Conservative candidates in marginal seats, including public health minister, Jane Ellison, risk electoral defeat because of the government’s nanny state policies, according to a new survey* of English voters commissioned by the Democracy Institute, which describes itself as a politically independent think tank.
Conducted before and after this week’s cabinet reshuffle, the poll was said to have found tepid Tory support in much of England, especially in regions containing the most marginal seats. Conservative candidates continued to be threatened by a relatively popular UKIP, a second choice for a growing number of voters.
“These results suggest UKIP’s outspoken opposition to many of the government’s public health proposals has the potential to shift, in small but critical ways, the electoral sands,” said Patrick Basham, who directed the survey.
“David Cameron’s tenuous hold on the keys to No 10 is threatened, in part, by voters who tell us they’re tired of government telling them what, how, and when they should eat, drink, and smoke,” added Basham, who has conducted campaign and policy polls in the UK, East Africa, Australia, North America, and the Middle East.
The poll found that a majority of voters – 54 per cent to 38 per cent – opposed the introduction of plain cigarette packaging. And it found that a plurality of voters (42 per cent) was less likely to vote for a party that supported plain packaging. More than two-thirds (68 per cent) feared that plain packaging would encourage smuggling, and one-third (34 per cent) of smokers admitted that plain packaging would make them more likely to buy their cigarettes on the illicit market.
Meanwhile, a majority (51 per cent) thought the tobacco industry made a negative contribution to the economy, while 53 per cent said the industry also played a negative societal role.
“Our poll surprisingly finds plain packaging’s as unpopular as the tobacco industry itself,” said Basham. “While Big Tobacco remains a political pariah, plain packaging could prove an electoral albatross, in tandem with other nanny state-style initiatives, weighing down the Conservative vote.”
*The fieldwork for the survey of a randomly selected national telephone (landline and mobile) sample of 1,050 English voters (including 500 voters in marginal seats) was conducted by the Democracy Institute’s polling unit from July 9 to 11 and July 14 to 15, 2014.
The national poll has a margin of error of +/- 3% (95% confidence interval). The sub-sample of marginal seats has a margin of error of +/- 4% (95% confidence interval). The sub-sample of smokers has a margin of error of = +/- 6.5% (95% confidence interval).
To ensure a representative sample, the results were weighted for key demographic variables including, but not limited to, gender, age, education, income, region, and mobile phone-only households.