The Tories are on 34%, down from 39% in the same poll last week, but still two points clear of Labour, which slips back one percentage point to 32%.
Ukip climbs back four points from a miserable score last time, to reach 11%. That puts them just ahead of the Liberal Democrats, who recover two to reach 10%. The Greens are on 5%.
Despite the Conservatives campaigning aggressively on the prospect of Labour gaining power with the help of the Scottish National party, the poll suggests there is only slightly less support for this than a replay of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.
The detail of the latest poll, which was conducted between Friday afternoon and Sunday and followed most of the manifesto launches, underlines how the race for No 10 is on a knife-edge.
On the basic weighted figures, the two main parties are locked together. It is only after ICM adjusts to take account of how likely respondents say they are to turn out and vote that the Tories edge ahead.
Martin Boon of ICM Unlimited said: “When the race is this tight, the methodological judgments made by us pollsters can become all-important.”
The Guardian’s latest projection of all polls, updated to include Monday’s ICM findings, sees Labour and the Conservatives still virtually tied (Miliband’s party is on 271 seats, Cameron’s on 270). The SNP is projected to win 55 of Scotland’s 59 seats, the Lib Dems 28 across the UK and Ukip four.
With the Conservative campaign putting heavy emphasis on a Labour-SNP “coalition of chaos” and warnings about SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s influence if her party’s votes are needed to put Labour in No 10, the latest poll indicates that the popularity of two of the most likely minority government scenarios is similar.
ICM confronted voters with forced choices about what they would want to see happen in the event of the widely predicted hung parliament.
In a forced choice between two minority governments, propped up by different informal deals, 41% would prefer a Conservative government supported by Lib Dem, Ukip and Democratic Unionist MPs, while 39% would rather see Labour propped up by the SNP.
The slight preference for a Conservative minority administration is somewhat more marked in England – where 44% would prefer it, against 37% who would prefer a Labour/SNP arrangement – which may encourage the Tories to keep plugging away at the theme.
If instead the numbers allowed for a formal coalition between one of the two big parties and the Lib Dems, the country is split down the middle: 41% would prefer a second Conservative/Lib Dem administration, while 41% would rather see a Labour/Lib Dem government formed.
There was comfort for the Tories on a question testing solidity of support as 75% of their supporters now say they are “certain” to stick with their party, compared with 72% for Labour. Among Ukip voters, 66% likewise insist that they are committed to their choice. By contrast, the “how certain?” question suggests that significant Lib Dem and Green support could still crumble. Only 56% of Lib Dems and 40% of Green supporters state that they are certain about how they will vote.
This pattern of smaller parties having softer support fits with the experience of 2010, when ICM returned to pre-election respondents and asked them how they had actually voted – 87% of Tories and 86% Labour intenders had followed through on polling day, but only 74% of Lib Dems and 42% of Greens had done the same.
This time, however, there is one smaller party whose support looks remarkably solid: 95% of the small sample of SNP respondents in this latest survey state that their mind is made up, making it increasingly hard to imagine how Scottish Labour can pull back from the thrashing that all the polls have been projecting.
Although the new poll suggests that Labour has only advanced two points across Great Britain since Gordon Brown’s defeat in 2010, Ed Miliband will be pleased that his party has advanced somewhat more – by four points – in the English and Welsh battleground seats. In these constituencies – which went Tory by no more than 15 points last time, or Labour by no more than 10 – the Conservatives remain where they were five years ago, on 38%, while Labour advances four, from 36% to 40%.
Looking back to last week’s manifesto launches, the poll found that all the parties had managed to produce crowd-pleasing offers. Most popular of all was the Lib Dem and Conservative plan to raise the personal tax allowance to £12,500, which was supported by 89% and opposed by just 7%. Labour’s “right to demand” steady employment for workers on zero-hours contracts was almost as popular, backed by 82% to 14%.
Still popular, but not quite so emphatically, was the Tory proposal to allow family houses of up to £1m to be passed on free of inheritance tax, which was backed by a 71% to 22% margin. Labour’s proposal to abolish non-dom status attracts 55% to 33% support, similar to the 55% to 34% majority which backs Ukip’s plan to cap skilled and entirely halt unskilled immigration for the next five years. The controversial Conservative plan to allow housing association tenants to buy the property they rent at a subsidised price was similarly popular too – endorsed by a margin of 56% to 36%.
- ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,003 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 17-19 April 2015. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
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