they were supposed to improve things for patients."
  • Crime: "One of the things people expected from a Conservative-led government, whether they voted for it or not, was a tough approach to crime, but so far they have been disappointed. Asked what the government was doing on the issue, previously one of the Conservative Party’s strongest suits, most people thought only of police cuts – with some adding that they had heard we want to send fewer criminals to prison."
The report goes on to argue that good policies on these six vital issues isn't the only thing that decides whether voters support a party. Voters also look to the party leader - where David Cameron continues to score highly and also to the overall values of a party - where, unfortunately, too many voters still think the Conservatives are a party for the rich and not a party for people like them.

Here is the data that shows the gap between the priorities of the people who are considering voting for the Conservative Party and the perceived priorities of the Conservative Party...

Click on table to enlarge.

Screen shot 2011-05-14 at 20.01.29

In summary...

  • In two policy areas - cutting debt and reforming welfare - considerers believe the Tories are giving the issue the right priority.
  • In another two - creating jobs and controlling immigration - there is perceived to be a significant gap between the public's priority and the government's.
  • In the final two areas - dealing with crime and improving the NHS - there is a worryingly large gap. Over three quarters of considerers see the issues as priorities for them but under half think that the issues are priorities for the Conservative Party.

There is so much in the report that we'll be devoting much of the coming week to discussing its findings. In the meantime check out Lord Ashcroft's website for the full report (if it's not uploaded immediately it should be there soon).

The former Tory Vice Chairman summarises his polling in The Sunday Telegraph.


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