The great general election survey of the year

The general election will take place on May 7.
The general election will take place on May 7.
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The general election is just three months away and looks set to be the closest in decades. The News conducted an online survey to gauge the public’s thoughts on the poll, the players and the issues that matter to them. Stuart Anderson reports.

Election: Big deal or why bother?

Prime minister David Cameron

Prime minister David Cameron

Policy launches, televised debates, mass mail-outs and door-to-door campaigning.

Election campaigns attract so much attention that it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.

But are people as cynical about politics as they often make out?

The News survey aimed to get to the heart of what you, the readers, think about the upcoming election.

File photo dated 08/01/15 of Labour leader Ed Miliband, as Labour insisted it was trying to forge a consensus with industry about the future direction of the country as Ed Miliband came under fresh attack from senior business leaders. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 3, 2015. The Labour leader has been accused of trying to close down debate about his party's policies by launching a personal attack on the Boots boss who suggested it could be a "catastrophe" if he became prime minister. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

File photo dated 08/01/15 of Labour leader Ed Miliband, as Labour insisted it was trying to forge a consensus with industry about the future direction of the country as Ed Miliband came under fresh attack from senior business leaders. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday February 3, 2015. The Labour leader has been accused of trying to close down debate about his party's policies by launching a personal attack on the Boots boss who suggested it could be a "catastrophe" if he became prime minister. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The results were surprisingly encouraging, with 696 people taking part.

Of our respondents, almost 90 per cent said they were at least occasionally interested in politics.

Confidence about going to polls

The spirit of democracy is alive and well across The News patch, if our survey results are anything to go by.

File photo dated 08/10/14 of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as wealthy individuals, banks and big businesses would face an �8 billion tax hike under Liberal Democrat plans to clear Britain's deficit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday February 5, 2015. In a speech today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will say his party would target those who are "not always paying their fair share" as it seeks to balance the books after the general election in May. At the same time, benefits - excluding pensions and disability benefits - would be uprated by 1% for the first two years of the new parliament. But Mr Clegg will insist that the Lib Dems in government would continue to protect low and middle income earners as well as spending on education, the National Health Service and foreign aid. Like the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are committed to a further �30 billion of fiscal "consolidation" in the new parliament in order to clear the deficit in the public finances by 2017/18. See PA story POLITICS LibDems.

File photo dated 08/10/14 of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as wealthy individuals, banks and big businesses would face an �8 billion tax hike under Liberal Democrat plans to clear Britain's deficit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday February 5, 2015. In a speech today, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will say his party would target those who are "not always paying their fair share" as it seeks to balance the books after the general election in May. At the same time, benefits - excluding pensions and disability benefits - would be uprated by 1% for the first two years of the new parliament. But Mr Clegg will insist that the Lib Dems in government would continue to protect low and middle income earners as well as spending on education, the National Health Service and foreign aid. Like the Conservatives, the Lib Dems are committed to a further �30 billion of fiscal "consolidation" in the new parliament in order to clear the deficit in the public finances by 2017/18. See PA story POLITICS LibDems.

A whopping 89 per cent of people in our sample said they were definitely going to vote in the general election on May 7.

Another six per cent said they would probably vote, and a further two per cent said they might vote.

Only one per cent of our sample said it was unlikely that they would go to the polls and one per cent said they definitely wouldn’t vote.

And it seems a majority of people have already made up their minds about which box they are going to tick.

No Caption ABCDE PPP-141021-165015001

No Caption ABCDE PPP-141021-165015001

About three fifths (59 per cent) of respondents said they were ‘pretty sure’ of how they were going to vote.

Another 31 per cent were more likely to be swayed, saying they had an inclination for a particular party or candidate but might consider voting for somebody else.

A further 10 per cent of our sample said they did not yet know how they were going to vote in the election.

The most important issues

Most respondents said health would have the biggest bearing on how they would vote, with 78 per cent of respondents picking that issue out over a list of others.

