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Poll: plain packaging could hit Tories' election hopes

Thu 17th July, 2014

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, a politically independent think tank.

Conducted before and after the cabinet reshuffle, the poll found tepid Tory support in much of England, especially in regions containing the most marginal seats (eg Ellison’s south London seat, Battersea). Conservative candidates continue to be threatened by a relatively popular Ukip, a second choice for a growing number of voters.

According to Patrick Basham, who directed the survey, “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.

“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,” said Basham, who has conducted campaign and policy polls in the UK, East Africa, Australia, North America, and the Middle East.

The poll finds that a majority of voters – 54% to 38% – oppose the introduction of plain cigarette packaging. And, a plurality of voters (42%) is less likely to vote for a party that supports plain packaging. More than two-thirds (68%) fear that plain packaging will encourage smuggling. Revealingly, one-third (34%) of smokers admit that plain packaging would make them more likely to buy their cigarettes on the illicit market.

“Our poll surprisingly finds plain packaging’s as unpopular as the tobacco industry, itself,” observes Basham. A majority (51%) think the industry makes a negative contribution to the economy, while 53% say the tobacco industry also plays a negative societal role. 

Basham suggests that, “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.”

Source: Democracy Institute (July 17, 2014)

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