MORI Political Monitor Analysis - Defence / Terrorism Hit New High As Labour And Conservatives Are Neck And Neck

The terrorist attacks in Madrid last week have had an immediate impact on British public opinion, according to MORI's latest Political Monitor. Asked unprompted to name the most important issues facing Britain today, more of the public mention defence and terrorism (41%) than any other issue. This is the first time since March 2003, then at the height of the Iraq War, that defence/terrorism has been seen as the most important issues facing the country.

The terrorist attacks in Madrid last week have had an immediate impact on British public opinion, according to MORI's latest Political Monitor. Asked unprompted to name the most important issues facing Britain today, more of the public mention defence and terrorism (41%) than any other issue. This is the first time since March 2003, then at the height of the Iraq War, that defence/terrorism has been seen as the most important issues facing the country.

There is also a political element at play. Liberal Democrat voters (51%) are much more likely to cite defence/terrorism than either Labour voters (44%) or those intending to vote Conservative (39%) at an immediate General Election.

The top issues facing the country are:

  1. Defence/terrorism = 41%
  2. NHS/hospitals =35%
  3. Race/immigration = 31%
  4. Education/schools = 27%
  5. Crime/law & order = 22%

The other key findings from the research show:

1. Labour and Tories are neck and neck

Among the 52% of the electorate who say they are certain to vote in an immediate general election, Labour and the Conservatives both receive 35% support. However, this does not represent an increase in support for the Conservative Party. Instead, Labour are down 1% and the Liberal Democrats are up 2% on February levels to 23%. This is the best Liberal Democrat score MORI has recorded since the beginning of September last year when the party recorded 24% support.

Q) How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow?

  Oct 03 Nov 03 Dec 03 Jan 04 Feb 04 Mar 04
  % % % % % %
Conservatives 35 35 31 35 35 35
Labour 38 36 40 37 36 35
Liberal Democrats 21 22 22 21 21 23
Other 6 7 7 7 8 7
Base: All absolutely certain to vote (c. 1,000 GB adults, 18+), Source: MORI

2. Opinion of Howard little changed

The research shows that Michael Howard is successfully enthusing Conservative voters - by a ratio of more than four to one they are satisfied with his performance as leader of the Conservative Party. 62% say they are satisfied, compared with 15% who say they are dissatisfied.

However, there has been little change among the general public. As in the last few months, around two in five people (41%) fail to give an opinion about the Conservative leader, and among those who do have a view, opinion is almost evenly divided. With no significant change since February, currently 31% of the public say they are satisfied with Michael Howard's performance (up two points) and 28% say they are dissatisfied (up 1 point).

The Conservatives have also yet to break through the 35% voting intention share since Michael Howard's election as party leader. For four out of five months 35% of the electorate certain to vote say they would vote Conservative. Only in December was this figure lower (at 31%), which appears to be a result of a short term boost for the Labour party following the capture of Saddam Hussein. While the Conservative's current 35% support is generally higher than that recorded during Iain Duncan Smith's tenure as party leader, it is still some way off the 42% - 43% needed if the party is to form a workable majority in the next Parliament. On current standing, MORI's "swingometer" model suggests that even with the same vote share as the Conservatives, Labour would retain an overall majority of about 65 seats in the House of Commons. And if the Government can increase turnout, Labour's majority would be higher still.

3. Satisfaction with Prime Minister and Government remain static

The aftermath of Madrid appears to have had little impact on the Prime Minister's ratings. The public remain dissatisfied with Tony Blair's performance by a margin of roughly two to one. 32% say they are satisfied with they way he is doing his job, and 60% dissatisfied. This has changed little since the start of the year. Satisfaction with the government is also exactly the same as recorded by MORI in January this year (at 25%), which represents a two point fall since February. Two thirds of the public (64%) say they are dissatisfied.

