Analysis conducted by Opinion Research Business for Unlock Democracy’s Vote Match (www.votematch.org.uk) project shows economic issues to be at the top of voters’ thinking.
The results come as the economy is highlighted in the third and final prime ministers' TV debate between Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservatives) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats).
The Greens, who have what many outside the big party blocs regard as the most radical and sustainable policies on the economy, are not included in the debate, and nor are the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru.
Opinion Research Business ORB (http://www.opinion.co.uk/) analysed the issues that the first 502,550 users of Vote Match - the online scheme that enables people to pair up their views with the parties' - ranked as being of most importance to them.
The results, released just before the televised leaders’ General Election debate at 8.30pm on BBC1 (29 April 2010), shows that the economy has been the dominant issue for users of the site throughout the campaign. A balance of over 70 per cent of visitors to the site rated it as one of their key issues.
While the leaders’ televised debates have so far focused on domestic and international affairs, voters have consistently placed the economy above all other issues. Meanwhile Education, Health and Crime & Justice complete the top tier of issues.
A relatively low ranking is given towards issues of sovereignty/devolution and parliamentary reform (including electoral systems), indicating that many voters still do not link what they may see as 'technical issues' with the major recent furore over MP's expenses and political integrity.
The analysis is based on data gathered from over half a million visits to the Vote Match website www.votematch.org.uk and indicates that the ranking of issues has changed very little over the three weeks since the election was called. With the exceptions of crime and justice, tax, and immigration, which all dropped slightly in the days following the second TV debate, the order of importance for each of the 12 policy areas measured has been largely static.
The Director of Unlock Democracy (www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk), Peter Facey, declared: “These results show that voters are clearly worried about their jobs, the recession, the level of the deficit and the level of taxation."
He added: "While political necessity may oblige Messers Brown, Cameron and Clegg to seriously engage with issues such as a Hung Parliament and the electoral system, the public have, so far, chosen to concentrate on bread and butter issues."