The next biggest was immigration policy, which 72 per cent of our sample said was important.

Natalie Bennett of the Green Party PPP-150602-115013001

Natalie Bennett of the Green Party PPP-150602-115013001

Other issues likely to sway voters included Britain’s approach to Europe and the European Union (58 per cent), welfare (52 per cent), education (40 per cent) and environmental matters (32 per cent). The issues we listed which the fewest people considered important were business policy (17 per cent) and support for culture and the arts (10 per cent).

When asked what other issues would have a bearing on how they would vote, many people said Scottish independence.

Some respondents said they were concerned about the direction the country was going and the growing gap between the rich and the poor.

Others in our survey said parties should be more upfront about who they were willing to form a coalition with, while one respondent said the biggest issue was simply ‘trustworthiness’.

Voting: It’s not for everyone

The respondents to our survey who said they wouldn’t be voting came up with some interesting reasons why.

One non-voter said they wouldn’t be headed to the polls because ‘parties do not tend to stick to their promises’.

Another sceptic said voting was a pointless because ‘no matter what the candidate says they have to do as the party hierarchy say’.

Yet another non-voter said voting was a ‘waste of time’ because ‘all the parties argue amongst themselves, trying to score cheap shots’.

Another jaded reader responded by saying ‘nothing ever gets done all you get are broken promises’.

While voter turnout in the UK has been slowly dropping over the past 40 years, the 2010 election saw a turnaround, with 65.1 of voters casting a ballot, which was up from 61.4 in 2005.

The 1950 election showdown between Clement Attlee and Winston Churchill attracted the highest proportion of votes in the postwar era, with 83.9 turning up to polling stations.

Will this year’s emotion-charged contest between the establish parties, combined with an influx of voters attracted to alternative groups prompt another record turnout on election day?

Only time will tell.

Is politics interesting? What our election survey showed:

A healthy 25 per cent said of those surveyed said they had a ‘strong interest’ in politics, and 50 per cent said they were ‘reasonably interested’.

Another 14 per cent of respondents said they were ‘occasionally interested’ in politics. Nine per cent of people said they didn’t tend to be interested unless it concerned specific subjected.

Only three per cent of our sample said they were not interested in politics.

The people who took the survey reflected the readership of the paper.

Almost half of respondents (49 per cent) were aged between 45 and 64.

Respondents aged 44 and under made up 16 per cent of our sample. Just over a quarter (29 per cent) of respondents were aged between 65 and 74, and seven per cent were aged 75 and over. Our sample’s gender mix was split roughly 50/50, with slightly more older men answering than older women, and slightly more younger women answering than younger men.

Who will be hanging their hat at No 10?

I think this one will be PM

- David Cameron (Conservative): 70%

- Ed Miliband (Labour): 21%

- Nick Clegg (Lib Dem): 1%

- Nigel Farage (Ukip): 7%

- Natalie Bennett (Green): 0%

I would most like this one to be PM

- David Cameron: 41%

- Ed Miliband: 17%

- Nick Clegg: 7%

- Nigel Farage: 26%

- Natalie Bennett: 9%

This year’s election will be more unpredictable than ever, with smaller groups including the SNP and Ukip threatening to throw the balance of power into turmoil.

But when asked about the outcome of the looming election, most (70 per cent) of our sample said they thought David Cameron would keep the top job.

Only a fifth of respondents said Ed Miliband would end up hanging his hat at Number 10, and few people thought Nick Clegg or Nigel Farage stood a realistic chance of becoming prime minister.

None of our survey respondents said the leader of the Greens, Natalie Bennett, would end up leading the government.

The popularity stakes showed a more even spread, with more than a quarter of our sample wanting Farage to be prime minister, and almost a 10th wanting Bennett in

the top job.

Despite being the favourite to win the election, only 41 per cent of people said they actually wanted Cameron to remain prime minister.