On the eve of today's budget, the MORI Economic Optimism Index stands at -22%, which is down from -18% in February, though better than the -39% recorded in March 2003 prior to last year's budget. In a separate MORI poll conducted between 5-8 March, more people say they are satisfied (43%) with Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer than are dissatisfied (34%).

Topline Results

  • MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,989 adults aged 18+ at 208 sampling points across Britain.
  • Fieldwork was conducted face-to-face on 11-16 March 2004.
  • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.
  • Voting figures based on all exclude those who say they would not vote (12%), are undecided (12%) or refuse to name a party (1%).

Q1 How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow?IF UNDECIDED OR REFUSED AT Q1Q2 Which party are you most inclined to support?

Base: 1,989 British adults 18+

  %
Conservative 32
Labour 40
Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem) 22
Scottish/Welsh Nationalist 3
Green Party 2
UK Independence Party 1
Other 2
 
Lab lead (177%) +8
 
Would not vote 12
Undecided 12
Refused 1

Q1 How would you vote if there were a General Election tomorrow?IF UNDECIDED OR REFUSED AT Q1Q2 Which party are you most inclined to support?

Base: All absolutely certain to vote (1,057)

  %
Conservative 35
Labour 35
Liberal Democrats (Lib Dem) 23
Scottish/Welsh Nationalist 3
Green Party 2
UK Independence Party 1
Other 2
 
Lab lead (177%) 0
 
Would not vote *
Undecided 7
Refused 1
The headline figures are based on all respondents absolutely certain to vote.

Q3-6 Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way the Government / Mr Blair / Mr Howard / Mr Kennedy are doing their job?

Base: 1,037 British adults 18+

  Satisfied Dissatisfied Don't know Index
  % % % 177%
Government 25 64 10 -39
Blair 32 60 8 -28
Howard 31 28 41 +3
Kennedy 40 21 40 +19

Q7 What would you say is the most important issue facing Britain today?Q8 What do you see as other important issues facing Britain today?

Base: 1,037 British adults 18+

  Q7 Q7/8
  % %
AIDS * *
Animal welfare 0 *
Beef/BSE/Mad Cow Disease 0 0
Common Market/EU/Europe/Single European Currency 1 5
Countryside/rural life * 1
Crime/law & order/violence/vandalism 8 22
Defence/foreign affairs/international terrorism 25 41
Drug abuse 1 6
Economy/economic situation 5 11
Education/schools 5 27
Foot and mouth outbreak/farming crisis 0 *
GM/GM (Genetically Modified) foods * 2
Housing 1 6
Inflation/prices 1 3
Local government/council tax * 4
Low pay/minimum wage/fair wages 1 2
Morality/individual behaviour 2 7
National Health Service/Hospitals 8 35
Northern Ireland 0 *
Nuclear weapons/nuclear war/disarmament 1 2
Pensions/social security 2 12
Petrol prices/fuel 0 *
Pollution/environment 1 4
Pound/exchange rate/value of pound * *
Poverty/inequality 2 6
Privatisation * 1
Public services in general 1 5
Race relations/immigration/immigrants 17 31
Scottish/Welsh Assembly/Devolution Constitutional reform * 1
Taxation 2 10
Trade unions/strikes * *
Transport/public transport 1 7
Unemployment/factory closure/lack of industry 4 8
 
Other 4 15
Don't know 6 5

Q9 Do you think that the general economic condition of the country will improve, stay the same, or get worse over the next 12 months?

Base: 1,037 British adults 18+

  %
Improve 16
Stay the same 40
Get worse 38
Don't know 6
 
MORI Economic Optimism Index [EOI] -22

Q10 And how likely would you be to vote in an immediate General Election, on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 means you would be absolutely certain to vote, and 1 means that you would be absolutely certain not to vote?

Base: 1,989 British adults 18+

  %
10 - absolutely certain to vote 52
9 6
8 8
7 4
6 3
5 8
4 2
3 3
2 2
1 - absolutely certain not to vote 10
Don't know 2
Refused *

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