With three months until the general election, the Lancashire Evening Post asked readers their thoughts on the upcoming vote. Sarah Fielden spoke to a leading academic about the trends locally
David Cameron has been revealed as the favourite to be Prime Minister after the general election, in a poll of Lancashire Evening Post readers.
A total of 36 per cent of those asked say they would most like Mr Cameron to be leading the country after May 7 and a total of 60 per cent said they expect the Tory leader to remain in power.
UKIP’s Nigel Farage came in second, with 27 per cent of people hoping to see him as Prime Minister.
Now academics have examined patterns behind the figures, warning the findings may be less clear than they appear.
The survey of 309 readers found 79 per cent believe health policy will have the biggest bearing on how they might vote.
UCLan expert Dr David Stewart says: “The percentage of support for David Cameron immediately struck me because that is certainly out of kilter with traditional voting patterns in Lancashire, which has a sizeable Conservative vote but tends to return more Labour MPs.
“I think the support for Nigel Farage is notable in that it reflects quite badly on Ed Miliband, but in that respect it coincides with other opinion polls from across the country which show the electorate are not convinced by Ed Miliband as Prime Minister.
“I would be surprised if the Conservatives were to increase their share of the vote in Lancashire at the election and that’s why we would have to be careful about how representative this sample is.”
Dr Stewart says national polls do not show the same level of popularity of David Cameron.
He says: “UKIP is a different phenomenon to get to grips with. It’s uncertain as to whether this is a knee-jerk anti-political response against the two-party system, or whether this represents a fundamental, more deep-rooted, support for UKIP policies.”
The poll shows seven per cent of those asked say they would most like the Green Party’s Natalie Bennett to be the next Prime Minister, and Dr Stewart believes it may be linked to the controversy around fracking.
He says: “I think it probably indicates that the Greens have been more active in Lancashire and perhaps in areas where they didn’t have a presence in the last election.
“While I don’t think it will result in them gaining any seats, it will probably put pressure on candidates in the areas affected by fracking.”
The survey shows 79 per cent of people asked would be influenced by health policy in their vote, with 68 per cent influenced by immigration policy.
Dr Stewart says: “We’ve got education policies, health policies, welfare policies and support for the elderly – you could badge that as welfare policy.
“What that would suggest is that people in Lancashire are most concerned by welfare issues and that will be what influences their vote in the next election.
“This might well have a bearing on people’s attitudes towards immigration.
“It is difficult to tell but I would suggest that high level of concern over immigration is perhaps better interpreted as a level of interest due to a concern over population, and people equate population with pressure on welfare.
“It indicates people are going to be highly influenced by welfare, and that now starts to put a smile on the face of the Labour party and starts to factor in with voting patterns we normally encounter in Lancashire.” The LEP poll suggests a “spike” in support for UKIP.
Dr Stewart said: “It’s partly to do with the European issue and immigration, but it’s hard to see if that’s a vote against the two main parties or a positive endorsement of UKIP.
“Both parties will be concerned, the Tories because they appeal to their main voters, and Labour because they could appeal to some of their disillusioned working class voters.
“I think UKIP has an appeal to a section of disillusioned voters who probably would never contemplate voting Conservative because of the legacy of Margaret Thatcher, but the perceived patriotism often appeals to that section of disillusioned white, working class voters.
“It shows in Lancashire, UKIP can win former Labour voters round, but the question is, can they win enough to make a significant impact or will the increase in votes for UKIP mainly come at the expense of the Tories? It’s very hard to tell.”
Did you vote in the 2010 General Election?
2% I can’t recall
Were you eligible to vote in the 2010 election?
Are you interested in politics?
27% I have a strong interest in politics
45% I’m reasonably interested in politics
15% I’m occasionally interested
7% I don’t tend to be interested unless it concerns specific subjects
6% No, I’m not interested
Do you think you will use your vote?
86% Yes, I’ll vote
5% I’ll probably vote
5% I might vote but might not
1% It’s unlikely I’ll vote
3% No, I won’t vote
What are the issues that will have the biggest bearing on how you might vote? Tick as many options as you wish.
42% Education policy
68% Immigration policy
8% Support for arts & culture
79% Health policy
49% Economic policy
6% Approach to Europe and the EU
53% Welfare policy
46% Support for the elderly
19% Business policy / support for businesses
29% Defence policy
16% Transport policy
24% Environmental matters