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By Tim Montgomerie
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Lord Ashcroft's latest mega poll has been published this morning. He writes about it on our Comment pages – People need to hear that Conservatives will help them to succeed and won't leave them on their own.
There has been a lot of talk about blue collar voters recently – not least on ConHome. Michael's new polling attempts to understand who they are and what motivates and worries them. Crucially he tries to distinguish between their expectations of government. Some expect a lot of help from government and these voters, unsurprisingly, lean heavily towards Labour. Those who are more ambitious for themselves – and perhaps a little more able – are less keen on government assistance and want to be left uninhibited so that they can fulfil their aspirations. This group leans towards the Conservatives. A group of voters in the middle will decide the next election. Lord Ashcroft calls them the suspicious strivers. They are caught between wanting to be allowed to get on and being anxious about whether it's possible anymore. They wonder if the system is now stacked against them and if the link between effort and reward has broken down. Additionally they wonder whether the government will be there to help them if they face tough times or if the whole government is now unfairly configured to look after the very dependent and the already secure and well-connected.
Conservatives need to think carefully about these findings. The socially mobile are vital job creators and innovators but 'setting people free' and 'extending opportunity' can only be one (big) part of our message. We must also be the party that stands with the little guy and offers him and her all the help they need to get or stay on their own feet. We also need to be concerned that we are seen as the party of the pensioner who has already made it rather than the young person who is looking for work.
In the rest of this post I summarise some of the poll's other findings.
Tough Tories v Nice Labour: A willingness to take tough decisions for the long term remains the
Conservatives’ biggest strength while Labour continues to lead on
fairness and, more worringly, on equality of opportunity. The Tories retain a lead on competence but it is only a 29% to 27% advantage.
Pensioners and Jobseekers: Most of these numbers are unsurprising in this chart. The two numbers I'd focus on are those which suggest we are the party of the retired person with the pension and not the person who is unemployed and looking for work. Becoming the party of jobs is one of the most important ways we start identifying with the young and with their worried parents. It's helpful that when it comes to job creation that the Coalition has a good story to tell.
Equality and Earnings:
The country is almost completely split down the middle on the question
of whether higher earners should be allowed to enjoy their money or
whether the government should do more to see that wealth shared amongst
the wider population:
Reward and Effort: More than three quarters of
Conservative voters (and most Lib Dems) think that “if you work hard, it is possible
to be very successful in Britain no matter what your background”. Most Labour
…but while voters think that it's possible to be successful the overall consensus is that there "seems to be little connection between what people get and what they deserve";
Listening or Leading?: This is one of my favourite findings. Conservative supporters want conviction leaders who stick to unpopular paths. Labour supporters want listening leaders who are much more sensitive to public opinion.
> The five voter groups from Lord Ashcroft's research are summarised in this paper (PDF).