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UK

Half of swing seat voters may change minds - poll

LONDON (Reuters) - Nearly half of voters in swing seats may still change their minds about who to vote for in next week’s election, an opinion poll published on Thursday showed, suggesting the outcome is still wide open.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron (R) and his wife Samantha (L) visit the Children's Hospital in Birmingham, central England April 29, 2010. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll of “marginal seats,” ones held by Labour that the Conservatives need to win to triumph at national level, suggests no party will win an overall parliamentary majority on May 6.

The survey found that 46 percent of voters said they had not made a final decision about who would get their vote.

“I could definitely still be swayed,” said Peter Marshall, a young voter in Ipswich, a marginal seat in eastern England.

The level of indecision is almost unprecedented at this stage of an election campaign. Usually, only about a quarter of people are still undecided with a week to go to polling day.

The new poll found that those tending towards a Conservative vote were most certain of their choice. Of all those expressing a preference for the Conservatives, 65 percent were sure that they would no longer change their minds.

Only 51 percent of those tending towards a Labour vote had the same level of certainty, while for the third-biggest party, the Liberal Democrats or Lib Dems, the figure was 42 percent.

Two in five of the undecided voters said they could switch to the Lib Dems, while one in five could still be won over by Labour or the Conservatives, also known as the Tories.

“I’m tempted by the Lib Dems. I’ve got nothing against the Conservatives and (party leader David) Cameron has carried himself well, but I’m thinking about it. It’s between the Tories and the Lib Dems,” said Marshall.

LIB DEMS STABLE

Voting intentions in the constituencies polled were: Labour 38 percent, Conservatives 35 percent and Lib Dems 21 percent. That represents a swing of 5.5 percent to the Conservatives from Labour compared to the last election, in 2005.

It means the Conservatives should grab 75 seats from Labour to become the largest party in parliament, but fall short of the 117 seats they need to obtain an absolute majority.

Some 71 percent of voters now expect a “hung parliament” without a single party in overall control. The figure was up from 55 percent in mid-March.

A small majority said this would be a bad thing for the country, which last experienced a hung parliament in 1974.

The poll shows support for Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has not dropped significantly after a sudden surge in popularity but nor has he been able to build on recent success.

Support for Clegg and his party rocketed after his strong performance in the first televised debate between the three main party leaders two weeks ago.

The second debate, a week ago, had less impact in motivating people to switch their vote than the first. Only 7 percent said it encouraged them to vote for another party, compared with 14 percent who said the same after the first debate.

The third and final debate, scheduled for 1930 GMT on Thursday, will focus on the economy, considered by voters to be the most important issue.

However, all three parties have come under fire for failing to spell out how they would tackle the UK’s massive debts.

The latest Reuters/Ipsos MORI marginals poll found that around two in five people felt the parties had not clearly explained their plans to reduce the bulging budget deficit.

None of the parties had a decisive lead on the question of who would best balance public spending cuts and protecting essential services. Labour was slightly ahead on the issue, with 31 percent backing them, compared with 26 percent for the Conservatives and 18 percent for the Lib Dems.

Additional reporting by Estelle Shirbon in Ipswich; Editing by Dominic Evans

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