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Intelex consultant Juliette Gerstein looks at the story behind the latest opinion polls, and whether Tory optimism is justified.

In recent weeks, the Tories have begun to feel more positive. The economy is slowly starting to recover, the polls are looking good, and there is a sense that the 2015 election might not be totally lost after all. But is it all as good as it seems?

A closer look at the polls indicates that, despite recent optimism, the Tory position has not substantially improved. Voting intention is largely unchanged since the start of the year. The Labour lead has fallen slightly, and the Tories have recovered their losses from UKIP, but their position remains broadly the same.

Poll graph

Aggregate figures for voting intention from January-August 2013

Perhaps more troubling for the Conservative Party is the reality of the battle that lies ahead. Getting closer to Labour in the polls isn’t enough; Labour need just a one point lead in the national polls to secure a majority, the Conservatives need around six points. The closer we get to the election, the greater the regret Tory backbenchers will feel about the Party leadership’s failure to push boundary reforms through.

And ultimately, the national polls only give you an indication of the result based on uniform national swing; in reality individual seats are likely to see very different swings based on a number of factors, not least incumbency which could favour the Tories. But in a number of seats Lib Dem voters have moved to Labour, at the same time that Tory voters have moved to UKIP. In some cases, a thousand voters making each of those changes could cost Tory MPs their seats.

Another factor which could impact the Tories’ electoral fortunes is the forecast 20 per cent increase in the BME (Black Minority Ethnic) electorate by 2015. A report in The Telegraph suggested this could cost the Conservatives (who gained just 18 per cent of BME votes in 2010 compared to Labour’s 55 per cent) over 60 seats at the next election.

Many Conservative MPs are hoping that an improved economic picture will boost their poll position ahead of the 2015 election, but the latest Ipos Mori poll  suggests that may not be enough. This poll shows that the Conservatives are the most disliked of all three parties. Perhaps the next election will be down to which party voters like the least, and not the most. Conservative MPs will just have to hope that there are a few more eggs thrown at Ed Miliband…

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