Third of voters decided in final week of campaign

A detailed poll of election behaviour has been published. It shows that one-third of voters made up their mind in the final week, and a series of other attitudes.

Our guest writer is Gideon Hoffman

Yesterday, at the RSA, Stan Greenberg, US pollster and political strategist, discussed a poll undertaken the weekend after election day, seeking to understand why voters voted the way they did. This type of poll, a 30 minute interview, is common in the US, but he said it was the first time it had been done in the UK.

Half of all voters decided how to vote before the campaign started on April 6th, but most of the rest (37%) decided in the last week. This might explain one reason why the Clegg surge that started with the first debate – before dropping back – did not obviously show up in votes on election night.

Voters selected up to three reasons why they had voted the way they did. Conservatives were not particularly motivated by the “idea of small government and big society” (10%) or pro-family policies (16%), but rather felt it was “time for a change” (48%), cared about the state of the economy (40%), or national debt (35%). A further 28% said they were “Done with Gordon Brown”. Greenberg highlighted that only 8 per cent voted Tory because “The Conservative party had changed”. A truly modernised party would have done better amongst younger, educated and urban voters than it did.

Lib Dem voters tended to say that there’s was a vote for change (42%), electoral reform (37%), and against David Cameron and Gordon Brown (33% each). Labour supporters voted strongly to protect NHS and schools (58%), “the economy and need to ensure recovery” (40%), or because they were “not impressed with David Cameron” or felt Tories were “for the rich, not working people” (33% each).

The Lib Dem vote while staying roughly the same overall compared with 2005, went up amongst AB and C1 voters, and down among C2’s. Labour and Lib Dem voters tended to have similar views one whether to raise taxes or cut spending, and wanted a focus on inequality over opportunity. But a change of leader would have been required for Lib Dem voters to have favoured a coalition with Labour.

Greenberg was asked how Labour would have performed with a different leader. He thought that Labour would have got 2 per cent greater share of the vote, and it would have made a material difference.

Greenberg also outlined that there was two-to-one margin in favour of electoral reform, with as many opting for proportional representation as the current system. For all voters, there were clear majority concerned with spending cuts going too far rather than not far enough, in favour of govt not markets, more regulation of financial community.

The full results can be found here, and RSA will be posting audio podcast over next few days. A slidepack is available here.

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