In Depth

Tories take poll lead - but will it keep them in power?

Tories look more like emerging the largest party but without Lib Dem numbers to keep Cameron at No 10

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The Tories lead in three out of four new voting intention polls. Most spectacular is the Ashcroft national poll, which gives them six points over Labour (36 to 30 per cent). This is close to what they achieved at the last general election and will help Tory campaign chief Lynton Crosby face down the more panicky members of the Conservative Party.

The Tories lead by three in the Guardian/ICM poll and by one in the YouGov poll for The Sun (details at foot of article).  

However, Populus gives Labour a three-point lead while the Poll of Polls produced by the New Statesman, which averages out at the dozen most recent polls, shows a much more slender Tory lead of 0.9 per cent.

This might be good enough to make the Conservatives the biggest party at Westminster but, with the Lib Dems unlikely to make up the numbers this time, might not be enough to keep David Cameron in power.

The New Statesman’s May 2015 website says: “Five of the last 12 polls have put the Tories ahead by at least 3 points (four different pollsters), but five have also put Labour ahead by at least two points (three different pollsters).” 

In the key marginals, where this election will be decided (hopefully), new constituency polling by Lord Ashcroft shows Ukip falling back in four seats, affecting both Tory and Labour chances. 

In Great Grimsby, Labour are 17 points ahead of Ukip – whereas there was only a single point between the parties in December

In Cannock Chase, Labour are now six points ahead of the Tories and look set to gain the seat.

In Castle Point, the Conservatives have extended their lead over Ukip from one to five points since February.

In Great Yarmouth, Ukip have fallen well behind, allowing the Tories to pull two points ahead of Labour.

But are the polls being skewed by a “shy Ukip” factor”? In other words, are there people who plan to vote Ukip but don’t own up to it when questioned by telephone pollsters? 

The idea is prompted by YouGov research which found that people were most likely to feel embarrassed about voting Ukip and proudest to say they vote Labour. 

Mike Smithson of Political Betting recalls there was a similar problem in the 1990s with "shy Tories". He says that telephone phone polling – used in all constituency polling and some national polling - has generally given Ukip a lower share of the vote than online polling which allows the voter an extra layer of anonymity.

Voting intention poll details:

Ashcroft: Con 36 (up 2), Lab 30 (unchanged), Lib Dems 9 (up 1), Ukip 11 (down 2), Greens 7 (up 3).

ICM: Con 35 (up 1), Lab 32 (u/c), Lib Dems 9 (down 1), Ukip 13 (up 2), Greens 5 (u/c).

YouGov: Con 35 (up 2), Lab 34 (u/c), Lib Dems 9 (up 1), Ukip 12 (down 2), Greens 5 (u/c). 

Populus: Con 33 (down 1), Lab 36 (down 1), Lib Dems 8 (u/c), Ukip  14 (u/c), Greens 5 (u/c).

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