Labour may have won enough support in the South East to overtake the Conservatives, according to an exclusive nationwide survey of voting intentions.
Across the region, 32 per cent of people said they are planning to vote Labour later this week, compared to 25 per cent who said that was their planned vote at the start of the election campaign. The proportion of respondents backing the Tories is at 27 per cent, compared to 31 per cent backing the party at the start of the campaign.
A similar survey at the start of May found 39 per cent of respondents in the region said they were planning to vote Tory on June 8 compared to the 36 per cent who said they voted for the party in 2015, while the Labour vote was at 28 per cent, up from the 25 per cent who said they had voted for the party in 2015.
Other parties have seen their vote share squeezed by the contest between Labour and Conservatives - the Lib Dem vote was 7 per cent, compared to 7.1 per cent saying they supported the party at the start of the campaign, UKIP was 2.4 per cent, down from 2.8 per cent, although the Greens have seen a small increase and were on 3.4 per cent, up from 3 per cent.
Three-quarters of people who planned to vote Conservative at the start of the campaign are still backing the party (75 per cent), but 10 per cent have switched to Labour, and 10 per cent say they are no longer sure who they will vote for.
Labour on the other hand seem to be picking up support from all sides, while 84 per cent of those who planned to vote Labour at the start of the campaign are sticking with their party, 25 per cent of people who previously planned to vote Lib Dem said they have switched to Labour (with 5 per cent of previous Labour voters switching to the Lib Dems), as have 31 per cent of those who had been planning to vote Green, and 6 per cent of those previously backing UKIP.
A quarter of respondents who said they were not sure what their vote would be at the start of the campaign are now behind Labour, 23 per cent, compared to 4 per cent who have decided to vote Conservative, although 68 per cent still have not made up their minds.
Labour’s potentially improving prospects may be down in part to Jeremy Corbyn’s performance, 54 per cent of respondents in the region think he’s had the best general election campaign.
While 91 per cent of those planning to vote Labour think Corbyn has been having the best campaign, so do 55 per cent of Lib Dem voters, a bigger proportion than think Tim Farron is doing best. Of those planning to vote Conservative, 70 per cent think Theresa May has had the best campaign, while a fifth, 22 per cent, think Jeremy Corbyn’s has been better.
Missing the leaders’ debate on BBC1 last week may not have helped the perception of May’s performance, as 55 per cent of respondents said it was the wrong decision, including 91 per cent of those planning to vote Labour, 79 per cent of those backing the Lib Dems and even 15 per cent of Tory voters, although 66 per cent of this group think she was right to skip the debate.
However, the survey suggests the debates had only a limited impact on how people are planning to vote, with just 9 per cent of respondents saying it had caused them to change their vote. People now planning to vote Lib Dem were the most likely to say they had changed their vote as a result of the debates, 15, followed by Labour, 11 per cent.
Labour voters were the most likely to feel more fired up as a result of the debates, with 41 per cent saying they had made them even more determined to vote for their party, compared to 17 per cent of Conservative voters saying the same.
Most respondents said the party they were voting for (63 per cent) was most important, rather than the party leader, 24 per cent, or the local candidate, 13 per cent. Party was particularly important for those planning to vote Labour, 71 per cent put it top compared to 62 per cent of those planning to vote Conservative. Theresa May’s campaign, which has more strongly focused on her seems to have had an impact, with 31 per cent of those planning to vote Tory saying the leader of the party was the most important thing to them.
Social care and the NHS are the issues most likely to determine how a third of respondents are planning to vote, 32 per cent, including 56 per cent of those planning to vote Labour and 30 per cent of Lib Dem voters, followed by Brexit, the key issue for 22 per cent of respondents, including 44 per cent of Conservative voters and 35 per cent of UKIP voters.
Half of respondents in the region (56 per cent) said they have had candidate’s leaflets sent in the post, and 10 per cent said they has seen a candidate or campaigner locally and 9 per cent said a campaigner had knocked on their door. However, a third, 35 per cent, said they have not seen candidates, campaigners or received leaflets.